Emerging political narratives on Malawian digital spaces

CommunicatioBruce Mutsvairo and Massimo Ragnedda (2017) Emerging political narratives on Malawian digital spaces, Communicatio, South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research, Volume 43, Issue 2, page 147-167.

Social media platforms are being considered new podiums for political transformation as political dictatorships supposedly convert to overnight democracies, and many more people are not only able to gain access to information, but also gather and disseminate news from their own perspective. When looking at the situation in several sub-Saharan African countries, it becomes clear there are various challenges restricting social media and its palpable yet considerably constrained ability to influence political and social changes. Access to the internet, or lack thereof, is a recognised social stratification causing a “digital divide” thanks to existing inequalities within African and several other societies throughout the world. This article reports on a study that analysed a popular Facebook page in Malawi using a discursive online ethnographic examination of interactions among social media participants seeking to determine the level of activism and democratic participation taking shape on the Malawian digital space. The study also examined potential bottlenecks restraining effective digital participation in Malawi. The article argues that while social media’s potential to transform societies is palpable, keeping up with the pace of transformation is no easy task for both digital and non-digital citizens. The study demonstrated social media’s potential but also highlighted the problems facing online activists in Malawi, including chief among them digital illiteracy. Therefore, the digital sphere is not a political podium for everyone in Malawi as shown by the analysis of digital narratives emerging from the country’s online environment, which opens its doors to only a tiny fraction of the population.

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Digital Divide Working Group – CFP 2018

did-logo-vertical-optimalThe IAMCR’s Digital Divide Working Group invites submissions for its open sessions at the IAMCR 2018 Conference to be held from 20-24 June, 2018 in Eugene, Oregon, USA. The deadline to submit abstracts is 23:59 GMT on 31 January 2018. Proposals for consideration by IAMCR’s Digital Divide Working Group must be submitted via the Open Conference System at https://iamcr-ocs.org

The overarching conference theme in 2018 is Reimagining Sustainability: Communication and Media Research in a Changing World. The theme is centered around the notion of sustainability, which is defined by the United Nations as harmonizing three core elements, environmental protection, social inclusion, and economic growth, so as to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The theme seeks to explore how sustainability is affected by the environment, as well as by human activities (social, economic and political ones) and current lifestyles. It also attempts to stimulate a discussion about the ways media can contribute to sustainable development in the societies, both by drawing public attention to the problem of sustainability and by promoting the values of social inclusion, openness and transparency in the modern world.

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The rise of the Digital capital and its relation with the third level of Digital Divide (IAMCR 2017)

Digtal capitalAt the International Association of Media and Communication Research annual conference in Cartagena (16-20 July) I introduced the concept of Digital Capital and I explained its relationship with the third level of Digital Divide. Great positive response and feedback from audience. Next step is how to operationalize the digital capital.

Here the abstract of my presentation. This paper makes a theoretical contribution by looking at the rise of the digital capital and how its relation with previous Five Capitals (social, economic, personal, political and cultural capitals) generates both inequalities in online experience (second level of digital divide), and it creates the third level of digital divide, seen as the returning social benefits of using the Internet (Ragnedda 2017). The digital capital is a bridge capital which influence the ways people look for information, their motivation, support, and provide the skills to elaborate, process and use such information to improve their life chances. The opportunities given by the use of ICTs are not the same for everybody, but are the product of the interaction between the 5Cs and the digital capital. To make profitable the benefits gained on the digital realm and invest them into the social realm, users/citizens need a solid and strong social (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1990; Putnam, 1995), political (Seyd and Whitely, 1997), economic (Bourdieu, 1986), personal (Becker, 1996) and cultural capitals (Bourdieu, 1986) on which to rely on. These 5Cs help citizens to turn the digital benefits into social benefits and to exploit the full advantages offered by the Internet (third level of digital divide). The paper will look at the process through which income (economic capital) education (cultural capital), family and occupation (social and personal capital), motivation and purpose of use (personal capital), and political engagement (social and political capital) determine the rise of the digital capital and how, in turn, this new capital affects the digital divide at its three levels: access-use-benefits. Although, the digital capital is not a new concept, it has been used mainly in relation to the resources on which the development of new services and products for the digital economy rely (see e.g. Tapscott et al., 2000; Roberts and Townsend, 2015). What is missing in the literature is both a theoretical discussion on the digital capital, and how it could affect the second and third level of digital divide. Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Engagement and Life Chances

Digital Engagament and Life ChancesMassimo Ragnedda (2017), The third digital divide. A weberian approach to digital inequalities, Routledge. pp 80-82.

The individual and social characteristics of the subjects determine the resources available to them. In turn, resources affect access and act as the ground on which new digital inequalities can develop. The unequal distribution of resources produces unequal access to digital technologies and then produces the first form of exclusion (first level of digital divide). Inequality in access also depends on the characteristics of the technologies and different pathways of technological appropriation, which result in differences in skills, and, therefore, new forms of exclusion (second level of digital divide). The sum of the inequalities considered prevents full participation and social inclusion. The appropriation of technology tends to influence the level of social participation. The variables that illustrate the positioning of the individual in society may be ‘individual variables’ (age, gender, ethnic group) or ‘social variables’ (income, position in the labour market, status group). These variables influence how we access and use the resources which are at the base of the process of inclusion or exclusion from society. The phenomena of social inclusion and exclusion are increasingly part of the European political and discursive agenda.

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The Third Digital Divide A Weberian Approach to Digital Inequalities

The word clouds of “The Third Digital Divide. A Weberian approach to Digital Inequalities”. WordItOut-word-cloud-1940708.png

The 6Cs (six capitals). The digital capital

ecreaECREA Conference, Prague, 9-12 November 2016.

Abstract: Based on an extensive literature review on the existing influences between capital(s) and digital access, this paper will highlight the reciprocal influences between five capitals and digital capital, proposing a new theoretical approach in analysing digital inequalities. Social (Bourdieu 1986; Coleman 1990; Putnam 1995), economic (Bourdieu 1986), personal (Becker 1996), political (Seyd and Whitely 1997), and cultural capitals (Bourdieu 1986) influence the rise of digital capital which, in turn, not only generate a digital divide between people who can and cannot access the Internet (first level of digital divide), but also inequalities in terms of benefits they can gain on-line (second level of digital divide). Moreover, these 6C tend to create the third level of digital divide, seen as the returning social benefits of using the Internet.

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The third Digital Divide. A Weberian approach to digital inequalities

third-digital-divide Coming soon. The third Digital Divide. A Weberian approach to digital inequalities, Routledge, 2017

Drawing on the thought of Max Weber, in particular his theory of stratification, this book engages with the question of whether the digital divide simply extends traditional forms of inequality, or whether it also includes new forms of social exclusion, or perhaps manifests counter-trends that alleviate traditional inequalities whilst constituting new modalities of inequality. With attention to the manner in which social stratification in the digital age is reproduced and transformed online, the author develops an account of stratification as it exists in the digital sphere, advancing the position that, just as in the social sphere, inequalities in the online world go beyond the economic elements of inequality. As such, study of the digital divide should focus not simply on class dynamics or economic matters, but cultural aspects – such as status or prestige – and political aspects – such as group affiliations. Read the rest of this entry »

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