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The Social Affordances of New Media and Communication Technologies:

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Presentation on theme: "The Social Affordances of New Media and Communication Technologies:"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Social Affordances of New Media and Communication Technologies:

2 support for democracy? Various forms: 1. support that strengthens key institutions, administrative processes, as well as key actors such as political parties; and 2. support for a wider array of democracy-promoting initiatives by a more diverse group of actors including political parties, human rights defenders, civil society, opinion-making organisations, and actors in political life.

3 core concepts 1. Public sphere: A space between the people and the state, in which citizens could debate issues of common interest to society (Habermas, 1989) 2. Social capital: The features of social organization such as networks, norms, and trust that facilitate co- ordination and co-operation for mutual benefit (Putnam, 2000)

4 public sphere Public deliberation essential to democracy: a way in which the citizens of a nation can engage with issues of common interest, and hold the state accountable. Encourage critical and reasoned forms of political deliberation away from state control, and allow 'public opinion' to develop. Public sphere as normative ideal which may be / is widely used to judge the existing communication structures of contemporary societies. [Chadwick, 2006: 88].

5 public sphere Andrew Chadwick (2006): Public sphere as normative ideal which is widely used to judge the existing communication structures of contemporary societies. Nancy Fraser (1992): necessary for marginalised or excluded publics to form “counter-publics” multiple public spheres

6 public sphere Media crucial to the exercise of freedom of expression. Public opinion can only be formed if a public that engages in rational discussion is able to create and occupy a communicative space that is, ideally, free and independent of established interests as well as, open and accessible to all citizens.

7 social capital Putnam (2000): Participation in civic associations increases levels of trust between citizens, and trust enhances political self-confidence. Chadwick (2006): Societies that exhibit dense networks of civic associations, even if the majority of them are not overtly political, are more likely to have high levels of reciprocal trust and efficacy.

8 transformed media landscapes The ongoing emergence and convergence of the electronic mass media / ‘the digital revolution’ has changed notions of both the public sphere and social capital, radically. To understand the role of a radically transformed media landscape for human development and democratisation we have to examine the way the concepts of democracy are understood and acted upon in societies.

9 democratic engagement Set of processes and practices that fall under the heading of “democratic engagement”. The nature of active citizenship? Give substance to the forms of democracy. Damian Tambini (1999): Four key transactions for democracy

10 democratic engagement Damian Tambini (1999): 1. information access/provision; 2. preference measurement such as referenda, polls and representation, in which the views of the people are consulted; 3. deliberation, in which citizens actively discuss issues and form opinions; and 4. will formation/group organisation (i.e., organizing interest groups and lobbies).

11 democratic engagement Gerodimos (2001) identifies: 1. access (the entry into the political space within which citizens contribute to political debate and the decision-making process), 2. citizen’s engagement with the political process, 3. deliberation, and 4. impact on public policy as important aspects of democracy in action.

12 democratic engagement Manuel Castells (2005): ICTs add new global dimension. New “global public sphere” – or global civil society – is both fed by and feeds into multiple national public spheres. Does not displace or supersede debate and deliberations of national and local public spheres, A ‘glocal’ dimension

13 the concept of e-democracy Efforts to broaden political participation. ‘Experiments’ concerned with promoting political participation outside of formal elections: Policy deliberation, collaborative information sharing, building social capital, and plugging civil societal networks into established representative and administrative processes at both local and national levels.

14 the concept of e-democracy Hacker & van Dijk (2000): ICTs as an addition, not a replacement, for traditional... political practices.

15 democracy and ‘old’ media Independent media sector considered crucial to provide quality and accurate information. Ideas of the media’s role in society tend to draw on public sphere conceptions of society, with the media imagining its role as providing a space for public debate, and as holding the state accountable. Particular ideology that does not always reflect the actual operations of media.

16 media support / development Evidence that “old” media do play a constructive role in helping advance democracy by bringing forth independent information, opening debate on political alternatives, and providing a channel through which the public can demand accountability from (a receptive) government. However, the role of old or mainstream media differs depending on the political system in which it operates, and requires different kinds of support systems and channels.

17 community media Community / citizen media as an alternative to both the commercial media and state broadcasters. Enable a larger proportion of citizens can access a space where they can engage in debate and public deliberation. Inhibiting factors

18 hybrid media Hybrid media create spaces for publication and debate in contexts where access to independent media and freedom of expression is limited. Citizen journalism Potential leveraged by some mainstream media organisations, creating a new relationship with the audience/listener

19 hybrid media Hybrid media create spaces for publication and debate in contexts where access to independent media and freedom of expression is limited. Offer an opportunity to expand and enlarge the voice of marginalised people, and to raise issues and expose violations of human rights, on mainstream platforms. Enhanced democratic interaction?

20 enhancing democracy through ICTs in Africa E-democracy has provoked much theoretical discussion but very little in the way of concrete successes and evidence. Three levels of ICT use to advance democratic processes at the national level: e-Government e-Governance ICTs for empowerment

21 enhancing democracy through ICTs in Africa New media activism and more direct democracy in which general participation is increased. Not only do these new media technologies facilitate efficient administration, citizen services, transparency, accountability and formal political participation, but they also provide the means for social movements, activist groupings or minority groups to engage with these processes on a global level. 

22 enhancing democracy through ICTs in Africa Three key areas: 1. dissemination of alternative news, 2. creating virtual public spheres, and 3. organising collective political action Mobile phones as a digital bridge and a new mass Medium.

23 enhancing democracy through ICTs in Africa Political constraints: 1. tracking and retaining private information, 2. content regulation and 3. censorship Not inherent and inevitable consequences of the technologies themselves, but the effect of (politically) expedient decisions by states and non-state actors to impact on ICT users in this way.

24 enhancing democracy through ICTs in Africa Not possible to give general recommendations, but identification of factors that need to be considered in the use of ICTs for the promotion of democratic empowerment: 1. Analyse the socio-cultural power structures 2. Understand the democratic context 3. Identify and support already existing democratic practices and initiatives 4. Consider the ways in which people (already) communicate

25 enhancing democracy through ICTs in Africa 5. Support civil society groups that are actors of change and function as watchdogs 6.Understand the media context 7. Understand the ICT context 8. Consider the ways in which people understand and use technologies 9. Invest in existing technology sectors or media that is already familiar

26 “We must not lose sight that the driving force of this interactivity and its concomitant potential for extending egalitarian values is not the internet itself but the voice it gives to our civic disposition.” [Douglas Alexander cf. Rushkoff, 1999]

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