Digital Activism – ingroup bonding or bridging across differences? The case of #jagärhär

We live in a time where polarization of opinions is growing. Expressions of xenophobia and misogony are getting more and more normalized. Based on the premise that positive (mediated) contact with ‘others’ reduce prejudice, where are the digital initiatives that try to bridge across differences within the public sphere? Is Swedish activist group #jagärhär one of them?

One of the first lectures I listened to when I started studying Communication for Development about a year ago was from professor Silvio Waisbord (2016). He posed some questions that haven’t left me since then. He talked about how the mediated public sphere of today is characterized by “shattering of the public”, meaning that the public is no longer one single public body, but many, and in many cases disconnected from each other. Polarization is a fact. He pointed at phenomena like digital narcissism and echo chamber communication where all you see and read confirms your own world view. Based on the premise that positive (mediated) contact with ‘others’ reduce prejudice, Waisbord called for digital initiatives that try to bridge across differences within the public sphere. But he did not have one single example so far. That beat me down.

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