ICT and Social Media: New Forms of Expression and Democratic Participation

October 30, 2011 · Posted in Literature Review · Comment 











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Digital culture has brought up new mediated communication patterns and practices through ICT. And it continues to alter digital culture, which in turn shapes human communication. Indeed, as Hopper (2007) points out, ICT and digital media are the catalyst for contemporary communication, and their advance constitutes a transformation in human communication. As a recent wave of media for social communication, social media has drastically changed the landscape of mediated communication, in particular its role in social and cultural processes and its significance in society.

Social media offer new and appealing possibilities to people to express themselves in a variety of ways and freely participate in major events, because they are more decentralized and less hierarchical and based on democratic structures. Social media platforms allow users to interact and collaborate with each other as creators of user-generated content, exploiting different tools, interfaces, software, and storage facilities to add value. There are many intuitive benefits for the use of social media technologies.  They offer a means for self-mass communication that may have previously been restricted by temporal or spatial constraints. They provide scale and are capable of reaching a global audience. According to Castells (2009), self-mass communication reaches a potentially global audience through the Internet and is moreover self-generated in the production of content, self-directed in the definition of potential receivers, and self-selected in the retrieval of content by many who communicate with many. With the ubiquity of the (influential) resources and the potential for communicating messages to massive, global audiences, social media technologies may be seen as an important, instrumental resource for social change. Social media make it possible for an average user to archive, create, change, circulate, and share digital content and knowledge, i.e. websites, blogs, films, video clips, pictures, etc. with other users in powerful new ways. Audiences have the power in their own hands to transform their personal social networks by connecting and developing intimate bonds with unfamiliar people (Kaplan & Blakley 2009). Further, by their very nature, social media are characterized by multiple points of production and distribution. They are accessible to enable individual and media actors to publish (produce) or access (consume) information in equal terms. The means of social media production are available to the public. Adding to this is that for social media technologies are simple to use and accessible to people with minimal technical skills, anyone with access can operate such means, as well as alter content instantaneously. The notion of user-generated content constitutes a new canon that is reshaping power relations between individuals and media actors. Users can exercise some control over the information they provide on Web 2.0 (social media) sites (Hinchcliffe 2006; O’Reilly 2005). Audiences understand that they have the power in their own hands to produce and monetize their own intellectual property (Kaplan & Blakley 2009). In all, individuals are no longer stochastically at the outer borders of media production and distribution. As Jenkins et al. (2005, p.10) note, ‘we are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media, toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced.’ The above features corroborate why social media have changed the notion of communication in many ways and at different levels. Kietzmann et al. (2011, p. 250) contend that ‘social media introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between individuals communities, and organizations.’ Social media culture is about people empowerment: how they aspire to use technology and the effect they expect this will have on their life. They also reflect participatory culture in the sense that people, ‘believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another.’ (Jenkins et al. 2005).

In addition, social media play a key role in promoting democratic participation and generating well informed pluralist society. Much of the hope pinned on social media stems from their potential use for political change purposes. Via social media platforms it has become possible for citizens to address and discuss a diverse range of public affairs and to self-propel ‘public will mobilization’ (Salmon, Fernandez and Post 2010) against their governments at relatively low transaction costs. Today’s audiences are aware that they have the power in their own hands to organize on behalf of political candidates and causes (Kaplan & Blakley 2009). This has been instrumental in shaping and catalyzing social changes driven by democratic participation in public spheres. It is about what Jakubowicz (2007, p. 137) describes as, the ‘appearance of alternative and opposition public spheres.’ This unprecedented decentralization of information and communication brought by social media has empowered citizens and enabled marginalized people to express themselves by utilizing independent channels to voice their opinions and take part directly or indirectly in social changes. However, this situation has brought up extra subject of discussions, whether independent channels can outlive themselves in this digital dependency and how citizen media can meet the Web 2.0 social media revolution.

ICT and Social Media: Definitional Issues and the Relationship

October 30, 2011 · Posted in Literature Review · Comment 

Prior to understanding how ICT and social media are analyzed in relation to social change, it is first useful to briefly elucidate what ICT and social media entail and how they relate. ICT is used as a general term for diverse set of technologies which enable users to create, access, disseminate, store, manage, and communicate information in a digital format. ICT include computer hardware and software applications, encompassing: mobile phones, computers, network hardware, internet, telecommunication systems and so on, as well as the various related services and applications. In recent years there has been a groundswell of interest in how computers and internet can best be harnessed to improve social communication at different levels, which has propelled research and innovation in the area of ICT and social digital media (SDM), leading to the emergence of what has come to be known as participatory technologies such as Web 2.0.

As an emerging phenomenon, social media are media for social interaction. Their emergence was enabled by ubiquitously accessible communication technology, participatory technology, mobile technology and web-based applications. They amalgamate social interaction and technology for value co-creation, one corollary of which is user-generated content which takes a wide variety of forms: ideas, text, videos, pictures, and so on. Kaplan & Haenlein (2011) define social media as a set of internet-based applications build on the technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that enable user-generated content to be created and exchanged. Web 2.0’s participatory technologies facilitate information sharing, participation and collaboration. Indeed, one key element of Web 2.0 is the social Web, which involves a number of online platforms where people are active participants, pool resources and share their perspectives and experiences. This is enabled by the different forms social media can take on such as social networking sites, content communities, weblogs, social blogs, micro-blogging, collaborative projects, etc. It is to note that these forms of social media differ in terms of self-disclosure and media richness criteria, which media theory proposes to distinguish social media types. Media richness is about ‘the amount of information a medium can transmit within a given time, and self–disclosure, which ‘is critical in the establishment of interpersonal trust’, denotes ‘the desire of people to present a certain image of themselves to others, which is achieved through the disclosure of specific personal information.’ (Breuer 2011)

Overall, although ICT and social media are conceptually different, they are intertwined and inextricably connected. And they converge when mobilized as resources for or employed as means in social change, a process that entails altering social patterns of a society, which can involve economic development, political progress, cultural change, social revolution, etc.

Introduction to ICT and Social Media

October 30, 2011 · Posted in Literature Review · Comment 

ICT is increasingly recognized as the strongest change means humanity has to its disposal. In the recent years, advances in ICT have heralded a major transformation in human communication, giving rise to new trends of media for social communication. Situated as one of the latest of several waves of digital media, social media have introduced new communication patterns, diversified communication content and format, created new forms of expression, fostered freedom, and stimulated a wide participation which has widened the scope of knowledge sharing and collaboration and allowed citizens from diverse walks of life to have an opportunity to affect changes, convey their views and challenge social norms, thus promoting democracy. However, for argument for promoting democracy by Internet freedom and the use of social requires some fine-tuning (Breuer, 2011).

Moreover, social media are increasingly employed in processes of social changes and development works. Rather, the mobilization of ICT and social media has become an instrumental approach for and power to social change. Using social media is about leaderless social movements leading social change – it is the public will mobilization and spheres, as spread through new media outlets and platforms, that pave the way for political change. It is highly likely that the embrace and strategic use of social media technologies may further transform them into a driving force for major democratic reforms and other major political changes. Indeed, drawing on (Breuer 2011), the successful implementation of various types of social media for the promotion of social change requires a constant adjustment of strategies to political and national context specific requirements. The aim of this essay is to explore ICT and social media in relation to development and social change. Specifically, we intend to discuss the potential of the-state-of-the-art ICT in facilitating new mediated communication patterns and practices; examine to what extent social media platforms are based on inherently democratic structures of participation and how they have opened new avenues for civic participation and democracy; look at whether independent channels for citizen media have outlived themselves, and the potential of citizen media in meeting the Web 2.0 social media revolution; and look at how social media applications can be utilized in concrete development work or/and in processes of social change. We also endeavor to shed light on some challenges facing the evolving trend of social media.

Welcome to our blog..

October 30, 2011 · Posted in Literature Review · Comment 

Dear respective netizens,

We warmly embrace your visit to our blog, which is aimed to reflect on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and so-called ‘new media’ from a development/social change perspective.

As part of our mandatory assignment in New Media, ICT, and Development (Master Program : Communication Development, Malmo Hogskola, Sweden, 2009 – 2011), theoretical approaches to studying new media cultures and practices are explored through literature reviews, and illustrated with case studies will be elaborated throughout this blog with a sole purpose to provide an understanding of how new media and ICTs are analysed and theorised in media and communication studies, and particularly in relation to development and social change.

Our thematic group review, which is social media, will demonstrate a deepened understanding of the role of ICTs for globalization, and the significance of the digital revolution in a global perspective, with special regard to governance and civic participation.

Last but not least, you will also find our individual assignments in this blog, which discuss various social media case studies in particular to direct participation and democracy development around the globe, with a critically reflection upon the role of ICT and new media in specific development/social change contexts, with societal, cultural and ethical aspects taken into consideration.

We welcome any comments, critical point of view, or additional theoretical literatures from all of you to enrich this blog content.

So, relax, sit back, grab your coffee, and enjoy!



Minavere Vera Bardici

Simon Elias Bibri

Erliza Lopez Pedersen

Lisa Virgiano



Group 1 Bambuser Presentation

October 26, 2011 · Posted in Bambuser · Comment 

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