Netactivism and Democracy by Peter Dahlgren

The opening of the 4th edition of the PhD FCT – Communication Studies: Technology, Culture and Society, Peter Dahlgren will be present at ULHT on 6 October, at 16h in the Auditorium Vítor Sá (Library Building), to deliver the conference entitled:

Netactivism and Democracy: Technical, Socio-Cultural, and Aesthetic Contingencies

In this presentation I will take as my point of departure the fact of political engagement and participation via the Internet (very broadly understood to include social media, mobile devices, etc.).

This is a very large and heterogeneous terrain, including involvement via political parties as well as alternative groups, movements and networks.

Moreover, netactivism can be found across the political spectrum.

My analytic port of entry is to highlight the various factors that make possible – as well as delimit – netactivism, i.e. its contingencies.

I then try to elucidate what such contingencies mean for the dynamics of democracy.

My basic trajectory is to emphasize the utility of digital media for activism and for democracy, while at the same underscoring the limits and even dangers that are embedded in these communication technologies.

I begin with technical aspects, looking briefly at the architecture of the Internet, how this shapes the online environment, and the implications this can have for activism.

With socio-cultural contingencies, I turn my attention to the Web’s discursive environment, looking at some key patterns of use and modes of interaction.

Not least, I treat this environment as a habitus (Bourdieu) that promotes/discourages various subject positions.

Aesthetic contingencies are perhaps the most difficult to pin down, but I aim to highlight certain features about the Net’s communicative registers that are relevant for participation and the evolving character of democracy.

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