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New technologies and the idea of citizenship: patterns of public participation in two cases

Sujon, Zoetanya (2010) New technologies and the idea of citizenship: patterns of public participation in two cases. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Many kinds of social, participatory and citizen oriented platforms make up today's media landscape. Many claim that open source and collaborative media change the ways we think about citizenship (Jenkins). Tim O'Reilly claims that Web 2.0 applications "have a natural architecture of participation" (2005). Yet social constructionists, feminists and sceptics caution against attributing new technologies with these kinds of natural characteristics. Drawing from the cultural history of early internet and mobile technologies, this research asks what, is meaningful about technologically specific ideas of citizenship. In order to answer this question, I draw from theories of standard and cultural citizenship; analyze a sample of technologically specific ideas of citizenship (e.g. netizenship, e-citizenship, technological citizenship, cyber citizenship); and conduct in depth empirical analysis of two case studies. Theoretically, this research synthesizes and builds upon citizenship theories beginning with T. H. Marshall and followed by cultural citizenship (e.g. Pakulski 1997; Isin and Wood 1999; Stevenson 2001; 2003). From this conceptual frame, the empirical patterns of connection are analyzed along three primary axes: membership systems; rights and obligations; and participatory strategies. Technologically specific ideas of citizenship fit well with theories of cultural citizenship and cultural rights closely resemble most of those rights that are also technologically specific such as rights to: participate, ideational and symbolic spheres, voice, to representation and to innovate. The cases are of two citizenship initiatives using internet or mobile platforms: the BBC's iCan project and Proboscis' Urban Tapestries project. While these projects emerged on the cusp of social media, both cases are early iterations of participatory media. Both cases provide insights into articulations of changing ideas of citizenship and participatory practices. Technologically specific ideas of citizenship are conditional. Project users engage different kinds of membership than producers and there is an uneven distribution of cultural rights which favours producers. As a result, users engage different and mostly shallow patterns of public participation. In contrast, producers have broader membership networks, stronger protection of rights and show more variation in deeper more collectively oriented participatory strategies. In the case of limited or partial forms of participation, findings suggest that citizenship language is used as an active manipulative strategy to centralize media organizations as dominant public sites. I argue that the characteristics of technologically specific ideas of citizenship mark a distinct moment in the history of media and citizenship; a moment characterized by the emergence of "public citizenship." The idea of public citizenship attempts to capture the ways in which technologically specific ideas of citizenship, at least in practice, involve making space for ordinary people in cultural institutions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mass Communications
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Media and Communications

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