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Subject, crowd and the governance of activity: the role of digital tools in emergency response

Asmolov, Gregory (2016) Subject, crowd and the governance of activity: the role of digital tools in emergency response. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.vclo3ayecibx


This thesis examines the role of digital platforms in emergency response contexts and the constitution of relationships between platform users and disaster situations. The conceptual framework is derived from a reading of the Vygotskian notion of tool-mediated, object-oriented activity, which is juxtaposed with the Foucauldian notion of governance. This framework provides the basis for an investigation of the role of digital platforms, exploring the associations between digitally mediated forms of user activity and the discursive relationships among actors in specific situations. The empirical study examines crisis mapping projects and the role of digital platforms in emergency situations, mainly in Russia and Australia. The data collection methods included interviews with key actors and web archiving of digital platforms. The data analysis relies on the integration of a thematic analysis informed by activity theory and by Foucauldian discourse analysis. The thesis highlights the ways in which digital tools constitute the user as subject or object in relation to certain activities. The analysis explores the extent to which digital platforms contribute to the capacity of users to define their relationships with disasters, that is, to engage in self-governance. It also considers the capacity of institutional actors to become dominant in these relationships. The analysis sheds light on various modes of digital governance of the subject by distinguishing between “governance through inclusion” and “governance through exclusion”. Factors found to contribute to the salience of a specific mode of digital governance include “discursive mirroring” and “discursive opportunities”, seen as modes of relationship constituted between individual and institutional actors. Discursive mirroring is shown to be more likely to be associated with governance through exclusion, while discursive opportunities are more likely to be associated with governance through inclusion. An analysis of crowdsourcing practices provides a way of illustrating how, in the context of disaster response, the discursive construction of the crowd by institutional actors is associated with the governance of the crowd’s resources.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Gregory (Grigori) Asmolov
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Mansell, Robin

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