Published on February 16, 2014
From social media to social change? Insights into digital development trends Dr. Tobias Denskus Malmö högskola Sida Development Talk ‘Communication for development and social change in a new era’, Stockholm, 22 January 2014
Development & the digital age Between new digital possibilities & traditional rituals Emerging research on social media Analysing social media around the 2010 MDG Summit Development blogging as reflexive engagement Digital structural adjustment – or #OccupyICT4D? Why ICT4D, social media and digital engagement need to be a little bit like a visit to the dentist…
Development is part of the latest digital ‘buzz’, philanthropy & new (?) entrepreneurial environment Development is instantly connected to digital debates (ICT, ‘big data’, digital activism etc.) Development is part of a growing & and accepted work& lifestyle Development as ‘industry’ has become embedded in the new/old economy
Digitally enabled campaigns (e.g. Kony 2012 or TED) Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Bono: The influence of philanthropists and celebrity activists Framing complex development topics into the mainstream
‘Somalia: Kidnap survivor seeks to become the saviour of a starving people’ The ‘30 page report’ as reporting gold standard for many aid agencies New corporate buzzwords & management-style discourses
Emerging Research: Analysing social media around the 2010 MDG Summit Qualitative & quantitative analysis of ~3,000 tweets & 108 blog posts Are global conference & policy-making rituals challenged or digitally reproduced? Methodological challenges around social media as ‘data’
Emerging research: Analysing social media around the 2010 MDG Summit (con’t) World conferences are still a powerful, invited ritual space (and little has changed since the Earth Summit in 1992) Virtual debate was dominated by global Northern experts Celebrities (Clinton, Gates, Sachs) and celebrity content (TED presentations) were shared often No communication between ‘blogosphere’ and official delegates
Emerging Research: Development blogging as reflexive engagement Qualitative research based on interviews with development bloggers Blogging as reflective writing tool for students, aid workers & organizational learning Positive change: Information space for students Transparent career information (e.g. volunteering/voluntourism debate)
Emerging Research: Development blogging as reflexive engagement (con’t) Little impact on organizational processes Little impact on formal structures, power relations & decision-making (s. previous case study) Admittances of failure & insights into realities of the industry have introduced reflective writing to more people Blogging remains a bottom-up process that has only begun to trickle up into formal places & spaces
Digital structural adjustment? ‘As Morozov makes clear, the “openness” agenda as embodied in British and American politics now follows an entrepreneurial logic (the logic of Silicon Valley) and not a utopian one. It is perhaps predictable that the Anglo-Saxon political cultures, which invented neoliberalism in the first place, are so quick to manipulate otherwise idealistic terms used by software designers. We’ve seen how the language (…) of openness, of platforms, of sharing and the social – is easily appropriated by politicians who use it to spin their own ideological agendas’. (Justin McGuirk, Design and the right)
Or #OccupyICT4D? The governmentality of technology, big data & (social) media needs more critical attention ICTD4D community needs to get their hands dirty (literally & figuratively) Are we repeating Western development failures in a digital environment? It’s political will, stupid! Traditional discourses, rituals, organizations & power relations are still dominant Development education & ComDev are transforming through social media
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