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Article

Digital Diplomacy  

Kristin Anabel Eggeling

Digital diplomacy, virtual diplomacy, cyber diplomacy, and e-diplomacy are some of the most common English terms international relations (IR) scholars and practitioners use to describe diplomatic work online. The German foreign ministry, moreover, speaks of vernetzte Diplomatie (networked diplomacy), Danish diplomats call their approach “techplomacy,” and the Francophone world talks of diplomatie numérique (numbered diplomacy). Broadly, all these terms refer to the practices, procedures, and norms of doing diplomacy in digitalizing contexts. While the terms look similar, they are used to emphasize considerably different phenomena ranging from how diplomatic or foreign policy actors use digital devices to the stakes and future of diplomatic trust, constraint, or politeness in mediated communication and on social media platforms. The main question that has been driving research on “digital diplomacy” has been, How and to what extent diplomacy is changing in the digital age? and a second, related question is whether this development is desirable or not. The debate about digital diplomacy is therefore part of broader debates about the relationship between technology and politics and a normative concern of how to manage it. In this broader frame, scholars ask questions such as What happens to diplomacy—a profession and practice that has traditionally been imagined as taking place in intimate face-to-face and closed-door meetings—when digital information and communication technologies enter the scene? How secluded and confidential is the diplomatic negotiation room in times of digital hyperconnectivity? and How autonomous are diplomatic representatives when they are permanently online? Since the 2000s, IR and diplomatic studies have seen a rise in scholarship on such and related questions. This literature is broad and diverse and includes authors who write from realist, constructivist, area-focused, practice theoretical, political communication, or big data perspectives, among others. Given the fast pace of technological development in the 21st century, both the practice and study of “digital diplomacy” are moving fields. Any written account of them may therefore quickly become (out)dated. Over the course of writing this article (2022–2023), for example, the standing and future of the main digital platform used for international diplomatic communication, Twitter, is tumbling into uncertainty. But there are, nonetheless, real insights to report. One concerns the concept's normative career. While initially embraced as a harbinger of more transparency and inclusion, for example, in the early moments of the Arab Spring, the digitalization of diplomacy has over time attracted more critical commentary, for example, the polarizing tweets of former U.S. president Donald Trump. A second insight speaks to the stakes of digital diplomacy and the extent to which it has become impossible to speak of a diplomacy that is non-digital. This is reflected in scholarship that argues that digitalization’s impact on diplomacy reaches much deeper than public communication or e-services and has seeped into how basic diplomatic tasks, including negotiations, reporting, and information sharing, are entangled with digital tools and services. A third insight concerns the future of the diplomatic profession itself. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that if it must, diplomacy can continue in digital formats. It has also shown that digitalization is not an external challenge that diplomats can be trained to competently handle but a condition of modern life that is becoming inseparable from the conduct of human and political affairs, including diplomacy.

Article

Social Media Images as Digital Sources for West African Urban History  

James Yékú

The web has become an important source for understanding the African past. As African cultural and historical records become digital, they specifically invite an intellectual scrutiny of the nature of digital sources of West African urban history. And with more historical scholarship in Africa responding to digitized and born-digital sources, there is an appreciation of how digital infrastructure shapes many aspects of historical study, including the historical development of cities and how urban subjects make sense of the complexities of their urban identities. In this article, social media–based digital projects that are focused on images and other regimes of visuality and that function as public humanities scholarship are recruited to make the case for photographic images from the participatory web as primary sources of African history. While not discountenancing the continued value of printed work and the traditional archive, West African urban history becomes focalized through digital platforms and methods of visual history that foreground African voices and their insights into the historical evolution of West African cites and their urban subjectivities.

Article

Online and Social Media Campaigns For Climate Change Engagement  

Alexandra Segerberg

Communication campaigns play a key role in shaping what people think, feel, and do about climate change, and help shape public agendas at the local, national, and international levels. As more people around the world gain regular access to the Internet, online and social media are becoming significant contexts in which they come into contact with—or fail to come into contact with—news, debates, action, and social input related to climate change. This makes it important to understand the campaigning that takes place online. Many actors make concerted efforts to engage publics on climate change and go online to do so. These include businesses; governments and international organizations; scientists and scientific institutions; organizations, groups and individuals in civil society; public intellectuals and political, religious and entertainment leaders. Not all are ultimately concerned with climate change or engaging publics as such. Nevertheless, most campaigns involve at least one of four goals: to inform, raise awareness, and shape public understanding about the science, problems, and politics of climate change; to change consumer and citizen behavior; to network and connect concerned publics; to visibly mobilize consumers or citizens to put pressure on decision-makers. Online climate change campaigns are an emerging phenomenon and field of study. The campaigns appeared on broad front around the turn of the millennium, and have since become increasingly complex. In addition to the elements that produce variance in offline campaigns, scholars examine the role of online and social media in how campaigners render the issues and pursue their campaigns, how publics respond, and what this means for the development of the broader public discourse. Core debates concern the capacity and impact of online campaigning in the areas of informing, activating and including publics, and the ambivalences inherent in leveraging technology to engage publics on climate change.

Article

Asian Americans on Television  

Alison Yeh Cheung and Kent A. Ono

For the vast majority of TV history, Asian Americans have played a minimal yet nevertheless infamous role. From the “yellow peril” to the “model minority,” racial stereotypes have been used to characterize Asians and Asian Americans on the television screen. In the rare instances when Asian American actors did appear, they either were in minor roles or as figures from a bad racist dream. Research on Asian Americans on TV comes from many disciplines and cuts across multiple fields such as media studies and Asian American studies. This article discusses the early history of Asian Americans on TV, traces notable figures in contemporary television, and concludes with the role of digital convergence and the development of delivery and recovery platforms. It also provides an overview of scholarly literature written about Asian Americans on TV, including articles and books written about Asian American TV shows, the history of Asian American TV representation, and research on TV and digital media, including YouTube and other transmedia convergence cultural materials.

Article

E-text  

Niels Ole Finnemann

Electronic text can be defined on two different, though interconnected, levels. On the one hand, electronic text can be defined by taking the notion of “text” or “printed text” as the point of departure. On the other hand, electronic text can be defined by taking the digital format as the point of departure, where everything is represented in the binary alphabet. While the notion of text in most cases lends itself to being independent of medium and embodiment, it is also often tacitly assumed that it is in fact modeled on the print medium, instead of, for instance, on hand-written text or speech. In late 20th century, the notion of “text” was subjected to increasing criticism, as can be seen in the question that has been raised in literary text theory about whether “there is a text in this class.” At the same time, the notion was expanded by including extralinguistic sign modalities (images, videos). A basic question, therefore, is whether electronic text should be included in the enlarged notion that text is a new digital sign modality added to the repertoire of modalities or whether it should be included as a sign modality that is both an independent modality and a container that can hold other modalities. In the first case, the notion of electronic text would be paradigmatically formed around the e-book, which was conceived as a digital copy of a printed book but is now a deliberately closed work. Even closed works in digital form will need some sort of interface and hypertextual navigation that together constitute a particular kind of paratext needed for accessing any sort of digital material. In the second case, the electronic text is defined by the representation of content and (some parts of the) processing rules as binary sequences manifested in the binary alphabet. This wider notion would include, for instance, all sorts of scanning results, whether of the outer cosmos or the interior of our bodies and of digital traces of other processes in-between (machine readings included). Since other alphabets, such as the genetic alphabet and all sorts of images may also be represented in the binary alphabet, such materials will also belong to the textual universe within this definition. A more intriguing implication is that born-digital materials may also include scripts and interactive features as intrinsic parts of the text. The two notions define the text on different levels: one is centered on the Latin, the other on the binary alphabet, and both definitions include hypertext, interactivity, and multimodality as constituent parameters. In the first case, hypertext is included as a navigational, paratextual device; whereas in the second case, hypertext is also incorporated in the narrative within an otherwise closed work or as a constituent element on the textual universe of the web, where it serves the ongoing production of (possibly scripted) connections and disconnections between blocks of textual content. Since the early decades of early 21st century still represent only the very early stages of the globally distributed universe of web texts, this is also a history of the gradual unfolding of the dimensions of these three constituencies—hypertext, interactivity, and multimodality. The result is a still-expanding repertoire of genres, including some that are emerging via path dependency; some via remediation; and some as new genres that are unique for networked digital media, including “social media texts” and a growing variety of narrative and discursive multiple-source systems.

Article

Chinese Diaspora and Social Media: Negotiating Transnational Space  

Wanning Sun

The period since about the late 1980s has witnessed the phenomenal ascent of the People’s Republic of China as a political, economic, and military power on the global stage. China’s rise has engendered an earnest, if perhaps not well-executed, agenda to promote a more attractive image of the country. In this period China has also experienced a rapid escalation in outbound migration to various parts of the world, with a small number of countries in the global West emerging as the preferred destinations for Chinese migrants, and, in some cases, China becoming their biggest source of new migrants. In the United States, China replaced Mexico as the top sending country in 2018. In Canada, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration, while in Australia, China now has the second-largest migrant population behind the United Kingdom, and has only recently slipped into second position behind India as the nation’s leading source of new immigrants. These developments have made China’s diaspora the biggest in the world. In the eyes and minds of the Chinese government, Chinese migrants are important potential assets in its efforts to push its global soft power agenda. The period of accelerated outbound migration from China coincided with the emergence of first the internet, and then digital media—in particular, the most popular Chinese social media platform, WeChat (Weixin in Chinese). Against the backdrop of these developments at the macro level, the topic of social media and the Chinese diaspora becomes a question of considerable significance. Some analysts argue that the dramatically enlarged mainland Chinese diaspora has effectively become an instrument of China’s soft power agenda, while others point out the positive role that members of this group play in their host communities. In particular, they highlight the potential of Chinese-language social media—and in particular WeChat, which is widely used by Chinese people both within and outside China—to have a beneficial impact on Chinese immigrants’ prospects for social integration in the countries where they now reside. The pursuit of these questions entails a brief foray into a number of research areas, including the Chinese diaspora, the history and transformation of Chinese-language diasporic media, the infrastructural and regulatory framework of WeChat, and public diplomacy via diaspora. Addressing these questions also has the benefit of broadening, and possibly enriching, the concepts of digital diaspora, on the one hand, and digital citizenship, on the other.

Article

Digital Communication Effects on Loneliness and Life Satisfaction  

Philipp K. Masur

The question of whether and how digital media use and digital communication affect people’s and particularly adolescents’ well-being has been investigated for several decades. Many studies have analyzed how different forms of digital communication influence loneliness and life satisfaction, two comparatively stable cognitive indicators of subjective well-being. Despite this large body of empirical work, the findings remain ambivalent, with studies resulting in positive, negative, or nonsignificant effects. Several meta-analyses suggest that the overall effect of digital communication on life satisfaction is probably too small to suggest a detrimental effect. The net effect of digital communication on loneliness, by contrast, is positive, but likewise small. Yet the studies on which these meta-analyses are based suffer from several limitations. They often adopt a limited perspective on the phenomenon of interest as a disproportionate amount of work focuses on interpersonal differences instead of intra-individual, contextual, and situational effects, as well as their interactions. Furthermore, studies are often based on cross-sectional data, use unvalidated and imprecise measurements, and differ greatly in how they conceptualize digital communication. The diversity in studied applications and forms of digital communication also suggests that effects are most likely bidirectional. Passive digital communication (e.g., browsing and lurking) is more likely to result in negative effects on well-being. Active and purposeful digital communication (e.g., posting, liking, conversating), by contrast, is more likely to result in positive effects. Future research should therefore investigate how the various levels of digital communication (including differences in devices, applications, features, interactions, and messages) interact in shaping individuals’ well-being. Instead of expecting long-term effects on comparatively stable cognitive indicators such as life satisfaction, scholars should rather study and identify the spatial and temporal boundaries of digital communication effects on the more fluctuating affective components of well-being.

Article

Cyberculture and Globalization  

André Lemos

Globalization should be understood as a new economic, political, and cultural dynamic in what is now a global space. It is diagnosed based on a description of the different phases in its development, as an abstract, modern narrative reinforced by cyberculture, the information and communications technologies (ICTs) culture that emerged in the 1970s. Communications media have enabled the constraints and limits of space and time to be overcome, expanding human agency and connecting people and objects. Globalization is linked to the development of cyberculture precisely because this increases the number of different types of connections between people, products, and information all around the planet. It is constructed abstractly, as it does not pay the price of the connections and connectors that locate social relations. At the same time as it helps to create the fiction of “global globalization,” cyberculture reveals mediators that always connect objects, processes, people, and places, making a “localized globalization” visible. Rather than being merely deterritorializing, globalization produces connections and situations with the aid of connectors. Like every sociotechnical network, it is involved in the creation of new spatialities. The narrative of globalization ignores the connectors and overlooks the notion of territory, asserting the global nature of globalization when in fact it is the result of concrete mediations performed locally, produced by a specific and material network. It is important to politicize globalization. This requires “relocalization” of the global, that is, identifying specific, material situations. Having an appreciation of this dependence leads us to very concrete political attitudes. Attention is drawn to the need to give visibility to the mediators that anchor experiences, gainsaying the generic nature of globalization and allowing it to be politicized.

Article

Digital Game-Based Learning: Foundations, Applications, and Critical Issues  

Earl Aguilera and Roberto de Roock

As contemporary societies continue to integrate digital technologies into varying aspects of everyday life—including work, schooling, and play—the concept of digital game-based learning (DGBL) has become increasingly influential. The term DGBL is often used to characterize the relationship of computer-based games (including games played on dedicated gaming consoles and mobile devices) to various learning processes or outcomes. The concept of DGBL has its origins in interdisciplinary research across the computational and social sciences, as well as the humanities. As interest in computer games and learning within the field of education began to expand in the late 20th century, DGBL became somewhat of a contested term. Even foundational concepts such as the definition of games (as well as their relationship to simulations and similar artifacts), the affordances of digital modalities, and the question of what “counts” as learning continue to spark debate among positivist, interpretivist, and critical framings of DGBL. Other contested areas include the ways that DGBL should be assessed, the role of motivation in DGBL, and the specific frameworks that should inform the design of games for learning. Scholarship representing a more positivist view of DGBL typically explores the potential of digital games as motivators and influencers of human behavior, leading to the development of concepts such as gamification and other uses of games for achieving specified outcomes, such as increasing academic measures of performance, or as a form of behavioral modification. Other researchers have taken a more interpretive view of DGBL, framing it as a way to understand learning, meaning-making, and play as social practices embedded within broader contexts, both local and historical. Still others approach DGBL through a more critical paradigm, interrogating issues of power, agency, and ideology within and across applications of DGBL. Within classrooms and formal settings, educators have adopted four broad approaches to applying DGBL: (a) integrating commercial games into classroom learning; (b) developing games expressly for the purpose of teaching educational content; (c) involving students in the creation of digital games as a vehicle for learning; and (d) integrating elements such as scoreboards, feedback loops, and reward systems derived from digital games into non-game contexts—also referred to as gamification. Scholarship on DGBL focusing on informal settings has alternatively highlighted the socially situated, interpretive practices of gamers; the role of affinity spaces and participatory cultures; and the intersection of gaming practices with the lifeworlds of game players. As DGBL has continued to demonstrate influence on a variety of fields, it has also attracted criticism. Among these critiques are the question of the relative effectiveness of DGBL for achieving educational outcomes. Critiques of the quality and design of educational games have also been raised by educators, designers, and gamers alike. Interpretive scholars have tended to question the primacy of institutionally defined approaches to DGBL, highlighting instead the importance of understanding how people make meaning through and with games beyond formal schooling. Critical scholars have also identified issues in the ethics of DGBL in general and gamification in particular as a form of behavior modification and social control. These critiques often intersect and overlap with criticism of video games in general, including issues of commercialism, antisocial behaviors, misogyny, addiction, and the promotion of violence. Despite these criticisms, research and applications of DGBL continue to expand within and beyond the field of education, and evolving technologies, social practices, and cultural developments continue to open new avenues of exploration in the area.

Article

Online Learning  

Lisa Marie Blaschke and Svenja Bedenlier

With the ubiquity of the Internet and the pedagogical opportunities that digital media afford for education on all levels, online learning constitutes a form of education that accommodates learners’ individual needs beyond traditional face-to-face instruction, allowing it to occur with the student physically separated from the instructor. Online learning and distance education have entered into the mainstream of educational provision at of most of the 21st century’s higher education institutions. With its consequent focus on the learner and elements of course accessibility and flexibility and learner collaboration, online learning renegotiates the meaning of teaching and learning, positioning students at the heart of the process and requiring new competencies for successful online learners as well as instructors. New teaching and learning strategies, support structures, and services are being developed and implemented and often require system-wide changes within higher education institutions. Drawing on central elements from the field of distance education, both in practice and in its theoretical foundations, online learning makes use of new affordances of a variety of information and communication technologies—ranging from multimedia learning objects to social and collaborative media and entire virtual learning environments. Fundamental learning theories are being revisited and discussed in the context of online learning, leaving room for their further development and application in the digital age.

Article

Social Media  

Kendra Calhoun

Foundational linguistic anthropological theories of community, identity, and multimodality, among other topics, offer invaluable insights into communicative practices on social media. Phenomena on social media also require researchers to continually adapt and update these theories—which were first conceptualized before social media became integral to everyday life—to account for the unique communicative possibilities afforded by constantly evolving digital technology. Like anthropological studies in in-person contexts, anthropological studies of language and culture online vary in scope, theoretical framing, and methodological approach depending on their central topics of inquiry. Social media can be studied within a primarily in-person ethnographic project as one of many sites of communication for members of a community in addition to (or overlapping with) contexts such as work, school, and the home. Social media can also be studied as primary sites of analysis through digital ethnographic approaches, typically focused on the communication patterns within a network or community of social media users on a single platform. Linguistic anthropological perspectives on social media are necessarily interdisciplinary, informed by scholarship in related fields including sociolinguistics, cultural anthropology, communication studies, and media studies. To this interdisciplinary understanding linguistic anthropology contributes a unique perspective attuned to the details of linguistic structure and the ways language and culture are mutually constitutive.

Article

LGBTQ Youth Cultures and Social Media  

Olu Jenzen

Research has established that access to the Internet and social media is vital for many lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer + (LGBTQ+) young people. LGBTQ+ social media youth cultures form across platforms and are shaped by a range of media affordances and vernaculars. LGBTQ+ youth use social media for self-expression, connecting with other LGBTQ+ young people, entertainment, activism, and collecting and curating information. Through a digital cultural studies approach, the essay discusses themes of LGBTQ+ youth identity work, communities and networked publics, and youth voice to explore how digital and social media imaginaries and practices produce new forms of socialites. It situates LGBTQ+ youth social media practices in relation to the affective economy and algorithmic exclusion of platforms, as well as in relation to neoliberal paradigms of gender and sexuality and homotolerance.

Article

Digital Resources: Using Facebook to Foster International Conversations about Mexican History  

Jason Dormady

Mexican History/Historia Mexicana (MH/HM) is a Facebook page dedicated to bringing together the world’s academic and popular masses in their interest of Mexican history. As of 2016, there are over 1300 members of the page, and posts garner one to three hundred views, though some posts or posted links have reached three to five thousand unique views. The Facebook page grew out of the frustration of this author with the slow and censored listserv system that serves as the main forum for scholars of Mexican history. In addition, there was a desire to reach private scholars and members of the public who are generally excluded from the listserv systems. In December 2011, the author and another scholar joined together in creating a Facebook page that would, in the words of the page description, serve as “a forum for the free exchange of information on the history and related culture and events of Mexico.” In late 2012 a third scholar joined them as operators, managers, and editors of the page. Material is selected in Spanish and English (and occasionally indigenous Mexican languages) related to Mexican history or events of historical importance. Generally, the goals of the page are to provide items of interest to the general public, resources to professional researchers that they may not know about, and well-known resources for new researchers. Information is provided on events or presentations related to the preservation of Mexican History, important new research works, and items of curiosity that simply pique theinterest of the operators. There is no systematic approach to content; instead, information is posted as a free-form collective, free of censorship. Members of the community are also welcome to post materials or queries and to comment and discuss topics on history and related items of culture and current events.

Article

Social Media and School Leadership Efficiency  

Byabazaire Yusuf, Lynne M. Walters, and Abdul Halim Mohamed

Social media platforms have emerged as a powerful communication strategy for school leaders, whether within a school or in the community as a whole. The potential for the heads of school to improve leadership connectedness and efficiency lies in the proper selection and use of available social media tools. This would consolidate their position and influence in a 21st-century learning environment. Social media tools provide efficient means for school leaders to mobilize and to build consensus on important matters among their subordinates or stakeholders before arriving at a final decision. They also can use social media tools to shape a vision of academic success for students, motivate academic staff in carrying out their duties in a diligent manner, and build support for their efforts by communicating directly with parents and the community. By spearheading the use of social media strategies, school leaders can inspire teachers to embark on a pedagogical shift by putting real-world tools in the hands of students. This would allow students to consume information, as well as to create artifacts of learning to demonstrate conceptual mastery. Students would become more motivated through active engagement and achievement by focusing on improving essential skills, such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and global connectedness. Allowing for distant access, social media also enhance the management zone and extend learning beyond classrooms and schedules. Because social media resources are varied and evolving, school leaders can establish an empowered and dynamic learning community of educators in which skills, knowledge, and thinking would be shared among them through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Leaders also could form their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) to meet the diverse learning needs of their schools, acquire and share resources, access knowledge, receive feedback, connect with both educational experts and practitioners, and discuss proven strategies to address teaching, learning, and leadership concerns. Furthermore, a school leader can create specific social media channels to collectively engage teachers, heads of departments, coordinators and community leaders. This would enhance the sharing of instructional ideas and strategies, policy issues, and positive aspects of school culture that promote community pride. In this way, a school would not only provide a healthy environment for sharing ideas and collaboration, but would improve the teaching and learning process and attract the enthusiastic participation of stakeholders in school affairs. Lastly, school leaders can employ social media platforms to engage the outside community in an appropriate manner to improve their institutional image and relationships with others. Thus, a vibrant social media strategy would provide an efficient means to manage content and communicate the most accurate, timely, and relevant information, based on appropriate levels of transparency. It would also provide a means of interaction between the school leaders and community stakeholders, enabling them to keep these community stakeholders updated on either the current or most important aspects or events within the schools, hence promoting community participations in school affairs.

Article

Reading in the Digital Era  

Lutz Koepnick

Digital reading has been an object of fervent scholarly and public debates since the mid-1990s. Often digital reading has been associated solely with what may happen between readers and screens, and in dominant approaches digital reading devices have been seen as producing radically different readers than printed books produce. Far from merely reducing digital reading to a mere matter of what e-books might do to the attention spans of individual readers, however, contemporary critiques emphasize how digital computing affects and is being affected by neurological, sensory, kinetic, and apparatical processes. The future of reading has too many different aspects to be discussed by scholars of one discipline or field of study alone. Digital reading is as much a matter for neurologists as for literary scholars, for engineers as much as ergonomicians, for psychologists, physiologists, media historians, art critics, critical theorists, and many others. Scholars of literature will need to consult many fields to elaborate a future poetics of digital reading and examine how literary texts in all their different forms are and will be met by 21st-century readers.

Article

Muslims and Social Media in North America  

Rabia Kamal

Islam in North America is an incredibly diverse phenomenon with a long history and a range of different perspectives on what “American/Canadian Islam” is or should be. While the presence of Islam in the United States dates back to the transatlantic slave trade, Muslim identity in the region is often linked to an immigrant presence and became synonymous with a sense of violent foreignness after the 9/11 attacks. Mainstream Western media has played a fundamental role in the configuration of Islam as the ultimate cultural “other,” leaving Muslims who strongly identify as Muslim and American or Canadian in a precarious position. Representation and debates around Muslim identity have recently shifted to online platforms. Social media has not only impacted how Islam is practiced in the United States and Canada but has also influenced self-presentation, community building, and activism among Muslims across ethnicity, race, generation, and class. From Quranic websites and Muslim dating apps to blogs, Instagram influencers, and Snapchat fatwas, North American Islam has developed a burgeoning presence across the digital landscape. Furthermore, social media provides a central space through which national politics and policies play out, and Muslims in particular have faced challenges ranging from Islamophobia and religious persecution to digital surveillance and censorship. Such phenomena have impacted the online activities of Muslims and deeply inform the day-to-day lives of Muslim communities across the region. Through exploring the various ways in which Muslims in these minority contexts experience the growing interrelationship between their on- and offline lives, we approach the digital as a space where culture is continually produced, performed, and contested.

Article

Religion, New Media, and Digital Culture  

Giulia Evolvi

The study of religion and new media explores how the contemporary proliferation of technological devices and digital culture impacts religious traditions. The progressive mediation of religion through websites, social networks, apps, and digital devices has created new conditions for religious experiences, practices, and beliefs. From the diffusion of internet technologies in the mid-1990s, scholars have individuated four waves to describe the evolution of religion and new media: (a) The first wave (mid-1990s–beginning 2000s) is characterized by enthusiasm for the potential of the Internet and the establishment of the first websites dedicated to religion, such as the Vatican official webpage and chatrooms where Neo-Pagans celebrated online rituals. These may be considered examples of “cyber-religion,” a term that indicates religious activities in the virtual space of the Internet, usually called in this period “cyberspace.” (b) The second wave (the mid-late 2000s) involves the growth of religious online presences, and is characterized by more realistic attitudes on the potentials and consequences of internet use. For example, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish virtual sacred buildings have been created on the platform Second Life. At the same time, the virtual congregation Church of Fools attracted both positive reactions and criticism. In this period, scholars often talk about “religion online,” which is the online transposition of activities and narratives of religious groups, and “online religion,” a type of religion that exists mainly because of the increased interconnectivity and visual enhancements of the Internet. (c) The third wave (late 2000–mid-2010s) saw the creation of social network platforms and the proliferation of smartphones. Religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama and the Pope established social network accounts, and smartphone developed apps for reading sacred texts, praying, and performing confessions. This type of religion is usually called “digital religion,” a concept that indicates the progressive blurring of the line between online and offline religiosity. (d) The fourth wave (the late 2010s) includes online religious groups circulating narratives beyond religious institutions, and greater academic attention to elements such as gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, politics. This is the case of veiled Muslim influencers who talk about religion in fashion tutorials, and Russian Orthodox women (Matushki) who use blogs to diffuse patriarchal values. The notion of “digital religion” is employed in this period to explore how religious identities, communities, and authorities change in the internet age. Scholars have approached these four waves through the lens of existing media theoretical frameworks, especially mediation, mediatization, and social shaping of technology, and adapted them to the field of religion and new media. While existing scholarship has often focused on Europe and North America, the study of religion and new media is expected to become increasingly global in scope.

Article

Remediation  

Adam Hammond

The concept of remediation, as elaborated by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin in Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999), is premised on the notion that media are best understood in interaction rather than in isolation. Every artistic medium, they argue, orients itself in relation to another medium, whether respectfully—as in the case of an online literary database that seeks to provide easy access to faithful facsimiles of manuscripts—or competitively—as with a videogame that seeks to replace the linearity and passivity of print with open-ended interactivity. Bolter and Grusin describe individual media in turns of two basic impulses: immediacy, or the attempt to erase the mediating function and present the illusion of directly represented reality; and hypermediacy, or the attempt to foreground the mediating function, exposing the impossibility of direct representation. They employ the same vocabulary to describe the interaction of media. Every act of remediation—every representation of one medium in another—necessarily involves both immediacy and hypermediacy. A digital edition of a literary text grants access to the words of the original print artifact (immediacy), yet by including audio readings and video commentary draws attention to its digital-specific affordances (hypermediacy). A digital archive gathers together high-resolution, color-accurate reproductions of materials scattered in rare-book libraries around the world (immediacy), yet by granting free and instantaneous access to these precious, fragile objects, fundamentally transforms the experience of engaging with their analog originals (hypermediacy). Insisting that one approach media through interaction, Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation positions the movement of content from one medium to another as a form of translation—a transformative act in which much is lost as well as gained.

Article

Digital Literacies in Early Childhood  

Fiona Scott and Jackie Marsh

The study of digital literacies in early childhood (0–8 years) is an emergent and fast-growing area of scholarship. Young children’s communicative practices are today more complex and diverse in scope than ever before, encompassing both “traditional” reading and writing and a growing range of “new” communicative competencies across multiple digital media contexts. Scholars are increasingly interested in children’s literacy practices outside traditional print-based texts, and the theory of multimodality helps them to understand children’s communicative practices in relation to a range of modes, including those present in digital technology. At the same time, the boundaries between what constitutes “digital” and “traditional” literacies are themselves blurred. Multiple academic disciplines have contributed to our understanding of children’s digital literacy practices. Numerous definitions for digital literacy or literacies exist, and scholars have proposed a range of theoretical approaches to the topic. Bill Green’s “3D model” of literacy provides a useful starting point for understanding the different dimensions of children’s digital literacy: operational, cultural, and critical. It is acknowledged that children’s digital literacy practices are specific to particular social and cultural contexts. In particular, scholars have identified important differences between accepted literacy practices in schools and early years’ settings (“school literacies”) and children’s literacy practices in a socioculturally diverse range of home settings (“home literacies”). A growing field of research is explicitly concerned with the unique skills developed at home, as children learn to produce and interpret a range of “new” digital and multimodal texts. At the same time, numerous scholars have suggested that there is still a general lack of progress with regard to early years’ practitioners’ use of technology in the curriculum. Gaps and absences in knowledge still exist, and it will be important for scholars over the coming years to continue research into young children’s digital literacy practices, both in homes and communities and across early years’ settings.

Article

Social Media and Elections in Africa  

Iginio Gagliardone

The analysis of the diffusion of social media in Africa and its relevance for politics has been caught in a paradox. On the one hand, social media have been saluted for their newness and for their ability, especially in connection with increasingly accessible portable tools such as mobile phones, to offer a level playing field for individuals to participate in politics and speak to power. On the other hand, this very enthusiasm has evoked relatively tired tropes used to frame the advent of other “new” technologies in the past, stressing what they could do to Africa, rather than exploring what they are doing in Africa. Early research on the relationship between social media and elections in Africa has tended to adopt normative frameworks adapted from the analysis of electoral contests in the Global North, presupposing unfettered citizens using social media to root for their leaders or demand accountability. A more recent wave of empirically grounded studies has embraced a greater conceptual and methodological pluralism, offering more space to analyze the contradictions in how social media are used and abused: how humor can be turned into a powerful tool to contest a type of power that appears overwhelming; or how armies of professional users have exploited people’s credulity of new media as “freer” from power to actually support partisan agenda. Interestingly, this latter approach has brought to light phenomena that have only recently caught global attention, such as the role of “fake news” and misinformation in electoral contests, but have played a determinant role in African politics for at least a decade.