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Social media as arena for empowerment?
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education. (MAW, DISLIFE)
2017 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The presentation discusses how and to what extent it is possible to claim that digital media (Twitter) is a tool and a means for empowerment for people with disabilities. Since the early days of internet, digital media has been considered to give voice to the unheard and hence give marginalized groups place in the public debate. That has also been the case for people with disabilities. It has been recognized that social media and social networks have potential to support social relationships, self-determination and to expand their communication channels and influence identity formation processes. However, empirical evidence in our study suggests that general assumptions regarding the democratizing effect of digital media has to be nuanced. Twitter tweets can be” labelled” through the use of the hashtag-sign (#), and hashtags can be established on a private initiative, and be sustained over time if a community agrees (through practice) to use a mutual hashtag. In Sweden the hashtag #funkpol (short for function politics) is used to discuss topics related to different sorts of disabilities. We set up a personal archive and retrieved all tweets during a course of 6 months which amounted to approximately 10.000 tweets. Our analysis focus on who the most active twitterers are, who are addressed, and whose tweets are retweeted (which is an indication of importance and authority in this community). Early results indicate that (unheard) people with disabilities are primarily among those who tweet, but not even among the most active. But among those who are mentioned and re-tweeted (actors with importance), we find to a larger degree representatives from the official Sweden (disabled or not). So – is digital media (in this case Twitter) an arena for empowerment? Yes, and no! People with disabilities (and their relatives) are frequent twitterers, but the accounts and tweets among the most active twitterers are not picked up by others in proportion to their activity. Institutions and established power instances (advocacy organizations, politicians and media), do not respond to the same extent as they are addressed - at least not directly on Twitter - according to our findings. Digital and social media can not uncritically be approached as part of a process of empowerment. Instead our study suggest that social media can in fact be an arena where established structures are consolidated. However, it is difficult to estimate to what extent private voices aired may contribute to changing opinions, representations and public discourse on disabilities.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-134448OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-134448DiVA: diva2:1093558
Conference
Nordic Network on Disability Research (NNDR) 14th Research Conference, May 3 – 5, 2017.
Available from: 2017-05-08 Created: 2017-05-08 Last updated: 2017-06-12Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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