Citizenship in a Digital Age
Start date: Sep 1, 2014,
End date: Aug 31, 2017
Does mobile digital technology transform citizenship relations? Does it change the way we think about participation, equality and rights? Despite the rise of terms such as 'digital citizenship' and 'netizens' and a widespread belief that digital technology will revolutionize democracy, many scholars argue that the emancipatory potential of digital technology is overstated. At the same time prominent scholars such as Slavoj Zizek and Judith Butler claim that there is a fundamental crisis of representative democracy. The proposed research builds on the anthropology of citizenship which takes the experience of citizens as the starting point for analysis, to offer an in-depth examination of how, and to what extent, digital technology is being used within three citizen projects in the San Francisco Bay Area to answer: How do people use mobile, networked digital technology to create, reproduce or challenge forms of 'differentiated citizenship' (Holston 2008)? The Bay Area is chosen for this research because it is a leader in the field of digital technology development and it has a long history of strong civic engagement. The proposed research develops an original methodology, dubbed 'digital context construction', that brings tried and tested ethnographic methods, ideal for gathering rich and detailed data about social behaviour in context, together with the latest developments in digital data analysis. This methodology expands on existing anthropological techniques that include an analysis of how people integrate digital technology into their daily lives as they self-construct a 'context' that is both locally embedded (e.g. use of internet to find a local service) and global in reach (e.g. posting on Facebook about events far away). This study will produce one of the first detailed accounts of how digital technology shapes the way people envision time, space, distance, speed, and the future, and how disjunctures of time, in turn, transform practices of citizenship.
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