We're pleased to share our latest research at the UNESCO Chair DCMÉT. This latest article is part of the Social Media, Citizen Participation and Education research project, and two of the Chair's students are co-authors (many thanks to Michelli Daros, doctoral student from Brazil, who has since graduated, and post-doctoral student Sandra Cuervo from Pais Vasco, Spain, who is completing her second year with us).
ABSTRACT: The widespread usage, consumption, and production of social media have sparked serious debate about its role in stimulating, cultivating, and influencing the shape, depth, and impact of democracy. How does and can engagement in and with social media lead to citizen participation in seeking to address issues that significantly affect people, notably social inequalities, racism, sexism, classism, poverty, war and conflict, the environment, and other local as well as global concerns? Does (or can) open-ended social media access, beyond the tightly controlled normative, hegemonic structures and strictures of democracy that frame, to a great deal, how people live, work, and even think, lead to new, alternative, and innovative forms of (critical) engagement? This text seeks to make connections between the intricacies of using social media and the reconceptualization of democracy, linking the two in an attempt to underscore how participation and engagement are changing. Using social media involves multilevel configurations of not only communicating with others but also in developing content, responding, sharing, critiquing, and reimagining the “Other” as well as reinterpreting contexts, political spaces, and cultures. This text also examines and critiques the potential for tangible, counter-hegemonic change within and outside of the mainstream, representative, electoralist model of democracy, which is increasingly being rejected by large numbers of citizens around the world. A significant piece of this equation is the filter of education, attempting to understand its role, impact, and meaning for social media usage/engagement in relation to democracy. The backdrop of fake news, and a brief case study of the 2018 Brazilian election, is interwoven and problematized throughout the text.