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Digital inclusion and user (dis)empowerment: a critical perspective

Digital inclusion and user (dis)empowerment: a critical perspective Purpose – This article aims to highlight the main limitations of the emancipatory potentials of digital inclusion policies and information and communication technologies (ICTs). Increasingly, empowerment is put forward as one of the main goals of digital inclusion. By applying user-centric and participatory approaches, assumptions are made that individuals will be empowered and, as such, will be re-included in society. Design/methodology/approach – These assumptions, however, tend to ignore the social, economic, political and technical conditions within which individual choices are made and within which individuals must inevitably act. Instead of attempting to narrow the existing social gap between class-divided societies, and of probing the limitations given at the macro-level by questioning the wider social structure, digital inclusion policies tend to individualize problems that are in fact social in their nature. Findings – This contribution will, therefore, aim to identify the key causes of structural (dis)empowerment and how these resonate to digital inclusion. The article positions itself within the political economy of communication research tradition and aims to confront the structural consequences of social inequalities, existing social hierarchies and power structures against mechanisms of digital inequalities and against the implementation of digital inclusion policies. Originality/value – By proceeding from a critical perspective, it aims to demonstrate the limitations of user-centric and micro-level approaches, while questioning their normative interpretations of digital empowerment which tend to be reductionist in their essence and instrumental in their aims. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png info Emerald Publishing

Digital inclusion and user (dis)empowerment: a critical perspective

info , Volume 16 (6): 13 – Sep 2, 2014

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
1463-6697
DOI
10.1108/info-07-2014-0030
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – This article aims to highlight the main limitations of the emancipatory potentials of digital inclusion policies and information and communication technologies (ICTs). Increasingly, empowerment is put forward as one of the main goals of digital inclusion. By applying user-centric and participatory approaches, assumptions are made that individuals will be empowered and, as such, will be re-included in society. Design/methodology/approach – These assumptions, however, tend to ignore the social, economic, political and technical conditions within which individual choices are made and within which individuals must inevitably act. Instead of attempting to narrow the existing social gap between class-divided societies, and of probing the limitations given at the macro-level by questioning the wider social structure, digital inclusion policies tend to individualize problems that are in fact social in their nature. Findings – This contribution will, therefore, aim to identify the key causes of structural (dis)empowerment and how these resonate to digital inclusion. The article positions itself within the political economy of communication research tradition and aims to confront the structural consequences of social inequalities, existing social hierarchies and power structures against mechanisms of digital inequalities and against the implementation of digital inclusion policies. Originality/value – By proceeding from a critical perspective, it aims to demonstrate the limitations of user-centric and micro-level approaches, while questioning their normative interpretations of digital empowerment which tend to be reductionist in their essence and instrumental in their aims.

Journal

infoEmerald Publishing

Published: Sep 2, 2014

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