The purpose of this paper is to examine how the shifting conceptualization of the democratizing potential of digital technology can be more comprehensively understood by bringing in science and technology studies (STS) perspectives to communication scholarship. The synthesis and discussion are aiming at providing an interdisciplinary theoretical framework for comprehensively understand the democratizing potential of digital technology, and urging researchers to be conscious of assumptions underpinning epistemological positions they take when examining the issue of democratizing potential of digital technology.
The paper is a constructive literature review that synthesizes and integrates existed literature from communication and STS on the democratizing potential of digital technology. The author attempts to bridge theoretical perspectives from communication and STS by identifying core arguments and debates around key concepts and discussing potential implications of different epistemological positions.
Tracing the evolving analytical perspectives of technological determinism, the social construction of technology and actor-network theory, the author argues that researchers should be aware of their underlying epistemological assumptions embedded in relationships among users, technological systems and social factors. Analyzing the contested notion of power in the democratizing potential of digital technology from two contrasting perspectives, the author argues that researchers should recognize both the front end and the back end of digital technology in their analysis. In addition, new challenges of algorithm opacity and accountability in impacting the democratizing potential of digital technology are further discussed.
This study provides an original interdisciplinary theoretical framework by reviewing and bridging scholarship from communication and STS in examining the democratizing potential of digital technology. Adopting this interdisciplinary theoretical framework helps researchers develop a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the democratizing potential of digital technology.
Ma, L. (2020), "Rethinking democratizing potential of digital technology: A review of technology and communication studies", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 140-156. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-02-2019-0022Download as .RIS
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