Internet users’ utopian/dystopian imaginaries of society in the digital age: theorizing critical digital literacy and civic engagement

Gianfranco Polizzi

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Abstract

This article proposes a theoretical framework for how critical digital literacy, conceptualized as incorporating Internet users’ utopian/dystopian imaginaries of society in the digital age, facilitates civic engagement. To do so, after reviewing media literacy research, it draws on utopian studies and political theory to frame utopian thinking as relying dialectically on utopianism and dystopianism. Conceptualizing critical digital literacy as incorporating utopianism/dystopianism prescribes that constructing and deploying an understanding of the Internet’s civic potentials and limitations is crucial to pursuing civic opportunities. The framework proposed, which has implications for media literacy research and practice, allows us to (1) disentangle users’ imaginaries of civic life from their imaginaries of the Internet, (2) resist the collapse of critical digital literacy into civic engagement that is understood as inherently progressive, and (3) problematize polarizing conclusions about users’ interpretations of the Internet as either crucial or detrimental to their online engagement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media and Society
Early online date25 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • civic engagement
  • critical digital literacy
  • Digital literacy
  • media literacy
  • utopian/dystopian imaginaries
  • utopian thinking

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