Digital Communication, Virtual Communities, and Political Change in the Americas.

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Speaker : Antonio Reyes (Washington and Lee Univesity)

Title : Digital Communication, Virtual Communities, and Political Change in the Americas.

I examine interactional features in digital communication analysing social actors’ participation, interaction, and engagement in different virtual communities. In those virtual spaces, participants establish discussions around themes of diverse interest: education, medical knowledge, professional help and knowledge sharing and communication, language ideological debates, video games, etc. Specific characteristics, such as continuing interaction, allow participants to negotiate meaning and knowledge, triggering the construction and acceptance of authority, even if members’ identities are quasi-anonymous. Despite the lack of explicit credentials, these participants generate judgements, opinions, advice, etc. competing with the way knowledge has been traditionally constructed and channeled, challenging formal and official knowledge in a specific subject. Official and governmental institutions compete now with these non-institutional spaces for authority, in the creation of knowledge, in a particular area or discipline (i.e. information on Covid vaccines). This current situation poses a struggle for democratic governments that aim to regulate digital communication balancing the protection of Freedom of Speech with the persecution of Hate Speech. At the moment, governments have no option but to relegate to non-governmental agencies (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) to uphold those democratic principles due to their capacity to monitor those discourses andcensor content and participants. Similarly, underrepresented and marginalised voices claim representation and inclusion through virtual communities, fostering debate around human rights and social change, and inspiring new policies and laws. These online debates have affected legal and political discourse in different countries on the American continents from Canada and the USA (NYC Transgender Rights Bill) to Uruguay and Argentina where the president Alberto Fernandez has incorporated gender neutral language into his speeches, projecting the voices of underrepresented minorities from online sites into a national political debate. 

  • When ?

Thursday 7 October 2021 from 12:00 pm till 14:00 pm

  • Where ?

Maison des Sciences Humaines

Salle de Reception

Avenue Antoine Depage 1, Building R - 2nd floor