Thursday, June 27, 2013

Young activists, social relations and the internet; comparing young people in Rwanda and Australia #i3rgu

More of day 3 at the i3 #i3rgu conference in Aberdeen, Scotland. Hilary Yerbury presented a short paper on Young activists, social relations and the internet; comparing young people in Rwanda and Australia. She spent two months in Rwanda in 2011 and was able to talk to young activists, paralleling work she was carrying out in Australia. There seemed to be a key difference between the two countries, namely their civil society engagement online. Australian behaviours included getting opinions from people they didn't know, practising online discussion in class. However in Rwanda the interaction was one to one, commonly through email, rather than advocating through online discussion and blogging.
Yerbury used Chatman's "small worlds" theory (with the idea of information behaviour being governed by the norms of the world they are in, and a strong feeling of insiders/outsiders. I found a key paper about this at, which I hope is legal). Yerbury felt that the Rwandans were members of more than one "small world". One was an official world of "rules and authorisation", the second was "a face to face world of family friends and social obligations" (where people comunicated through their multiple mobile phones), the "world of the student" (with privileged access to technology) and the "world of young activists" (wanting to share and have a voice).
Yerbury identified tensions between these worlds which could have been instrumental in the young people not being viewed as activists, even though they felt they were. She also felt that she might have been having difficulty in getting the students to agree to be formally interviewed because they did not perceive it as "authorised". In her perception there was not the "Freiraum" (again to reference the talk on day 1). There need to be changes to lessen tensions between the worlds, and to lessen the constraints, for example enabling skills to "access a world of potentially unthought ideas"; being enabled to discuss and critically evaluate in class. This is research in progress, and it will be interesting to hear about the next stages in due course.
The photo is of the atrium in the new Aberdeen University library which we visited yesterday

No comments: