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Online Disability Activism - University of Leicester, Mar 2011

Online Disability Activism - University of Leicester, Mar 2011






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    Online Disability Activism - University of Leicester, Mar 2011 Online Disability Activism - University of Leicester, Mar 2011 Presentation Transcript

    • Disabled People, the Internet, and Political Participation Filippo Trevisan School of Social and Political Sciences University of Glasgow Email: f.trevisan.1@research.gla.ac.uk University of Leicester 16 March 2011
    • Talk overview:
      • The problem: political exclusion of disabled people
      • The solution?: ‘participatory’ internet tools vs. disabling barriers
      • Case studies from Scotland: lessons learnt
      • Disabled internet users’ participation in times of crisis: a new research strategy
    • True Inclusion? Participatory Research Findings:
      • Participation
      • Barriers to civic and
      • political participation persist:
      • - Physical
      • - Economic
      • - Cultural
      • - Psychological
      • - Institutional
      • - Organisational
      • Marginal Citizens
      • (Janoski & Gran, 2002)
      • Defensive Engagement
      • (Beckett, 2005 & 2006)
    • Political exclusion of disabled people, some data:
      • 67% polling stations at 2010 General Election “had one or more significant access barrier,” with 16% providing basic accessibility and 17% being comprehensively accessible (Polls Apart, 2010)
      • Electoral staff attitudes towards disabled voters are positive (88%) although decreasing from previous years, and a minority remained poorly trained or questioned a disabled citizen’s ability to cast their vote (6%)
      • Political parties remain reluctant to select disabled candidates (Barnes & Mercer, 2003), in contrast with a push to include more women
    • In other words:
      • “ People with a disability or a long-term limiting illness are generally less likely than those without to say that they can influence local decisions, and a majority of polling stations at the last election presented at least one significant access barrier.”
      • (EHRC, 2010)
    • Disabled people and the internet, research to date:
      • “ ICTs for empowerment” theory goes back a long way (Finkelstein, 1980)
      • Research has however concentrated primarily on access and accessibility issues: digital exclusion (e.g. Goggin and Newell, 2003 & 2007; Dobransky and Hargittai, 2006; Ellcessor, 2010)
      • Yet, pioneering studies with disabled users highlight overwhelmingly positive impact on interpersonal relationships and overall quality of life (Anderberg and Jönsson, 2005; Barlow and Breeze, 2005; Obst and Stafurik, 2010)
    • Time for a more complete picture: online tools vs. disempowering barriers
      • Participation
      • Re-consider the internet’s potential
      • in the face of technological change (Web 2.0):
      • Participating from one’s ‘private space’
      • (physical & psychological barriers)
      • Increased share of user-control
      • (psychological & organisational
      • barriers)
      • Engage with wider society
      • (cultural/attitudinal barriers)
      • Set up alternative
      • organisations/transform
      • existing ones (organisational barriers)
      • Focus on the experience of disabled users
    • Internet use amongst disabled people, key data (1):
      • (Source: OXIS Report 2009)
    • Internet use amongst disabled people, key data (2):
      • According to ODI, in 2008 an estimate 42% of disabled people in the UK could be considered to be regular internet users (Williams et al., 2008)
      • According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 54% of disabled Americans are currently internet users compared to 81% non disabled people (Fox, 2011)
      • The place to start: internet vs. organisational barriers
      • Evidence from Scotland: searching for disabled people’s online ‘voices’
      • Account for ‘politics as usual’
    • Case Study 1: Disabled people’s ‘voices’ on the websites of Scottish disability organisations?
      • Research pointer: NGOs, VSOs, embedded ethos and the use of the internet (Burt and Taylor, 2008; Olsson, 2006)
      • Key Expectation: Member-led disability groups more inclined than others to take advantage of Web 2.0 in order to offer a “voice” to those whom they seek to engage and represent
      • Sampling (Shakespeare, 2006):
      • Inclusion Scotland
      • Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA)
      • Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living (GCIL)
      Member-led Groups
      • Quarriers
      • Enable Scotland
      • Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH)
      Traditional Charities
      • Capability Scotland
      • Scottish Spina Bifida Association (SSBA)
      • Spinal Injuries Scotland (SIS)
      Hybrid Bodies
    • Case Study 1: Disabled people’s ‘voices’ on the websites of Scottish disability organisations?
      • Research design:
      • Focus on websites
      • Content analysis: searching for disabled people’s stories and user-generated content (elaboration of Gibson & Ward, 2003)
      • Reaching beyond screens: in-depth interviews
    • Case Study 1: Disabled people’s ‘voices’ on the websites of Scottish disability organisations?
      • < 1% content was user-generated (none at all for membership organisations)
      • Personal disability stories appeared on a sizeable number of pages
      • Although some of them were written in the 1° person, none of the stories had been posted directly by users
      • Generally organised around organisational agenda
      • E-participation tools only allowed limited user-input, discussion tools not provided
      • Traditional charities ahead of the game on social networking platforms, but strongly associated with fundraising
      • Organisations = “filters” of online participation, can induce further disempowerment
    • Case Study 1: Disabled people’s ‘voices’ on the websites of Scottish disability organisations?
      • Top-down control over online communications is a common denominator:
      • Professionalisation and “experts know best” culture
      • At best, Web 1.5: similar to strategies adopted by political parties
      • However, different reasons behind similar outcomes:
      • “ We are not here to facilitate debate ” vs.
      • “ we have limited resources and most of them [disabled members] are better reached by other means ”
      • “ pragmatic” rather than “disempowering” approach for membership groups
    • Case Study 2: The “Barred!” Campaign
    • Case Study 2: The “Barred!” Campaign
      • More a vertical structure than an “egalitarian” network
      • New disabled “voices” are those of a politically savvy elite
      • However:
      • Users’ stories (6.5%) and suggestions (17.2%) inform and expand the campaign’s platform making it
      • “ a pan-disability issue instead of just a wheelchair issue.”
      • Organisation’s involvement crucial for political efficacy but appearance remains that of an independent venture
      • Users’ micro-empowerment: influencing online elites rather than joining in direct participation
    • Lessons learnt:
      • Qualitative participatory research ‘behind screens’ is essential
      • Micro-empowerment is promoted by user-generated content
      • New, technologically-savvy disabled ‘leaders’ can emerge if they focus on issues that matter to disabled users
      • Organisations struggle, causes thrive in the ‘participatory’ internet
    • Towards a new strategy of investigation:
      • Can the internet re-vitalise and re-define direct disability activism?
      • Focus on potential ‘catalysing’ issues/events:
      • Government’s agenda
      • Mass media coverage
      • Online trends (Google insights for search)
      • Approach supported by previous studies on the internet for declining organisations/campaigns (e.g. Lusoli & Ward, 2006)
    • A three steps process:
      • If possible, assess “contextual effects” by running an international comparison: e.g. UK vs. US groups
      Issue selection Identification of relevant actor typologies and selection of specific case studies Multi-method data collection and analysis 1 2 3
    • 1. The case of anti-welfare reform campaigns in the UK
      • “ I think I will throw myself under a bus and be done with it! But no.. I will chain myself to the railings of no 10 instead until they come to their senses! Can't they pick on another target group other than the disabled? Maybe they see us as easy victims?”
      • (Messageboard user, bbc.co.uk/ouch, Dec 2010)
    • 1. The case of anti-welfare reform campaigns in the UK:
      • Four main types of actors campaigning on/discussing this issue online:
      • Formal organisations
      • ‘ Digitised’ activists
      • Digital action networks
      • Online discussion groups
    • 2. Specific case studies:
    • 2. Specific case studies: Digitally savvy Offline action Digital network Discussion forum Digitised activists Formal organisations
    • 3. Multi-method analysis:
      • In order to provide a complete picture of each campaign/group:
      • Network mapping with IssueCrawler
      • Analysis of user-generated content
      • Interviews with ‘leaders’
    • Preliminary considerations: The Broken of Britain
      • ‘ Veteran’ disabled bloggers = high familiarity with both technology and experience of disability:
      • Co-ordinated effort covering multiple online platforms, organic ‘new media-only’ campaign
      • Innovation to support users with different impairments: e.g. Blog Swarm; #TwitterStories
      • Supporting the idea that to be effective, participatory online spaces need to be ‘designed’ by open-minded ‘leaders’ (Wright, 2006 & 2007)
      • Keen on sharing a platform with other ‘progressive’ activists:
      • Spread anti-NHS reform tweets from others
      • Supports student protests
      • Connects to other anti-government activists
    • The Broken of Britain on Twitter:
      • “ Ppl w/Disabilities are more than their conditions & are not defined by them. Hence varied posts and tweets. We have many related concerns.”
      • (15 Mar 2011)
    • Challenges for discussion:
      • Selecting campaign ‘sections’ (Twitter vs. Blog vs. Website, etc.) to analyse in depth while also ensuring coherence of results
      • Measuring the political efficacy of online vs. offline action and capturing their relationship (if any)
      • Examining the use of online tools in context with other, non-digital, media
      • Interpreting the catalysing effect of the current political climate on online engagement and assessing its sustainability in the long-run: ‘shooting star’ campaigns or organic movements?
    • Three options to measure the political efficacy of online action:
      • Contingent reach: both quantitative (how many people involved?) and qualitative (how influential are its members?)
      • Absolute efficacy: normative scale (changes to policy/legislation)
      • Relative efficacy: in connection with objectives envisaged by ‘leaders’