An analysis of the perceived role of ICT in changing institutional politics, activism, and identity" is available in full on-line. This looks at how political activists, and others, view the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in modern Turkey. This 205 page PHD thesis is remarkable for being very readable (1.6 Mbytes of PDF).
I encountered the politics of ICT in Turkey first hand, in 2008, when I presented a seminar to the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul on Internet based systems for emergency warning. While using ICT for earthquake warning may seem a technical topic, it is steeped in social and political issues.
Digital-Political Fantasies in Istanbul:
An analysis of the perceived role of ICT in changing institutional politics, activism, and identity
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Studies, Media and Communication Studies
This research analyses how different groups of people perceive the role of new information and communication technologies (ICT) in social change, and how they make sense out of these claimed changes in society.
There are claims for social change in many areas. This research frames its analysis in three areas of social change namely the local-global relation; politics and the political, and ICT. The study first looks at the theoretical discussions on how different perspectives conceptualize social change in these areas. The theoretical framework then looks at the three dimensions that emerge from the interaction of these three areas; institutional politics, activism, and identity.
There are different frameworks for making sense of social change. Lacanian fantasy is one that allows deeper analysis of perceptions and fluidity between the various perceptions. As all fantasies are frustrated, the concept also allows a critical analysis. The theoretical framework finally also looks at what fantasies the theoretical discussions create, regarding social change in the above three areas and dimensions.
At the empirical level, the research focuses on the perceptions of the role of ICT in the changing institutional politics, activism, and identity in Istanbul from the local-global relation, politics and the political, and ICT perspectives. The research then discusses what fantasies come out of these perceptions.
The research uses the grounded theory methodology. This is a methodology that allows researchers to discover new concepts that are not initially included in the theoretical framework so that they can extend and develop their theoretical frameworks. Once researchers find a new concept, they first need to theorize it by going back to the theoretical level, and analyse the empirical data deeper after that theorization. Fantasy is the new concept that was grounded in the empirical data of this research. That is how the concept was first theorized and used for the deeper analysis of the empirical data. The study collected the empirical data from 57 in-depth interviews with institutional politicians, activists, and ordinary citizens that each primarily fed one dimension of the study. The research also used secondary data for the chapter of the contextual background on Istanbul and Turkey.
The results of the analysis suggest that all three groups in Istanbul create fantasies in their perception of the role of ICT in social change. The research concludes that institutional politicians, activists, and ordinary citizens all create fantasies of political power, technological power, and harmony. The research also concludes that among the different groups there are variations and contradictions in the fantasies that all are frustrated by several local challenges, especially the political culture.
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