Online Disconnection and Media Refusal: Toward an Agenda for Critical Research

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Magdalena KANIA-LUNDHOLM, Uppsala University, Dept. of Sociology, Sweden
This paper discusses the currently existing body of research on online disconnection, also often referred to as voluntary non-use of technology or media refusal. It provides a mapping over this rapidly growing field of research based on scholarly sources across disciplines. It does so, by pointing two main logics that research on technology non-use and digital disconnection has been pursuing so far. The first one is the utility logic, where non-usage is perceived mostly as deficiency and social problem. The second one is the networked logic that emphasizes the socio-cultural significance of media refusal as a response to dominant normative discourses on connectivity. Following the latter logic, the article highlights six main rationales why research on disconnection is worth developing further. First, because it challenges the hegemonic ideas about technology, progress and the primacy of usage. Second, because it has the potential to reveal the dark aspects of online engagement, such as cyberbullying and privacy violation. Third, it points to disconnection as socially embedded and flexible over time. Fourth, research on disconnection goes beyond the rhetoric of novelty, progress, self-control and self-empowerment and fifth, by emphasizing the materiality of the digital it has the potential to address the politics of social media. Lastly, it points towards various forms of media resistance, such as digital detox, slow media movement and others.

Finally, the paper argues for an expanded critical research agenda on this topic and some directions for critically-oriented and sociologically informed research are outlined along theoretical and methodological challenges that might arise along the way.