Gianfranco Polizzi

Gianfranco Polizzi

PhD Reseacher

Department of Media and Communications

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About me

Research topic

Critical digital literacy and civic, political engagement: IT/media specialists’ and activists’ utopian/dystopian imaginaries of society in the digital age

Gianfranco’s academic interests range from media literacy, citizenship and education to political communication and democratic theory. His interest in media literacy encompasses not only a focus on education and the learning of how to be literate in the digital age, but also a focus on the civic, political opportunities that critical digital literacy entails for citizens of all ages. In addition, Gianfranco is interested in the phenomenon of misinformation and in the practical policy implications related to the promotion of critical digital literacy in the context of education, civic, political engagement and democracy.

Employing a mixed qualitative methodology, Gianfranco’s doctoral project looks at the intersection of critical digital literacy with civic, political engagement. It does so by focusing on two social categories in the United Kingdom: IT/media specialists (e.g. media studies teachers, IT/media professionals, librarians) and activists. By drawing on a dialectical understanding of utopian thinking as relying on both utopianism and dystopianism, Gianfranco approaches the notion of critical digital literacy as incorporating users’ utopian/dystopian imaginaries of society in the digital age. Such an approach suggests that as utopian thinking projects utopian possibilities in synergy with awareness of dystopian limitations, critical digital literacy is essential for users to pursue civic, political opportunities online provided they understand the internet’s democratising potentials and structural constraints.

Supervisors: Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Ellen Helsper


Gianfranco’s research at LSE is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. His academic background is in international communications studies, in which he has both bachelor's and master's degrees, with a focus on media studies and foreign languages. In addition to Italian, Gianfranco is fluent in English and French and has intermediate-level Mandarin Chinese. In 2008, he obtained his bachelor's degree in Italy, final mark 110/110 cum laude. Before doing his master’s, he worked in Gaziantep, Turkey, as an assistant to the Honorary Italian Consul and Italian teacher for the Italian Institute of Culture. After a couple of years, Gianfranco moved to Ningbo, China, to teach English as a second language and study Chinese. He then established an import/export company in Brussels, Belgium, for which he has worked as a co-manager since 2012. After returning to university to focus on his academic career, in 2014 he was awarded his master’s degree with distinction from the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China, with the support of a Category A scholarship provided by the Chinese government. With a view to working in academia as a researcher and lecturer, Gianfranco is now conducting doctoral research in the Media and Communications Department at LSE. Last year, he was glad to work in the department as a research assistant on the Toddlers and Tablets project, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant leading the Dissertation Study Skills course for MSc students. This year, Gianfranco is delighted to work as a classroom assistant for Professor Cammaerts on MC401 Mediated Resistance and Activism.

Twitter: @GF_Polizzi 

Expertise Details

media literacy; citizenship and education; political communication; democratic theory


Blog Posts



 What critical digital literacy entails and why it matters: Discussing educational implications based on the UK as an example. International Reading Education Forum 2018, held at the National Taiwan Library and organized by the CommonWealth Magazine Education Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan, 31 October 2018.

Conference Papers

Critical digital literacy in the context of education and civic, political engagement: Reflecting on practical policy implications. Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy (TPRC) Graduate Student Consortium. American University, Washington DC, United States, 20 September 2018.

Citizen competence in the digital age: Towards a holistic approach to critical digital literacy in relation to civic, political engagement. International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), Political Communication Research Section. University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, United States, 20-24 June 2018. 

Critical digital literacy: Reflecting on its importance for democracy and civic, political engagement. 2nd International Media Literacy Research Symposium. Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal, 19-20 April 2018.

Democracy, citizenship and critical digital literacy. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Conference: Ways of Being in a Digital Age. Liverpool Foresight Centre, Liverpool, United Kingdom, 10 October 2017.

Digital citizenship and critical digital literacy: A few policy recommendations. International Conference for Education and Democratic Citizenship (ICEDC). UCL Institute of Education, London, United Kingdom, 16 June 2017.

Critical digital media literacy and political engagement. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Symposium. LSE, London, United Kingdom, 9 June 2017.


Written Evidence

Polizzi, G. (2017). Written evidence submitted by Gianfranco Polizzi (FNW0071). ‘Fake news’ inquiry – publications. UK Parliament. [Reported to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the 2017 LSE annual report as an example of impact for having been published on the UK Parliament website]

Oral Evidence

Committee meeting on ‘fake news’. UK Parliament. Portcullis House – Westminster, London. 22 March 2017.

Blog Posts

Polizzi, G. (2018, May 21). Fake news and critical literacy in the digital age: Sharing responsibility and addressing challenges [Blog post]. LSE Media Policy Project[Reported to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the 2018 LSE annual report as an example of impact for having been republished on 11 June 2018 by the European Association of Viewers' Interests (EAVI) Media Literacy for Citizenship]

Polizzi, G. (2017, May 22). Tackling fake news: Towards a new approach to digital literacy [Blog post]. Media Policy Project. [Reported to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the 2018 LSE annual report as an example of impact for having been:

1)     referenced in a report of the National Literacy Trust, UK, on fake news and critical literacy – i.e. Picton, I., & Teravainen, A. (2017). Fake news and critical literacy: An evidence review;

2)     referenced in the final report of the UK Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy in School – i.e. National Literacy Trust (2018). Fake News and Critical Literacy: The Final Report of the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy in Schools;

3)     referenced by international development company Digital DAI in an article published on their website – i.e. Roggermann, K. (2017, September 15). Investments in internet access must include investments in “critical digital literacy” [Blog post]. Digital DAI.

Press Interviews

Kung. N. (2018, December 9). 社群當道、閱後即焚、同溫層效應⋯⋯在真假難分的時代,閱聽人該如何自處?Crossing, Taiwan.

Kung. N. (2018, December 9). Gianfranco Polizzi:一個四處為家的媒體研究者,如何看待世界?Crossing, Taiwan.

Lee, J. (2018, November 28). How to tackle fake news. CommonWealth Magazine.

Lee, J. (2018, November 5). 如何從假新聞中突圍?波里西:大人小孩最需要這兩大能力. CommonWealth Magazine – Education, Parenting, Family, Lifestyle – Taiwan.

Ying, C. Y. (2018, November 1). 數位素養待加強,僅2%英國學童能分辨真假新聞. CommonWealth Magazine – Education, Parenting, Family, Lifestyle – Taiwan.