Critical digital literacy and civic, political participation: IT/media specialists’ and activists’ utopian/dystopian imaginaries of the Internet
Gianfranco's academic interests range from media literacy, citizenship and education to political communication and democratic theory. Employing a mixed qualitative methodology, his doctoral project looks at the intersection of critical digital literacy with practices of civic, political participation. It does so by focusing on two social categories in the United Kingdom: IT/media specialists (e.g. media studies/computer science teachers, IT and media professionals such as web designers and librarians) and activists. Gianfranco approaches the notion of critical digital literacy as incorporating users' understandings of the Internet's civic, political potential. Along these lines, he draws on a dialectical approach to utopian thinking as relying on both utopianism and dystopianism to interrogate critical digital literacy as incorporating users' utopian/dystopian imaginaries of the Internet. Such a dialectical approach normatively implies that as utopian thinking projects utopian possibilities in synergy with awareness of dystopian limitations, critical digital literacy may be essential for users to pursue civic, political opportunities online provided they understand both potentials and limitations of the Internet.
Supervisors: Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Ellen Helsper
Gianfranco's research at LSE is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). 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. This year, he is delighted to be working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant leading the Dissertation Study Skills course for MSc students.