Gianfranco Polizzi

PhD Research topic 

Civic, political engagement online and users’ perceptions of the potential of digital media

My project draws upon literature dealing with factors guiding civic, political engagement online. By interrogating participation narratives from a micro perspective, it explores Internet users’ under-researched perceptions of digital media as engagement factors. Against polarizing utopian/dystopian macro visions dealing, for instance, with the Internet’s and social media’s both deliberative and elitist political potential, I advocate a dialectical, critical interpretation of their potentials and limitations. Such an interpretation, in my view, suggests that a balanced, critical understanding of digital media is essential at the macro and micro level for users to engage more consciously and effectively. In these terms, I argue that critical awareness of digital media and their limitations is crucial to realizing optimistic opportunities online. With a view to defining whether and how users’ perceptions affect their engagement interdependently with additional factors, I propose to employ a macro-level utopianism/dystopianism framework about digital media to investigate the ways in which users’ attitudes reflect one-sided interpretations, critically bridge them or incorporate new visions. By transposing such a macro-level framework into a micro-level investigation, I intend to address whether, and in what ways, users’ engagement is sustained by balanced, critical perceptions against one-sided utopian/dystopian attitudes. In doing so, my project explores whether and how users engage in synergy with perceptions of the potentials of digital media and, more consciously and effectively, critical awareness of their limitations. 

Supervisors: Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Ellen Helsper

Biographical details

I am a recipient of an ESRC doctoral training studentship, which is supporting my PhD research at the LSE. My academic background is in international communications studies, in which I have both bachelor's and master's degrees, with a major focus on media studies and foreign languages. In addition to Italian, which is my mother tongue, I am proficient in English and French and have an intermediate Mandarin Chinese level. In 2008 I obtained my bachelor's degree in Italy, final mark 110/110 cum laude. Before furthering my education as a postgraduate, I had the opportunity to travel and work abroad. For a couple of years I worked in Gaziantep, Turkey, as assistant to the Honorary Italian Consul and Italian teacher for the Italian Institute of Culture. With a scholarship provided by the latter, halfway through my experience in Turkey, I took a course in Italy for Italian teachers to foreigners. A year later, intrigued by the Far East, I moved to Ningbo, China, to teach English as a second language and then study Chinese until the establishment of an import/export company in Brussels, Belgium, for which I have worked as a co-manager since 2012. After returning to university upon deciding to further my education and focus on an academic career, in 2014 I was awarded a Master of Arts in International Communications Studies with distinction from the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China. Supported by a Category A scholarship provided by the Chinese government, my experience as a postgraduate was crucial to my desire to undertake doctoral research in media and communications with a view to working in academia as a researcher and lecturer.