Zoetanya Sujon

Supervisor: Sonia Livingstone |

Thesis title: Technological citizenship? Questioning new media, cultural politics and emergent citizen territories



Trained as a sociologist, I am in the final year of my PhD and my doctoral work broadly draws upon the interstices between critical and social theory, citizenship, public spheres and new media studies.

Building upon computer science discourses and sociological theory, I wrote my MA on software agents and technological cultures, under the supervision of Professor Rob Shields and Professor Michèle Martin at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). During this time, I held numerous research positions, primarily with Rob Shields, and worked as an editorial manager for Space and Culture. Although I also completed my undergraduate degree at Carleton University, I attended Ryerson University, University of Wales Swansea and Universiteit of Amsterdam to complete my BA Hons.

In addition to my studies at LSE, I work as an LSE Fellow and specialize in theories of communication (where I teach post-graduate seminars at LSE and Goldsmiths). Outside of my current academic work, I am also interested in epistemology, science and technology / knowledge studies, cultural studies, space, social movements, alternative cultures and media histories (particularly of science and technology, but also histories of medical practices)

Title of doctoral research: Technologies of citizenship? Power and the transformation of public participation

PhD abstract:

Ultimately, my research is about power. It is not only about the power to include or exclude, but also about the power to enable or disable particular kinds of social action and cultural behaviours. Emerging technological initiatives, literatures and global practices are juxtaposing new technologies with citizenship, frequently suggesting that nation and ethnicities no longer solely determine who are or can become citizens; indeed, new technologies are often causally linked with the emergence of 'new' political subjectivities, processes and cultures. In these ways, new technologies are implicitly and explicitly attributed with enabling 'new' and deepened ways of being a citizen and new or transformed frameworks of and for citizenship. My research addresses this relationship, challenging the causal relationship so often assumed between new technologies and citizenship, asking: what is the relationship between the two? Are new media constructed to enable new and open citizenship frameworks or participatory mechanisms, and if they are, how do they do this?

In order to answer such broad questions, I have developed a threefold project based on extensive analysis of 'new' citizenship literatures (e.g. netizenship, cybercitizenship, e-citizenship etc.), case study analysis of two UK based new media citizenship initiatives (BBC's Action Network http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/ |, and Proboscis' Urban Tapestries http://urbantapestries.net/ |), and finally, a comparison of the literatures to the empirical data.

Bringing social and citizenship theories together (Marshall, Bourdieu, Habermas) with literatures on 'new' technologically mediated citizenship shows that the role of new technologies are often justified and positioned through emerging civic practices based on three primary areas of influence: enabling more democratic and expanded membership systems; introducing new publics and social territories; and establishing new de-territorialized citizen rights and obligations. This research aims to uncover the discursive construction of technologically mediated inclusion and connectivity in two 'ideal' contexts.

Although still under analysis, my findings support arguments that new technologies are effective in 'connecting the connected' (Norris) and in deepening 'citizenship' for those whose communities of practice already value community building, networking and broader more democratic political spheres. In my case studies, new technologies clearly enhance individualized forms of behaviour and a consumer style of public interaction for users, yet for producers, the use of new technologies point to the construction of elite citizens and/or new media enabled kinds of citizenship. The question of the cultural importance of user generated public resources remains; its answer suggests that new technologies are a catalyst for shifting the locus of citizenship power from government to media institutions and elites.

Peer-reviewed publications

  • Sujon, Zoetanya. Forthcoming. 'New Citizen Rights and Communication Technologies?' Nico Carpentier, Pille Pruulmann-Vengerefeldt, Kaarle Nordenstreng, Maren Hartmann, Peter Vihalemm, Bart Cammaerts and Hannu Niemenin (eds.) Media Technologies and Journalism in an Enlarged Europe. Tartu University Press 
  • Boddin, F; Graham, T; Schmitt, L; Sujon, Z; and Nordenstreng, K. Forthcoming. 'Snapshot from the European Educational Landscape.' Nico Carpentier, Pille Pruulmann-Vengerefeldt, Kaarle Nordenstreng, Maren Hartmann, Peter Vihalemm, Bart Cammaerts and Hannu Niemenin (eds.) Media Technologies and Journalism in an Enlarged Europe. Tartu University Press
  • Silverstone, Roger; Sujon, Zoetanya. 2005. ' Urban Tapestries: Experimental ethnography, Technological Identities and Place. ' Nick Couldry, Rosalind Gill, Andy Pratt (eds.). Electronic Working Paper. No. 7 Department of Media and Communications
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