Magdalena is a researcher visiting us from the Department of Sociology, Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research focuses on the intersections between culture, power and technology. In her most recent work, she critically explores the notions and meanings of technology non-use also known as media refusal and (in)voluntary online disconnection.
What is your research project about?
The work undertaken at WIAS is part of the larger project I am currently working on entitled “Into the Digital Age: older non-users’ understandings and experiences of digital technologies and how they relate to understandings of ageing and old age”. The project is founded by the Swedish Research Council and its goal is to empirically explore older adults’ (dis)engagement with and understandings of digital technologies on the one hand, and the implications that these may have for their understandings of ageing and old age on the other. The project employs a qualitative design and its main focus is to understand the subjective and contingent aspects of older people’s narratives about (dis)engagement with digital technologies.
However, the broader goal is also to critically explore and understand the practices and meanings of tech (non)use in the age of hyperconnectivity, social acceleration and datafication.
The question remains: is it possible to disconnect in the age of ‘post-internet’? If so, on what terms? By departing from a nuanced understanding of ICT usage, the project aims to contribute to the scholarly debate that goes beyond non-usage as a social problem of exclusion or deficiency. Instead, the focus is on the idea of disconnection as a voluntary act to take control over one’s use of digital technologies, as an act of resistance and saying “no” to the opaque structures of power and control in the networked society.
My work at WIAS focuses mainly on critically exploring, assessing and understanding the existing research on technology non-use and (in)voluntary online disconnection. I argue that we need to explore and understand the contexts, meanings and conditions under which disconnection becomes relevant. Therefore, we need an expanded critical research agenda for the study of this topic that goes beyond the empirical question of specific groups of (non)users but rather addresses the present and the future of sustainable information society in general.
What are you looking forward to during your stay at WIAS?
I look forward to the opportunity of presenting and discussing my work, but also to exchanging ideas and thoughts on critical media research with researchers and staff at Westminster. I am also hoping to finalise my latest article on online disconnection.