Ongoing Projects

  • The Structures of the Lifeworld Revisited: A Critical Phenomenology of the Internet

    Early scholarly writing on the Internet construed cyberspace as an emergent realm separated from “real life.” Later studies gradually brought in the realization that the online and the offline worlds were tightly intertwined and events unfolding in one of them affected developments in the other. Most recently, some researchers have proposed the idea that there are no two distinct domains of experience, but rather the virtual and the real have blended into the same fundamental reality to which we wake up every day. The goal of this project is to investigate the transformations in the experienced lifeworld brought about by Internet technologies and practices through the phenomenological sociology of Alfred Schutz. I intend to examine the wider social and political implications of these transformations by expanding Schutz’ framework with concepts and questions stemming from schools of thought such as Medium Theory, the Phenomenology of Technology and Critical Theory among others. I believe that a synthesis of the productive insights that can be gleaned from this rich palette of theories can be brought to bear on the analysis of empirical data reflecting users’ experiences of the Internet. The outcome can be a nuanced and thorough account of the substantive changes in the human condition associated with the penetration of digital network technologies in all areas of life.

     

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  • New Media and Citizens’ Voices in the European Public Sphere: The Case of Bulgaria

    This project examines the intersections and interplay between new media, typically those based on the Internet, and traditional media outlets (newspapers, radio, television, books) from the perspective of citizen involvement and participation in the public sphere of European societies. With all the new communication tools in our hands, do we as citizens acquire a stronger voice that can resonate throughout our political community when matters of public interest are at stake? To answer this question the interaction between the new media employed by citizens and civic groups and the traditional media outlets - newspapers, radio, television - are examined in depth by focusing on particular cases. The focus is on Bulgaria, a relatively new democracy and a new member of the European Union. The research addresses the ways in which new media and old come together in particular instances to make it possible for the voices of ordinary citizens and civic organizations to penetrate the public sphere of Bulgarian society. The main goal is to identify the model or models of successful infiltration of citizens’ concerns into the discursive space marshaled by traditional media and the role that new media play in this process.

     

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    Past Projects

    • The Internet in Eastern Europe: A Regional Profile

      This project investigated how individual users, social institutions and public and private organizations in Central and Eastern Europe creatively appropriated the Internet in their daily practice, and adapted it to their local circumstances. The project applied a “social constructivist” approach in examining the evolution of the medium from the standpoint of local experts, decision-makers and users. Its goal was to seek answers, in the specific regional and national context, to vital questions asked about the Internet across different societies: How can it enrich the quality of family and community life? Can it provide better access to high quality education? Can it contribute to individuals’ and businesses’ economic success? Can it empower users in their capacity as consumers and citizens?

       

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    • At Home with the Internet

      As the Internet rapidly emerges as a significant nascent mass medium, its social, economic and political relevance has just began to be considered. The lion’s share of recent research on the subject looks for Internet effects on individuals and society. This project, by contrast, sets out to investigate how individual users and society creatively appropriate, domesticate and shape the Internet in their daily practice.

       

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    • Sense-making, SuperNet Use, and the Meaning of Community Life

      The Alberta SuperNet is an over half-billion-dollar publicly and privately funded initiative approved by the Government of Alberta in 2001. The plan for the network was to connect 429 communities (urban and rural) through 13,000 km of fibre optic and wireless infrastructure. Many have positioned the SuperNet as a “precedent setting” case in efforts to promote rural broadband connectivity. The provincial government hoped that the SuperNet will work to improve the quality of life and opportunity for Albertan citizens -- particularly in the rural and remote areas - by enhancing the provision of information services, social services and community economic development. The Alberta SuperNet Research Alliance was set up to evaluate the social and economic impacts of deploying the SuperNet broadband network in Alberta. The research group was made up of 14 professors drawn from the universities of Calgary, Alberta, Athabasca and Simon Fraser. The “Sensemaking, SuperNet Use, and the Meaning of Community Life” subproject sought to understand how Alberta society and culture change through access to broadband technology and networks. The research developed grounded theory insights into what the SuperNet means to Albertans and how the SuperNet influences the everyday life activities of individuals, families, organizations and communities in the province. The study used qualitative, field research techniques to collect and analyse data. In Southern Alberta, our research team examined how rural residents used and understood the Internet trying to relate then current practices with future developments. The team held a series of focus groups and community meetings in several towns including Canmore, Rocky Mountain House, Vulcan, Pincher Creek, and others.

       

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