Digital Change and Marginalized Communities: Changing Attitudes towards Digital Media in the Margins

ICERI2021 Proceedings (2021)
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Marginalized communities are confronted with issues resulting from their marginalization, such as exclusion, invisibility, misrepresentation, and hate speech, not only offline but – due to digital change – increasingly online. Our research project DigitalDialog21 aims at evaluating the effects of digital change on society and how digital change, and the risks and possibilities that come with it, is perceived by the population. Digital change is understood as a factor of social change in this project. By investigating digital change and its effects on society, we are able to draw more general inferences on how societies change socially and what needs to be done in education to establish digital trust. In 2017 the Digital Evolution Index observed an increasing trust deficit and skepticism towards digitalization in both very industrialized and lesser industrialized countries. We will draw inferences from these observations here and hypothesize the following: It seems that especially in marginalized communities, that is: in communities that are structurally and systemically disadvantaged and that experience societal marginalization, this trust deficit and skepticism towards digitalization is prevalent. This could be so because, as a member of a marginalized community, one might quickly find issues resulting from marginalization to be present in digital spaces just like they are present in non-digital spaces. This paper will examine critically how attitudes in marginalized communities towards digital media are influenced by digital change. Do the risks of digitalization outweigh the advantages for marginalized communities? Are digital media perceived to provide advantages such as increased visibility and representation or are they perceived to fuel discrimination against marginalized people? Our research project brings together secondary analyses of existing studies with the results of our own qualitative interview study on marginalized people's perceptions of digital change. The paper will portray some example interviews, and thereby analyze if and how attitudes in the margins towards digital media change, what this change consists of, and how we can understand the changing attitudes within an ethical and educational framework. Our findings will point at a necessity to increase ethically based digital literacy (PEAT) in the German education system, starting in early education. Marginalized groups in particular must be empowered to become digitally competent through problem-oriented education. Independent self-efficacy can increase digital trust in fragmented societies. The paper concludes by introducing media ethics tools that are being developed as part of the project.

Author Profiles

Matthias Rath
Ludwigsburg University of Education
Gen Eickers
Universität Bayreuth


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