Why Online Disconnection Matters: A Critical Research Agenda on Voluntary ICT Non-Use

“Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence.”

– Negroponte, 1998

In this talk, Magdalena Kania-Lundholm (Uppsala University, Sweden) discusses the existing body of research on online disconnection, also referred to as voluntary non-use of technology or media refusal.

She argues that we need to explore and understand the contexts, meanings and conditions under which disconnection becomes relevant. She provides three main reasons why research on online voluntary disconnection is worth developing further:

First, because it challenges the hegemonic ideas about connectivity, participation and the primacy of usage. In doing so, she points to disconnection as socially embedded and flexible over time.

Second, it points towards various forms of media resistance, and saying “no” to the opaque structures of power and control in the networked society, which includes both individual and collective acts.

Third, research on disconnection goes beyond the rhetoric of novelty, progress, self-control and self-empowerment, and by emphasising the materiality of the digital it has the potential to address the politics of social media.

What we need is critically-oriented and sociologically informed research and an expanded critical research agenda on this topic.

Magdalena Kania-Lundholm is a WIAS visiting researcher (May and June 2018). She is a researcher at the Department of Sociology, Uppsala University. Her research combines sociology of communications and media, cultural sociology, critical internet studies, social theory and qualitative methods. She focuses on the sociological study of the online processes of mediation and commercialization of nationhood as well as questions of digitalization, ICTs usage among elderly and digital inclusion. In her recent work, she explores the notions and meaning of technology non-use, media refusal and voluntary online disconnection.

Magdalena’s work has been featured in journals such as Sociology Compass, National Identities, Journal of Aging Studies and Seminar.net: International Journal of Media, Technology and Lifelong Learning.

Date and Time

Thu 31 May 2018

17:00 – 18:30


117 Boardroom
University of Westminster
309 Regent Street
London W1B 2HW

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