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New Media Technologies and User Empowerment

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Jo Pierson, Enid Mante-Meijer and Eugène Loos

Recent developments in new media have led to the rise of what has become known as ‘social media’. The shift towards mass self-communication has lowered the technological thresholds for everyday users to connect and to become ‘produsers’ in media life. However, the question is to what extent users interacting in this ecosystem are empowered – and not disempowered – to express their creativity and concerns and to obtain a prominent role in new media design and innovation.

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Yves Punie Introduction: New Media Technologies and User Empowerment. Is there a Happy Ending? 9

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9 Yves Punie Introduction: New Media Technologies and User Empowerment. Is there a Happy Ending? Empowerment Empowerment is a term that is so widely used in science, business, civil society and policy that it risks becoming an oxymoron: everybody talks about it but nobody dares ask what it really means, let alone carry out studies on this in a consistent and empirically reliable way. In general, empowerment refers to the capacity of individuals, communities and/or groups to access and use their personal/collective power, authority and influence, and to employ that strength when engaging with other people, institutions or society. It encourages people to gain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in life or work and ultimately, help them develop within themselves or in society (Wikipedia, accessed 14.07.2010). Empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their lives, in their communities and in their society, by acting on issues they define as important (Page & Czuba 1999). The approach to empowerment proposed by Page & Czuba (1999) is based on a literature review, in which three major components to understanding empowerment are highlighted. In the first place, empowerment is multi- dimensional, in that it occurs within sociological, psychological, economic, and other dimensions. Second, empowerment occurs at various levels, such as individual, group, and community. Third, empowerment is by definition a social process, since it occurs in relationship to others. This...

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