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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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Part 1: Theoretical Perspectives on User Involvement and Empowerment

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Part 1 - Theoretical Perspectives on User Involvement and Empowerment 26 27 Enid Mante-Meijer and Eugène Loos Innovation and the Role of Push and Pull Introduction In 2000, the European Council and the Commission presented the “Action Plan eEurope – An information society for all”, which contained a number of defined actions, clustered around three main objectives. These were (1) a cheaper, faster, secure internet, (2) investing in people and skills and (3) stimulating the use of the internet. The Plan envisioned the evolution of the “Broadband Society”: a society in which broadband technology has become the universal medium used by all people in Europe. Widespread broadband deployment would yield benefits for all citizens and would give Europe an innovative competitive edge in today’s globalizing society. According to the Action Plan, the eEurope targets and broadband society were to have been realised by the year 2010. Now, having reached the year 2010, we see that both governments and technologists have developed a plethora of activities in this direction. Nevertheless, eEurope is still a far away goal. A mismatch remains between society and technology, with technology considerably outpacing societal use of its possibilities. What could be the reasons behind the lag between technological possibilities and their actualisation? To understand the reasons for this gap, it is necessary to look at how technological innovations find their way into the everyday lives of individuals and groups of citizens. Weick (1969, 2001) and Giddens (1984) respectively introduced the concepts of “enacted environment” and “duality...

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