Edited by Robert C. Kloosterman, Virginie Mamadouh and Pieter Terhorst
Chapter 20: Digital media
Digital media contribute to globalization through several interlinking processes. First, global infrastructures permit communications to move faster, farther, and more often between distant parts of the world. The proliferation and diffusion of devices such as mobile (cell) phones and computers are integral to this process, as are the complementary signal relay systems provided by satellites and optical fibres. Second, these media and the digital signals they carry facilitate globalization insofar as they support visual and auditory forms of engagement between widely separated locations. People increasingly experience ‘the world’ via media, but this world differs in significant ways from place to place. In effect, people encounter a range of contrasting globalized visions, depending on whether they live in a place that is urban or rural, more or less developed, in the Global North or the Global South. Third, a phenomenon called mediatization folds global forces and processes into everyday life, reworking daily practices in ways that respond to global influences. A familiar activity such as driving now involves long-distance data streams coordinated by an on-board device and its embedded algorithms, all of which mediatize the act of driving and rework the cognitive skills of the driver. The chapter concludes by applying the three dimensions of globalization to the case of Rwanda. This example demonstrates that even where a small percentage of the population actually uses digital communications the diffusion of digital media may have noticeable effects on labour conditions, commodity handling, social power relations, profit distribution and economic vulnerability.
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