Understanding Rural-Urban Political Divides within Digital Platforms

“Global democracies are experiencing a paradox of connectivity. Societies are increasingly interconnected through the elimination of digital divides that separated large geographies from one another. Rural areas, especially, are being newly connected to urban cores via information and communication technologies (ICTs). However, these same rural-urban geographies are increasingly divided from one another economically and politically, resulting in increasingly partisan ideological battles. ICTs are contributing to these divides through processes of cyberbalkanization, political trolling, and growing forms of post-truth politics. Despite material connectivity, rural denizens are expressing feelings of economic disempowerment, political disenfranchisement, and inability to have their voices heard. This raises the question of how the quality and types of relationships that we are forging through digital connectivity can be improved for rural communities. This project examines that question in the context of a rural, indigenous community in Dibut, Philippines. Community members recently supported the development of network connectivity in their community, the first in the area. However, they have also expressed fears that connectivity may open them up to manipulative political propaganda, resulting in loss of rights, economic exploitation, and cultural assimilation. Drawing on this case study, the project asks:
1. What political and economic discourses define ICT use by rural, indigenous communities?
2. How do applied solutions to digital divides position rural communities in relation to multi-scalar political, economic, and epistemological systems?
3. How does the rise and dissemination of post-truth politics within social media complicate these dynamics?
The project uses a combination of digital content analysis, qualitative interviews, participatory action research, and technology co-development methods to answer these questions. In doing so it will produce new models for understanding how rural communities negotiate digital connectivity, and produce tools and strategies that offer these communities more control over the political impacts of that connectivity.”

Grant Info


Jason Young


Kurtis Heimerl

Start Date

Aug 2, 2018