Tutor Interview Series: Phil Waddell – Democracy


Briefly tell me what your session is going to be about.
My session explores the historical relationship between the Web and political activism. Students are going to see how a particular type of global activism has developed alongside the Web and how each new development in Web technologies can be used by activists to challenge their governments and established political systems. We will also discuss how technology can restrict certain types of political activism, or make it seem less radical.

What are the main aims you want to achieve?
I’d like learners to get thinking about the changes in political society that the Web brings. How it changes our perceptions on the world, our borders and how global networks of activists form. But I would also like students to see that political engagement via the Web is not necessarily always benefiting civic society. How governments choose to react to the challenges of global activist networks and how the technologies currently in vogue influence user behavior can have effects on the development of online activism and therefore of political engagement as well. I’d like learners to be able to consider these challenges and begin to question the directions that the Web is taking us.

Finally I’d like to make learners aware of the different methods that we have in Web Science for researching how groups and individuals use the Web. It isn’t just all big data, we can also go out “into the field” and observe how people interact with technology, and this is one area of the MOOC that I’d like to emphasise.

How will the learners benefit?
Learners will benefit from a concise discussion regarding the role of the Web in activism as they will be able to see how technology and design can shape politics, and vice versa. This understanding, together with the discursive elements of the course, will enable them to engage with one another and discuss the potential future impacts of Web technologies on activism, developing their critical thinking and knowledge in this, currently popular, realm of Web Science.

What excites you most about delivering this session within the Web Science MOOC?
The MOOC is just such a great way for us within the course to engage with people from all walks of life and all parts of the world. It brings the study of a global social system (the Web) to a global audience, who all have different ways of looking at the way the Web is changing society. I’m really excited to hear the MOOC participants reflect on how the Web is influencing (positively or negatively) politics in their country. The discussions that are going to come out of this course are going to be fantastic.

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