THE DIGITALISATION OF SOCIAL REPRESENTATIONS
The Influence of the Evolution of Communication Technology on the Development of Shared Ideas
Wahlström Mikael Anders
Human mentality is in constant change as new ideas emerge, are challenged, become concrete and are compared to existing concepts in the societal discourse. The theory of social representations is an attempt to explain this process. The study contributes to this field of enquiry by discussing how changes in communication technologies influence the process. The work addresses the question of the ways in which change in communication technologies influences how shared ideas develop by applying a synthesising research approach in consideration of both past and future, both sensemaking and dissemination of messages and both individuals’ interaction with technologies and broad societal structures in communication. The study applies varied methods and sources: survey-based statistics, historical reflection and ethnographic observations and interviews. Some illustrative phenomena related to digital communication technologies are explored with case studies: 1) the World Wide Web, 2) plurality of communication technologies in sensemaking practices, 3) hard-disk-drive-based television watching and 4) immersive virtual reality. The overall message of the study is that the social influences of communication technologies are varied in the extent to which they have influence on which methods and concepts are suitable in social sciences, similarly to any radical variation in the societal context. My study exemplifies reform and synthesis – that is, subtle considerations regarding the existing theories rather than reconceptualising the social order.