Finding voice through social media? : a critical analysis of women's participation in the online public sphere in India.
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis assesses the effectiveness of social media platforms, specifically Facebook and blogs, in facilitating women’s participation in the online public sphere in India. Discussion provides a literature review of the internet as a new public sphere and its impact and influence in enriching the existing public sphere in India. The study also reviews the relationship between the online public sphere and the role women play in this sphere through social media in India. The research is supplemented by a review study of the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement in order to demonstrate the case for the online public sphere. Moreover, the present study also provides a snap shot of how some blogs and Facebook pages are used by women.
Taking as a case study the 2012 ‘Delhi gang rape’ incident, through a topical network analysis of the Facebook pages and blog articles, this research attempts to understand the role of these media in allowing women to discuss social issues and participate in the public sphere. Drawing from the analysis of blog contents and examining Facebook pages I demonstrate how the women’s voices inhabiting the online sphere are limited to a certain class and region. In the cases studied here respondents appeared to be predominantly urban and middle class. While the scope of the research is small, this is one of the first studies in the area, and the findings suggest that social media are becoming a significant communicative tool in India and that women are increasingly appropriating these technologies. The study also demonstrates that women are discussing issues which were previously considered as taboo like rape and sexual violence, albeit in small numbers. Lastly, I identify challenges limiting women’s participation in the emerging online public sphere in India.