#PennySparrow and South African race conflicts online: Evaluating Twitter as a democratic public sphere

Dyke-Beyer, Bronwen Heather (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This research seeks to determine whether or not Twitter can be considered a networked public sphere which enhances the potential for deliberative democracy. It makes use of reactions to the Penny Sparrow incident on Twitter as a case study of conflict around racial identity in post-apartheid South Africa. In order to analyse Tweets about the case the researcher acknowledges and explores the tensions which exist between remnants of apartheid ideology and the hegemony around non- and anti-racialism which is promoted by the democratically elected post-apartheid government. Racism and democracy are fundamentally incompatible in a racially inclusive South Africa and racial conflicts on Twitter reflect the complex interplay between different races in South Africa The theoretical foundation for the study includes the work of Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Chantal Mouffe, Manuel Castells, Yochai Benkler and Lincoln Dahlberg. By seeking the points at which they intersect, the researcher uses the work of all six theorists to identify five major points which define a networked public sphere; namely access, equality, freedom of expression, relevance to topic and quality of discussion, and adherence to behavioural norms. The case study uses critical discourse analysis to analyse Tweets using the hashtag #PennySparrow. Of particular interest are the complex power relations at play within online racial conflicts and these are interrogated discursively with a focus on revealing themes and forms of argumentation. Issues such as the need for a multiplicity of voices, the presence of counter-hegemonic discourse, the reaching of consensus and the potential consequences of racial conflict online were considered. By using the above-mentioned criteria, the viability of Twitter as a networked public sphere is evaluated. Using these findings the researcher concludes that Twitter in South Africa can in some ways, although not definitively, be considered a public sphere which enhances the potential for deliberative democracy.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie navorsingsprojek beoog om vas te stel of Twitter beskou kan word as ʼn netwerk-publieke sfeer wat die potensiaal van deelnemende demokrasie kan verhoog. Dit maak gebruik van reaksies op Twitter op die Penny Sparrow-insident as ʼn gevallestudie van konflik rondom rasse-identiteit in post-apartheid Suid-Afrika. Om Twiets oor die voorval te kan ontleed, neem die navorser kennis van en ondersoek die spanning tussen oorblyfsels van apartheid-ideologie en die hegemonie rondom nie- en anti-rassigheid wat deur die demokraties-verkose post-apartheid-regering bevorder word. Rassisme en demokrasie is fundamenteel onversoenbaar in ʼn inklusiewe veelrassige Suid-Afrika en rasse-konflik op Twitter reflekteer die komplekse interaksie tussen verskillende rasse in Suid-Afrika. Die teoretiese basis van die studie sluit in die werk van Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Chantal Mouffe, Manuel Castells, Yochai Benkler en Lincoln Dahlberg. Deur te soek na punte waar hulle by mekaar aansluit, kon die navorsers die werk van al ses teoretici gebruik om vyf hoof-kenmerke van ʼn netwerk-publieke sfeer te identifiseer, naamlik toegang, gelykheid, vryheid van spraak, relevansie tot die onderwerp en die gehalte van die bespreking, en gehoorsaamheid aan norme van behoorlike optrede. Die gevallestudie maak gebruik van kritiese diskoersanalise om Twiets met die hutsmerk PennySparrow te ontleed. Van spesifieke belang is die komplekse magsverhoudings wat ter sprake is by rasse-konflik aanlyn en dit word diskursief ontleed deur te fokus op veelseggende temas en vorms van argumentasie. Kwessies soos die behoefte aan veelstemmigheid, die aanwesigheid van teen-hegemoniese diskoerse, die bereiking van konsensus en die moontlike gevolge van rasse-konflik word oorweeg. In die proses word die potensiaal van Twitter as ʼn netwerk- publieke sfeer aan die hand van bogenoemde kriteria oorweeg. Die bevindings dui aan dat Twitter in Suid-Afrika nog nie aan al die vereistes van ʼn netwerk- publieke sfeer voldoen nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103557
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