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Appears in Collections:Communications, Media and Culture eTheses
Title: The Participation of Young Adults in Ghana’s Democracy Online: An Exploratory Study
Author(s): Tawiah, Hayford
Supervisor(s): Singh, Greg
Hodge, Derek
Keywords: Democracy
online social network sites
online social media
young adults
Issue Date: Apr-2021
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: ABSTRACT While there is a vast corpus of research on young adult’s use of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) and their involvement in democratic processes, little is known about this subject when it comes to the Ghanaian context. The participation of young adults in Ghana’s hybrid democracy (forged from liberal and deliberative values) has been dwindling after a surge in the 1950s. In contemporary times, events in the socio-cultural, political and the traditional news media environments that take their sources from practices in the colonial era, continue to influence public spaces designated for talking politics in Ghana, and have been observed as some of the factors that impede the participation of young adults. These events include intermittent traditional news media censorship by both military and civilian governments; marginalisation of dissenting views through the ties between government and media owners, as well as the significant cultural and social values placed on respecting people in authority and elders in general. In essence, young adults cannot freely express their opinions in offline contexts because of concerns of society’s unacceptance of them questioning the status quo and offering alternative ideas. Using qualitative research methods for the collection and examination of the motivations and experiences of young adults and politician samples, this thesis establishes that experiences and awareness of the restrictive offline public spheres motivate the sample of young adults to adopt SNSs for the purpose of talking politics. Data from the in-depth interviews conducted in this study suggests that SNSs such as Facebook and Twitter may be safe spaces that limit the society’s ability to practice its exclusionist culture against them. While SNSs offer the young adults a way to escape the exclusionist dictates of an age-sensitive society, they also allow politicians to preserve their social statuses and authorities they hold in the real world (save faces), making way for free speech to gain roots in Ghana's democracy in the process. This finding indicates that Spiral of Silence and Willingness to Self-Censor due to shyness appear reduced in this context of political communication in Ghana. This study demonstrates the various ways in which the interconnected issues of state online surveillance, concentration of online platform ownerships and monetisation of user-generated contents (which represent the backbone of tensions in power contestation between governments, ordinary citizen users and online platform owners) seem not to be deterring factors of SNSs use among the sample of young adults in Ghana. Further, the use of SNSs enables the young adults to add value to their political voices by accessing and utilising transnational flows of political information and cultures in their political interactions. As the political voices of young adults are undervalued and unheard, SNSs help the young adults to amplify their voices through online and offline protests, which is a constitutional and democratic right. Thus, this study contributes to a growing body of literature through a re-conceptualisation of the relations of dominance and resistance online. Building on John Suler’s Online Disinhibition Effects, the study further shows that online verbal abuses violate the rights to free speech and equal political voice of victims in theory. In practice however, the high frequency of online abuses means a loss in their potential to cause harm. Given these findings, the public spaces on SNSs such as Facebook can be said to resemble public spheres that support Ghana’s democracy. This study, therefore, offers policy makers concerned with the use of SNSs as means of addressing the inequalities that young adults face in their bid to publicly talk politics a new understanding of the political communications dynamics. This new understanding can help formulate policy and provide support initiatives to create the appropriate online environment for talking politics.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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