Social Media, Politics and the Urban-Rural Divide

Caroline Hughes

A new article at the publishers’ website, is a product of research co-operation between Caroline Hughes of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in the USA and Netra Eng of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The resulting article is titled “Facebook, Contestation and Poor People’s Politics: Spanning the Urban–Rural Divide in Cambodia?” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2018.1520910). The abstract for the article states:

Netra Eng

Rural internet use, although still limited, is growing, raising the question of how rural people are using social media politically. As a vehicle of communication that permits the rapid transmission of information, images and text across space and connections between dispersed networks of individuals, does technological advance in rural areas presage significant political transformations? This article investigates this question in the light of a poor result for the Cambodian People’s Party in the 2013 elections, and the subsequent banning of the main opposition party, before the 2018 elections. Expanding internet use in rural areas has linked relatively quiescent rural Cambodians for the first time to networks of information about militant urban movements of the poor. Rural Cambodians are responding to this opportunity through strategies of quiet encroachment in cyberspace. This has had real effects on the nature of the relationship between the dominant party and the rural population and suggests the declining utility of the election-winning strategy used by the party since 1993. However, the extent of this virtual information revolution is limited, since neither the urban nor rural poor are mapping out new online political strategies, agendas or identities that can push Cambodia’s sclerotic politics in new directions.

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