Skip to main content
The tools of social change : a critique of techno-centric development and activism
New Media and Society
  • Jan SERVAES, City University of Hong Kong
  • Rolien Susanne HOYNG, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
SAGE Publications
  • Activism,
  • agency,
  • ICT4D,
  • networking,
  • orgnets,
  • participation,
  • skill,
  • social change

Generally, the literatures on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) and on networked resistance are evolving isolated from one another. This article aims to integrate these literatures in order to critically review differences and similarities in the techno-centric conceptions of agency and social change by political adversaries that are rooted in their socio-technical practices. We repurpose the critique of technological determinism to develop a multi-layered conception of agency that contains three interrelated dimensions: (1) “access” versus “skill” and the normative concept of inclusion; (2) fixed “system” versus “open-ended network” and savoir vivre; and (3) “institution” versus “extra-institutional network” and political efficacy. Building on our critique, we end by exploring the political possibilities at the intersections of conventional institutions or communities and emerging, extra-institutional networked formations.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © The Author(s) 2015

Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version
Publisher’s Version
Citation Information
Servaes, J., & Hoyng, R. (2017). The tools of social change: A critique of techno-centric development and activism. New Media and Society1 19(2), 255-271. doi: 10.1177/1461444815604419