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Special Section: New Media in International Contexts Introduction

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The study of the relationship between media and society has a long and varied history in the social sciences and the humanities.1 From the Frankfurt School’s theories of the culture industries and McLuhan’s focus on the relationship between the medium and the message to work on mediation, remediation, and the network society, media continue to be viewed as a driver and a lens for understanding social, economic, and political life. Indeed, the first wave of research on new media—particularly on the Internet—explored how access to networked forms of communication and information may lead to transformations in notions of community, identity, and the nature of being human (Castells, 2000; Van Dijk, 1991; Katz & Rice, 2002; Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2002; Miller & Slater, 2000; Rheingold, 1993; Turkle, 1995; Wellman & Haythornthwaite, 2002). Research on mobile phones, portable music players, and gaming (desktop and console) began to explore the embeddedness of new media in everyday life (Boellstorff, 2008; Castells, Qiu, Sey, & Fernandez-Ardevol, 2006; Horst & Miller, 2006; Ito, Okabe, & Matsuda, 2005; Katz & Aakhus, 2002; Ling, 2004; Ling & Donner, 2009). Exemplified by sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and others, the presence and participatory properties of new media in the contemporary moment represent an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between media and society in light of the changing media ecology. Are new media technologies appropriated in a similar fashion in what Thomas Friedman calls a “flat” world? Or do particular engagements with such technologies arise from specific local contexts? Even when new media technologies appear to be appropriated in a similar manner (on the surface, anyway), what local sociocultural, economic, or political factors contribute to such appropriations?

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