The paradox and continuum of digital disengagement: denaturalising digital sociality and technological connectivity

Adi Kuntsman, Esperanza Miyake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


This theoretical intervention puts forward a concept of ‘digital disengagement’ to discuss new socio-cultural, economic and political demarcations and implications surrounding the relationship between digital media, culture and society. At present, despite a proliferation of calls to reduce both the range of digital devices and communication platforms, and the time spent using them, and despite a growing body of academic work on disconnection or opt-out, disengagement from the digital is still conceptualised by media research as a spatiotemporal or an ideological aberration. To challenge this framework, we propose a paradigmatic shift. We invite digital media scholarship to denaturalise the digital by centring digital disengagement both as a complex phenomenon currently unfolding and as a conceptual entry point into thinking about sociality, agency, rights and everyday life more broadly. Mobilising digital disengagement as a theoretical lens, our piece provides the following: first, we critically assess the prevalent conflation of digitality with social networking, which leads to a limited understanding of disengagement as being only about disconnecting from social media platforms. Second, we challenge the normalisation of the technological in practices of disconnection, arguing instead that disengagement might be structured, but should not be determined, by the technological.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-913
Number of pages13
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number6
Early online date30 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • dataisation
  • digital disengagement
  • disconnection
  • Facebook
  • internet centrism
  • Internet of Things
  • neoliberalism
  • non-use
  • opt-out
  • social networking sites


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