Where’s the Disconnect? Locating Digital Disconnection Studies

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This paper walks through a systematic review of the field of disconnection research. Through a citation chain search (Levy & Ellis, 2006) of key empirical texts and six domain-specific reviews on digital disconnection, 347 empirical texts published between 2010 and 2021 are identified and analysis. Despite the seemingly broad scope of recent criticisms of digital media (Zuboff, 2019; Morozov, 2014), empirical disconnection research has arguably had a relatively narrow focus, especially in terms of the demographics and nationality of the disconnecting agents. The central contribution of this paper is to make clear who has been constituted as doing disconnection (mostly individuals under 30 residing in the Global North), how they've been doing it (mostly as temporary sabbaticals from media and/or restrictions on access rather than outright rejection of media) and what they've been disconnecting from (mostly social media, usually Facebook). A few studies notably buck this trend and highlight the importance of studying digital disconnection outside the Global North (e.g. Udende et al 2020; Wildermuth, 2021). As one of the key underpinnings of disconnection studies is the acceptance of digital disconnection as a potential good (Syvertsen, 2017), this paper argues for the importance of extending this assumption to a more global scale on the research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date26 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2022
EventThe 72nd Annual International Communication Association Conference -
Duration: 26 May 202230 May 2022


ConferenceThe 72nd Annual International Communication Association Conference

ID: 305017004