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Understanding children’s civil, political and social rights through a postdigital epistemology of silence
The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the role of technology in adapting to emergency events, but technology is not merely a tool for enhancing our experiences or solving our problems (Jandrić and Knox, 2021). Recognition that technology is part and parcel of human and non-human interactions that range from education to the intricacies of our social lives demands a theory that moves beyond understanding technology as merely a solution or enhancement: the postdigital. The postdigital evades disciplinary silos and troubles distinctions and boundaries between and across disciplines (MacKenzie, 2022), and perhaps owing to this disciplinary refusal, is ‘messy; unpredictable; digital and analog; technological and non-technological; biological and informational’ (Jandrić et al, 2018: 895) – very much like the messy and complex lives of children (Spyrou, 2011) who live in the postdigital world. The digital environment is children and young people’s most common source of vast swathes of information and therefore affords opportunities for the realisation of children’s rights and in particular their ‘civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights’ (UN, 2021, para. 3–4), as well as their right to education – both formal and informal (UN, 2021, para. 99). However, it is also the source of vast misinformation and disinformation, and discrimination (UN, 2021, para. 54); what might be understood as the epistemology of deceit (MacKenzie, et al, 2021). MacKenzie et al (2021) raise epistemological questions about how we respond to the silences of omission and commission that underpin both truth and deception in their myriad forms. A recent paper theorising children’s rights using epistemology (Hanna, forthcoming) asserts that silence illuminates an epistemology of children’s participation rights because it often occludes the right to freedom of expression in not only imparting knowledge, but also in seeking, receiving and imparting information, and accessing information that enables young people to make sense of their own experiences. Deserving of further attention is how silence can be used to highlight deception and misinformation, and what this might mean for postdigital research in the children’s rights field. This presentation will engage in a ‘postdigital dialogue’ (McLaren and Jandrić, 2021) about how the silences, omissions and partialities of information in the postdigital form an epistemology of silence, and what this means for research on children’s civil, political and social rights.