In 2016, after four years of peace talks between the Colombia’s government and the FARC guerilla, an agreement was reached to end one of the longest and deadliest armed conflicts in Latin America. In this context, peace education was recognized to be an essential step to change prevailing narratives of violence in the country. Consequently, Colombian policymakers created and promoted numerous peace education initiatives to address the history and consequences of the armed conflict within and through the educational system. However, while these initiatives have proven to be helpful in promoting a culture of peace among students of all ages, higher education has traditionally received less attention than other educational scenarios. This gap has left young adults out of most peace education initiatives in the country, even as they are an essential vital age bracket in societal efforts to address violence.
Additionally, as peace education gains relevance in Colombia, social media communication platforms have continued to become a key element in young adults’ identities, practices, and communities. These platforms are now important venues of conversation where many Colombians exercise their citizenship and struggle with societal concerns such as disinformation, historical memory, and human rights. Certainly, as social media continues to become an increasingly ubiquitous phenomenon in everybody’s lives, violence and peace are transformed by the complex dynamics of our digital landscape. Indeed, it is uncertain how these transformed manifestations of violence connect to the larger societal challenges that Colombian society faces nowadays and how they ought to be connected to how we teach about peace and violence.
In this dissertation, I will explore social media violence among Colombian young adults, drawing from theoretical traditions of critical and everyday peace education, transformative learning, and Latin American lenses of mediation and media practices. This research seeks to examine Colombian young adults’ views on social media violence while exploring how critical reflection, dialogue, and imagination can be a possible venue of transformative learning around peace and media. More specifically, this study aims to address the following research questions:
1) Do Colombian young adults identify violence on social media? If they do, what is the nature of the violence?
2) How do participants discuss and reflect on social media violence?
3) In the cases in which participants identify social media violence, what kind of peace-oriented responses are they able to co-imagine?
4) What is the nature of participants’ learning concerning peace and social media throughout their involvement in this project?
Methodologically, this doctoral dissertation follows a case study research design, which seeks to investigate a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its context. To achieve this, participants will join discussion groups to explore, debate, and reflect on social media violence as they experience it in their everyday lives for four weeks, co-imagining actions and strategies to address it. To this end, this dissertation will rely on collaborative digital ethnographies, futuring techniques, content analysis, and surveys to respond to this study’s research questions. Overall, this research will seek a nuanced understanding of the role of social media in Colombia’s post-conflict society while enriching discussions around social media violence from interdisciplinary lenses of digital media, peace, and education.