The present chapter aims at discussing a set of theoretical and empirical resources that can help to understand some of the fundamental dynamics that are involved in the relationship between political participation and online media. First, it will draw on a circumscribed overview of most recent literature to clarify what exactly is the kind of political participation that is taking place through and within social media. While it is undeniable that social networking platforms can be decisive tools for ends-oriented activism and traditional political participation aimed at influencing institutions and public opinion, there are several indications showing how they mainly act as breeding ground for a kind of civic participation that is more expressive than instrumental. This implies that an exhaustive comprehension of the phenomenon can only start from moving the focus from rational deliberation to meaning-making processes where self-expression and self-reflexivity are considered as values in themselves. One way of avoiding misunderstandings in researching mediated political participation thus consists of mobilising concepts that are in tune with the observed phenomenon and the stakes to which people directly involved give their heed. The second argument that will be developed in the chapter posits that we risk misunderstanding the relationship between social media and discursive participation if we presume that social media directly shape the forms of political talk and discussions they are currently hosting. What they are rather doing consists of affecting the modes of social inter-visibility, which in turn constitute the conditions of possibility for political interactions to happen and develop. By discussing the findings of a qualitative research on styles of discursive engagement on social media, the chapter will show how the relevance of social media can be better appreciated in the opening of several modes of publicness which result from the contingent combination between the technical affordances of the platforms and the social conventions that structure their frames of usage.

(2017). Enhanced inter-visibility. The experience of civic engagement in social media . Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10446/161969

Enhanced inter-visibility. The experience of civic engagement in social media

Murru, Maria Francesca
2017-01-01

Abstract

The present chapter aims at discussing a set of theoretical and empirical resources that can help to understand some of the fundamental dynamics that are involved in the relationship between political participation and online media. First, it will draw on a circumscribed overview of most recent literature to clarify what exactly is the kind of political participation that is taking place through and within social media. While it is undeniable that social networking platforms can be decisive tools for ends-oriented activism and traditional political participation aimed at influencing institutions and public opinion, there are several indications showing how they mainly act as breeding ground for a kind of civic participation that is more expressive than instrumental. This implies that an exhaustive comprehension of the phenomenon can only start from moving the focus from rational deliberation to meaning-making processes where self-expression and self-reflexivity are considered as values in themselves. One way of avoiding misunderstandings in researching mediated political participation thus consists of mobilising concepts that are in tune with the observed phenomenon and the stakes to which people directly involved give their heed. The second argument that will be developed in the chapter posits that we risk misunderstanding the relationship between social media and discursive participation if we presume that social media directly shape the forms of political talk and discussions they are currently hosting. What they are rather doing consists of affecting the modes of social inter-visibility, which in turn constitute the conditions of possibility for political interactions to happen and develop. By discussing the findings of a qualitative research on styles of discursive engagement on social media, the chapter will show how the relevance of social media can be better appreciated in the opening of several modes of publicness which result from the contingent combination between the technical affordances of the platforms and the social conventions that structure their frames of usage.
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