Humphreys Chapter 13 notes

Political Life

Does social media enable political movements hinder their formations?

Two opinions on social media:

  • Social media is a tool for political activism
  • Terrorists, hackers use the same networks for communication

The affordances of social media can make engagement in political activism easier or harder, safer or more unsafe, powerful or less effective.

Power: The ability to influence people or things.

Weber: three types of power

  1. Charismatic power: charismatic power can make a celebrity or politician gain fans or followers
  2. Totalitarian power: One person being in control over the means of violence, the military, and the legal system. Examples: Government in Egypt blocked the internet. The government in China have blocked websites like Google and Facebook.
  3. Bureaucratic power: the ability to influence people based on rules or procedures in some organized hierarchies.

Power can be obvious or implicit.

Terms-of-service agreements -> companies have power over personal data

Personal medical records -> doctors have power over the patient

Public sphere:  Habermas describes public sphere as the space where people can come together to debate social issues.

Three traits of a public sphere:

  1. Disregard of status
  2. Common concerns
  3. Inclusiveness

Assemblages: groups of actors that come together for a common interest, but can be reshaped when the context changes.

Counterpublics: Counterpublics are created in opposition to dominant cultural norms and values. Political action is not required of a counterpublic.

Social movement theory

Social issue: a topic that people collectively agree should be addressed politically, economically or culturally.

Social movements tactics:

Cultural and cognitive models of social actions are called tactics. These are repertoires of actions. Models of how to take action. Examples are petitions, marches, and sit-ins.

Using for example twitter for social actions are called etactics. They are hybrid adaptions of the traditional tactics.

Mobilization: The ability of political activists to translate existing resources, for example, money or people or ideas into political actions.

Flash activism: activism that appears and then disappears overnight as the attention for the cause increases and decreases.

Microcontributions:  social media allows for microcontributions that are made by people who normally are not involved. Mobile phone text to donate money for a cause is an example.

Slacktivism: Online activism that substitute for offline activism. Liking a Facebook post can make you less likely to donate money because you do not feel as obligated to donate.

Hacktivism: Using digital technology to disrupt organizations or people that the social movement opposes.

Social media use and participation: Social media can make a lot of people aware of a topic but people do not have time to engage in all social issues that arise on social media. Social media can make information reach a wide audience but do not always lead to a political movement.

Framing:  Framing is the process of referring to a social issue and highlight some attributes and downplay other attributes.

Agenda setting: The ability of news media to influence the importance of topics in the public sphere. The effects of a story can be different if traditional media write about it first or if blogs write about it first.

Citizen journalism: People are able to live update about happenings on social media. People can be the source and the reporter.

Emily Hesselmark


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