Synopses & Reviews
People use online social forums for all sorts of reasons, including political conversations, regardless of the site's main purpose. But what leads some of these people to take their online political activity into the offline
world of activism?
In Expect Us, Jessica L. Beyer looks at political consciousness and action in four communities, each born out of chaotic online social spaces that millions of individuals enter, spend time in, and exit moment by moment: Anonymous (4chan), IGN, World of Warcraft, and The Pirate Bay. None of these sites began as places for political organization per se, but visitors to each have used them as places for political engagement to one degree or another. Beyer explains the puzzling emergence of political engagement in these disparate social spaces and offers reasons for their varied capacity to generate political activism. Her comparative ethnography of these four online communities demonstrates that the technological organization of space itself has a strong role in determining the possibility of political mobilization. Overall, she shows that political mobilization rises when a site provides high levels of anonymity, low levels of formal regulation, and minimal access to small-group interaction. Furthermore, her findings reveal that young people are more politically involved than much of the civic engagement literature suggests.
Expect Us offers surprising and compelling insights for anyone interested in understanding which factors and online environments lead to the greatest amount of impact offline.
"In Expect Us, Beyer's remarkably rich empirical research on online spaces and groups turns conventional thinking about what generates protest on its head. Most social movement scholars assume that close, personal, and long-term relationships are necessary for high-cost activism. But Beyer shows that online, anonymous spaces can actually be far more supportive of high-cost activism and that online spaces that facilitate close, personal relationships actually decrease the likelihood of activism. Contrary to many scholars' assumptions that entertainment-based media uses are corrosive to political participation, Beyer shows that a large amount of political talk and notable political action can develop from entertainment-focused spaces. This book is a must read for scholars of online activism and contemporary activism more generally. Expect Us should radically change how we think about the origins of protest in a networked society." --Jennifer Earl, Prof. of Sociology, Univ. of Arizona
About the Author
Jessica L. Beyer is Research Scientist at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Technology and Social Change Group in the Information School, University of Washington, Seattle.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Chapter 1 - Online Communities and Political Mobilization
Chapter 2 - Anonymous: Carnival to Mobilization
Chapter 3 - The Pirate Bay: Contribution to Mobilization
Chapter 4 - World of Warcraft: Cooperation without Mobilization
Chapter 5 - IGN.com: Conversation without Mobilization
Chapter 6 - Expect Them
Appendix - Research Methodology