Deliberation, Performance and the Ethics of the Public Sphere: An Analysis of an Advocacy Group’s use of Different Online Sites
Recent years have seen considerable discussion of the internet as an agent of global interactivity and, hence, connectivity. There are two dominant sides to this discussion. On the one hand, the argument is that the internet has provided potential agents of participatory culture and ethical arousal with a virtual space for sharing information and forming judgement about common affairs; here the internet is a space that facilitates a bottom up democratic process as opposed to the elite role of the mass media (Castells 2002; Dalhgren 2002; Peters 2007). On the other hand, the argument is that the internet enables the free expression of personal feelings, desires and beliefs, making this virtual space a space of narcissistic self-presentation and intimate affairs; here the internet is a medium that facilitates identity politics rather than politics proper (Bennett 2004). Yet, studies on the potential of the internet as a medium of civic engagement and ethical arousal tend to focus on the opportunities and constraints the internet as a medium provides in facilitating discussion and online involvement (Dahlgren 2005). There is an urgent need to focus on different online spaces in terms of their dual character, as both political and personal spaces. This study investigates in detail how different online spaces provide different technological affordances, opportunities and constraints, rather than the internet as one homogeneous space. Studying an advocacy group’s (StopGenocideNow) uses of different online spaces, e.g. YouTube, Facebook and SecondLife, the paper compares these sites in terms of the types of communication, the forms of identity, social relations and action they make possible for their users. On the basis of their similarities and differences, engaging in a discussion as to the types of connectivity, ethical orientation and possibilities for reflection and action on the world beyond ‘our own’ these online spaces make possible.
Keywords: Cyberactivism, Online Communities, SNS
PhD Fellow, Media and Communications Department, London School of Economics