Weblogs and Activism: A Social Movement Perspective on the Blogosphere

Open Access
Author:
Sheffield, Jessica Lee
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
August 12, 2010
Committee Members:
  • James Hogan, Dissertation Advisor
  • James Hogan, Committee Chair
  • Stuart Selber, Committee Member
  • Rosa A Eberly, Committee Member
  • Thomas Walter Benson, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • democratic deliberation
  • blogosphere
  • blogs
  • weblogs
  • social movements
  • rhetoric
  • rhetorical analysis
Abstract:
This study explores the intersections between technology and public discourse, considering the effects of new media technologies on the character of democratic deliberation through an examination of the use of weblogs for social activism. The project consists of case studies of three different perspectives on social movements and weblogs: social movement organization weblogs, individual activist weblogs, and viral weblog movements. I consider whether the blogosphere is becoming a venue for robust democratic deliberation, empowering more citizens to participate in public discussions and providing an important “check” on more traditional media—or, whether it has degraded and diminished our public talk, encouraging still more polarization and division in our already troubled deliberative democracy. At this point, as I will suggest, the evidence remains mixed and it is difficult to offer definitive answers to that and many other questions about blogging’s implications for democratic deliberation. Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism about blogging’s potential to be a powerful tool of democratic empowerment, especially for individuals whose voices might not otherwise be heard. The study contributes to scholarly understanding of the changing nature of social movement rhetoric in an age of new media technologies and to larger conversations about the Internet’s impact on democracy.