The Labors of Internet-Assisted Activism: Overcommunication, Miscommunication, and Communicative Overload

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


This article analyzes the use of Internet elements in political activism through a close ethnographic case study of a volunteer group involved in the 2008 U.S. Democratic presidential primary. Whereas the literature on political activism has generally argued that the Internet provides low-cost communication that facilitates collective action, this case highlights the labors that accompany Internet-assisted activism. The analysis, based upon participant-observation, identifies three interrelated problems with which the activists struggled: overcommunication, miscommunication, and communicative overload. Drawing on concepts taken from science and technology studies, the article argues that these problems have sociotechnical roots and arise from the specific affordances of an increasing number of Internet elements. Such elements reduce the up-front costs associated with communication for the sender, but they generate new transaction costs when integrated into heterogeneous assemblages with no shared communication protocol, no clear infrastructure or exostructure, and no significant means of tempering the tendency towards ever greater amounts of communication.
TidsskriftJournal of Information Technology & Politics
Udgave nummer3 & 4
Sider (fra-til)267-280
StatusUdgivet - 2009
Udgivet eksterntJa

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