This presentation examines how routine social media use shapes political participation. Many commentators have argued that activism has been compromised by “slacktivism,” a pejorative term that refers to supposedly inauthentic, low-threshold forms of engagement online. Dennis argues that this critique has an overly narrow focus. He offers a theoretical framework—the continuum of participation—to help illuminate how and why citizens use social networking sites to consume news, discuss civic matters, and engage in politics. This idea is explored in two interrelated settings. Firstly, in an activist context, through an ethnography of the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees. Secondly, within day-to-day life, by combining evidence of behaviour online with reflective diaries. Drawing on this rich data on individual-level attitudes and behaviours, Dennis challenges slacktivism as a judgement on contemporary political action. Beyond Slacktivism provides an account of how the seemingly mundane everyday use of social media can be beneficial to democracy.
Dr. James Dennis is Senior Lecturer in Political Communication and Journalism at the University of Portsmouth. His research interests lie in political communication, with a particular focus on social media, political participation and citizenship, and digital news. His work has been published in the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, and Political Studies. His first monograph, Beyond Slacktivism: Political Participation on Social Media, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. James maintains a personal research site at jameswilldennis.com and can be found on Twitter at @jameswilldennis.
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