Week 5- Karpf/Glaisyer

All readings this week by Pasek et al., Glaisyer, and Karpf highlighted to some extent the overestimation of empowerment we attribute to social communication tools. The texts by Karpf and Glaisyer build upon each other and offer different yet valuable insights the political effectiveness of digital mediums. While the these tools can be powerful in garnering attention in the tactical sense, external factors such as surrounding political organizations and governmental structure can either amplify or hinder strategic success on a certain issue.

The underlying focus of Karpf’s research study was to identify Internet mediums such as Youtube as only instruments to gather political organization; the real origin of effort to influence political activity among individuals would stem from the works of netroot organizations, such as that of the DailyKos community. Results supported this study’s hypothesis and exemplifies the concepts Karpf states in other work, “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns”: the tactical and strategic components of digital activism. Oftentimes, the achievement of the former element does not guarantee the latter. Simply stated, garnering a million views on a Youtube video or a million signatures on an online petition does not necessarily result in the success or failure of a particular campaign.

Glaisyer looks at the issue of digital activism in a much broader perspective, labeling the success of political campaigns not through the usage of Internet mediums by political organizations but the establishment of governmental structure. In the presence of an authoritarian government, not only will it decrease the effectiveness of communication tools among active participants, but also increase chances of authorities using the same tools to hinder activists’ progress. On the other hand, democratic governments are more open to listen to their constituents and adopt rightful changes if necessary.

When considering the relationship between digital activism within the political realm, I think it’s important to consider a more holistic picture when evaluating the effectiveness and the extent of influence of new communication tools. While Karpf’s study would pertain to mostly democratic societies, Glaisyer actually analyzes digital activism in accordance to various types of governmental structure. For example, with an authoritarian government, netroot organizations, bloggers, and individuals alike are limited in resources to successfully create political change.

In what ways do you think netroot organizations function differently in open and closed societies? How can political organizations strive to achieve more success in the presence of a closed government?

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