Week 5 – Pasek, Karpf & Glaisyer

This week’s reading seek to disprove the notion that the rise of social media leads to greater civic engagement and collective action. Pasek and colleagues, Karpf and Glaisyer instead arrgue that social media are instead only tools that render collective action more possible among online networks, and that the communities that comprise those networks and what those networks aim for are ultimately more influential in whether the network achieves a desired end.

In “Realizing the Social Network,” Pasek and colleagues, exploring the relationship between engagement with social networking sites (SNS) and social capital, conclude that the uses of these websites determine their visitors’ gratifications. Overall, Pasek and colleagues weakly linked SNS users with social capital, with use positively correlated with civic engagement but negatively related interpersonal trust. Their final verdict is that the study of SNS use as it relates to social capital cannot be generalized; each SNS fosters an independent degree or scale of social capital, whether it is Facebook or MySpace.

That conclusion links well with Karpf’s argument in “Measuring the Success of Political Campaigns.” How many followers the leader of a social movement might have on Twitter or the number of likes the movement’s Facebook page has might roughly predict the movement’s success, Karpf writes. But far more indicative than these tactical measures are strategic ones. How exactly is the leader of the movement leveraging those followers to build social capital among them, strengthen the movement, and accomplish the common goal?

This, Karpf says, is the important question, and he illustrates that in his study of political gaffes, or “macaca moments.” When Michele Bachmann questioned whether some politicians were anti-American on Hardball in 2008, Karpf points out, liberal communities online such as the DailyKos took to YouTube and dropped on “moneybomb”  on Bachmann, raising almost a $1 million for her opponent in a few days. The action loosened the strangehold Bachmann had long held on the race, and though she ended up winning, the closer than expected result showed that social media campaigns, if well-timed and well-orchestrated enough, can tremendously influence political outcomes.

QUESTION:  Compare and contrast Bachmann’s or Allen’s Macaca moments to other recent political gaffes or controversial remarks, such as President (then Sen.) Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment during the 2008 elections or then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s citing of Russia’s visibility from her house as a foreign policy credential. Are there any qualities of social media that determine which gaffes endure and which are forgotten or quickly dismissed?

 

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