The problem of history in digital activism: Ideological narratives in digital activism literature
Keywords:Digital Activism, Web History, Critical History, Technological Determinism, narrative formation
The past decades have generated a wealth of literature on digital activism. Even so, the phenomenon has been little historicised. This paper engages in a deconstructionist exercise on historical references in digital activism literature towards exploring implicit meaning-making in a symbolic-interactionist tradition. It identifies four distinct narratives: 1) a technology narrative [activism as technology-driven]; 2) a communications narrative [activism on the basis of communication options]; 3) an online-off-line narrative [activism based on an online-off-line dichotomy]; and 4) an engagement narrative [activism based on its affordances for public engagement]. The paper argues that these narratives contribute to a distinct, polysemic, and paradoxical understanding of digital activism as a phenomenon that is technologically driven (technological determinism), and both distinct to and enmeshed with traditional activism. In doing so, this narrative analysis shows a range of underlying ideological assumptions in digital activism study and conceptualisation, which informs how the phenomenon is understood today.
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