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Phatic Culture and the Status Quo: Reconsidering the Purpose of Social Media Activism

Miller, Vincent (2017) Phatic Culture and the Status Quo: Reconsidering the Purpose of Social Media Activism. Convergence: The International Journal of Research Into New Media Technologies, 23 (3). pp. 251-269. ISSN 1354-8565. E-ISSN 1748-7382. (doi:10.1177/1354856515592512) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:51632)

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Apart from the exchanging of information, an important role of conversation and communication is to promote social harmony through the maintenance of relationships. This is referred to as the ‘phatic’ function of communication. Indeed, digital communications technologies, and social media in particular, have been lauded for their potential to promote activism and social change through ‘raising awareness’ of injustices, their ability to motivate people into political action, and the facility to organise and co-ordinate that action for maximum effect. In this paper, I build upon previous arguments which suggested that the rise of social networking demonstrated that online culture and communication had become increasingly ‘phatic’ and less dialogic. Here I use previous empirical work to challenge the above claims of digital politics enthusiasts. I then suggest an alternative theoretical account of the function of digital media activism which better suits these empirical findings. I suggest that digital politics demonstrates a rise of ‘phatic communion’ in social media. Incorporating Heidegger’s notion of ‘idle talk’, I further suggest that the rise of a phatic online culture in social media activism has atrophied the potential for digital communications technologies to help foster social change by creating a conversational environment based on limited forms of expressive solidarity as opposed to an engaged, content-driven, dialogic public sphere.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/1354856515592512
Uncontrolled keywords: Phatic, Heidegger, Clicktivism, Social Media, Online Politics, Multitude, Arab Spring, Occupy, Twitter, Facebook
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Vince Miller
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2015 17:43 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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