Please join us on Monday, February 24 (starting at 1:00PM) for a public lecture by Dr. Jen Schradie, “The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives,” in the McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020).
Sponsored by the Center for Information Technology & Society, the Departments of Communication and Film and Media Studies, and Wireframe Studio!
Abstract: The internet has been hailed as a leveling force that is reshaping activism. From the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, digital activism seemed cheap, fast, and open to all. Now this celebratory narrative finds itself competing with an increasingly sinister story as platforms like Facebook and Twitter—once the darlings of digital democracy—are on the defensive for their role in promoting fake news. While hashtag activism captures headlines, conservative digital activism is proving more effective on the ground. Schradie’s talk, based on her book, The Revolution That Wasn’t (Harvard University Press, 2019), identifies the reasons behind this previously undiagnosed digital-activism gap. Large hierarchical political organizations with professional staff can amplify their digital impact, while horizontally organized volunteer groups tend to be less effective at translating online goodwill into meaningful action. Not only does technology fail to level the playing field, it tilts it further, so that only the most sophisticated and well-funded players can compete. The findings from her southern U.S. case – from both online quantitative data analysis and offline in-depth ethnographic observations and interviews – have national and even international implications for a growing right-wing populist movement.
Bio: Jen Schradie is an Assistant Professor at the Observatoire sociologique du changement (OSC) at Sciences Po in Paris. Previously, she was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, based at the Toulouse School of Economics, as well as at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, Université de Toulouse. After a career as a documentary filmmaker, Schradie received a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School and her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in Sociology and New Media, where she was awarded the Public Sociology Alumni Prize. Her broad research agenda is to interrogate digital democracy claims with empirical data, challenging both utopian and dystopian accounts. Instead, she finds societal structures of class inequality, bureaucratic institutions, and political ideology can all drive internet use. Her current comparative project focuses on gender and class differences in the start-up economy in France and the U.S., and another examines hate speech online against Muslims. Her work has been featured on CNN and the BBC and in the New Yorker, Newsweek, Vox, Washington Post, WIRED and Time.