How have online protests—like the recent outrage over the Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood—changed the nature of political action? How do Facebook and other popular social media platforms shape the conversation around current political issues? The ways in which we gather information about current events and communicate it with others have been transformed by the rapid rise of digital media. The political is no longer confined to the institutional and electoral arenas, and that has profound implications for how we understand citizenship and political participation.
With From Voice to Influence, Danielle Allen and Jennifer S. Light have brought together a stellar group of political and social theorists, social scientists, and media analysts to explore this transformation. Threading through the contributions is the notion of egalitarian participatory democracy, and among the topics discussed are immigration rights activism, the participatory potential of hip hop culture, and the porous boundary between public and private space on social media. The opportunities presented for political efficacy through digital media to people who otherwise might not be easily heard also raise a host of questions about how to define “good participation:” Does the ease with which one can now participate in online petitions or conversations about current events seduce some away from serious civic activities into “slacktivism?”
Drawing on a diverse body of theory, from Hannah Arendt to Anthony Appiah, From Voice to Influence offers a range of distinctive visions for a political ethics to guide citizens in a digitally connected world.