Mundane Tools and Mobilizing Practices, presentation at Harvard, May 20

Next week, I’ll be presenting some work in progress at the Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Workshop that Lokman Tsui and Ben Peters help organize.

It is so much in-progress that I have already changed the title (replacing the rather ungainly “mobilizational” with “mobilizing” after a gentle nudge from a native speaker–thanks, Chris). So here it is:

Mundane Tools and Mobilizing Practices in Two U.S. Congressional Campaigns

The mobilizing potential of the Internet has been highlighted both by both social scientists and professional practitioners. A wide range of new tools have become ubiquitous in political campaigns—ranging from state-of-the-art websites to something as prosaic as email. But we still do not know what internet elements are most important for mobilizing practices. Based on participant-observation in two congressional campaigns in the United States, web research, interviews with professionals and activists, and analysis of secondary sources, I will argue that it is not campaign web sites as such, or the Internet in general, but specific “mundane mobilizing tools”, particular things like email and search, that are most intimately involved in mobilizing practices. Contrary to the specialized and emerging tools that have received the most scholarly, professional, and journalistic attention, mundane mobilizing tools are not designed specifically for political use, but instead derive their affordances from the fact that they (1) connect with existing infrastructures and communities, (2) allow distributed communication, and (3) are already familiar to users.

Aaron Shaw and Coleen Kaman will also be presenting. I’m looking forward to the seminar and the conversations.


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