YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

Spreading the Word or Shaping the Conversation: “Prosumption” in Protest Websites
by Jennifer Earl
July 1, 2013
Over the last several decades, the social movement sector in the United States has been professionalizing, creating a large number of highly professionalized, formal social movement organizations. And yet, over the last decade, digital technologies have been used to undermine long-settled distinctions between producers and consumers in a number of areas of social and economic life as relative amateurs engage in production (e.g., citizen journalism). Drawing an analogy between protest organizers and producers on the one hand, and protest participants and consumers on the other hand, it would seem possible that digital technologies could be used to up-end brightline distinctions between organizers and participants in the protest sector as well. I outline two different ways these prosumptive forces could shape protest and then use a five year panel dataset on websites across 20 different social movement areas to understand the net effect of prosumptive versus professionalizing trends. Findings suggest that while there has been some adoption of disruptive digital technologies by protest-related websites, the majority of sites still limit and circumscribe participant participation to pre-choreographed actions. Findings shed important light on the continuing social organization of protest in the dawning of the digital age.

Earl, Jennifer. 2013. “Spreading the Word or Shaping the Conversation: “Prosumption” in Protest Websites.” Research in Social Movements, Conflicts, and Change 36: 3-38.