MoveOn and E-motion : the paradox of cyberactivism in consumer society

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Dincki, Sandrine
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Communication and rhetoric
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The relationship between media and democracy has always been characterized by a tension between public and private interests with a tendency for the latter to prevail. Mediated politics and consumption in a democratic society paradoxically enable “lifestyle politics” and degrade the “public sphere.” The political and the commercial realms are not necessarily exclusive as MoveOn illustrates. MoveOn is an online activist group with a conventional mass media approach to politics. The production, representation, and consumption dimensions of the “circuit of culture” are used to investigate MoveOn. It has strong ties with the conventional media industry and the Silicon Valley culture and heavily relies on marketing techniques, standardization and pseudo-individualization. MoveOn members are a crucial site of production that shows the tension between empowerment and control. MoveOn produces the conditions for action while members materialize action and become both producer and consumer. MoveOn also exemplifies the confluence of political and symbolic representations in that its members are both subjects of the former and objects of the latter. Its representation practices include pseudo-events and pseudo-heroes. These practices are mediated by the rules of the “public screen.” “Astroturfing” practices problematize the dichotomy artificial vs. real/grassroots. MoveOn follows two axes of representation: “voice” and “numbers.” MoveOn communicates via the “discourse of images” and e-motion, a process through which emotions are filtered, repackaged, and electronically mediated in order to set people in vicarious motion. E-motion encapsulates the convergence of mass media and the internet, and the confluence of activism and consumerism. MoveOn also complies with the “info-tainment” conventions via silent sound bites and the participation of celebrities in its campaigns. Consumption is viewed from the perspective of “consumer culture” that views consumption as mediation between the individual and the social. Consumer activism is one aspect of the convergence of activism and consumerism. “Activist consumerism,” in the form of repetitive participation in campaigns and as exemplified by MoveOn, is another aspect. MoveOn membership consists in “window shoppers,” “immobile activists,” and grassroots activists. Consumption practices can also be a form of dissent or resistance.
August 2006
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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