Yannis Theocharis
The Conceptualization of Digitally Networked Participation

Social Media + Society, 2015: 1, issue 2, pp. 1-14
ISSN: 2056-3051 (online)

The conceptualization and measurement of political participation has been an issue vibrantly debated for more than 50 years. The arrival of digital media came to add important parameters to the debate complicating matters further. Digital media have added inexhaustive creative and nonpolitical ways to engage in social and political life that not only often appear to form the basis of political participation but also, in a plethora of everyday contexts, seem to become embedded into what eventually evolves to become a politically meaningful act. This article argues that digitally networked participation—and its manifestations—is a form of political participation and should be conceptualized, identified, and measured as one. Relying on recent conceptual and empirical work, it shows how various common manifestations of digitally networked participation conform to minimalist, targeted, and motivational definitions of political participation. Finally, tackling common misconceptions about the value of such acts, this article argues that nonpolitical forms of digitally networked participation can occasionally be far more impactful than forms of participation commonly accepted as political. This article concludes by recommending the systematic development of measures for digitally networked participation and its formal integration in the study of political participation.