Yannis Theocharis
Is Digitally Networked Participation a Form of Political Participation?

Conference "Conceptualizing Political Participation", MZES, Mannheim, 25. bis 26. September 2014

The conceptualisation and measurement of political participation has been an issue vibrantly debated for more than 50 years. Recent social and technological advances, and more specifically the expansion of opportunities for participation and the rise of the internet, have come to add important parameters to the debate, seemingly complicating matters further. The present paper argues that digitally networked participation - and its manifestations - is a form of political participation and should be conceptualised, and measured as one. Relying on the conceptual map of participation proposed by van Deth (2014), it shows how various common manifestations of digitally networked participation conform to minimalist, targeted and motivational definitions. Tackling common misconceptions about the value of such acts, the paper argues that non-political forms of digitally networked participation often evolve to become specimens of political pressure that can occasionally be far more impactful than forms of participation commonly accepted as political. The paper concludes by recommending the systematic development of measures for digitally networked participation and its formal integration in the study of participation through large-scale comparative surveys.