Jen Schradie – The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives
February 25th, 2020 - 6:00 pm to 7:20 pm
Building 200, Room 203, Lane History Corner
450 Jane Stanford Way
Stanford, CA 94305
The internet has been hailed as a leveling force that is reshaping activism. From the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, digital activism seemed cheap, fast, and open to all. Now this celebratory narrative finds itself competing with an increasingly sinister story as platforms like Facebook and Twitter—once the darlings of digital democracy—are on the defensive for their role in promoting fake news. While hashtag activism captures headlines, conservative digital activism is proving more effective on the ground. Schradie’s talk, based on her book, The Revolution That Wasn’t (Harvard University Press), identifies the reasons behind this previously undiagnosed digital-activism gap. Large hierarchical political organizations with professional staff can amplify their digital impact, while horizontally organized volunteer groups tend to be less effective at translating online goodwill into meaningful action. Not only does technology fail to level the playing field, it tilts it further, so that only the most sophisticated and well-funded players can compete. The findings from her southern case U.S. case – from both online quantitative data analysis and offline in-depth ethnographic observations and interviews – have national and even international implications for a growing right-wing populist movement.
The Comm230X +1 Speaker Series highlights evolving perspectives at the intersection of the social sector, digital technology, and contemporary society. Winter 2020 speakers are experts from social sector organizations and from the fields of law, journalism, technology, and policy, including Jen Schradie, Catherine Sandoval, and Victoria Baines. Topics covered in the series include journalism, criminal justice, technology use in the social sector, cyber security, technology policy, and digital activism & conservativism.
Dinner served. Please RSVP above.
Jen Schradie is an Assistant Professor at the Observatoire sociologique du changement (OSC) at Sciences Po in Paris. Previously, she was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, based at the Toulouse School of Economics, as well as at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, Université de Toulouse. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods with online and offline data, she contextualizes disparities in participation in digital society. Her broad research agenda is to interrogate digital democracy claims with empirical data.
Jen Schradie is a sociologist at the Observatoire sociologique du changement at Sciences Po in Paris. Her work has been featured on CNN and the BBC and in the New Yorker, Newsweek, Vox, Washington Post, WIRED and Time, among other media. She was awarded the Public Sociology Alumni Prize at the University of California, Berkeley, and has directed six documentary films. After a career as a documentary filmmaker, Schradie received a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School and her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in Sociology and New Media. Her research challenges both digital democracy utopia or internet villain dystopia. Instead, she finds societal structures of class inequality, bureaucratic institutions, and political ideology can all drive internet use.
Her research areas span the digital divide, digital activism, and digital labor. Her current comparative project focuses on gender and class differences in the start-up economy in France and the U.S., and another examines hate speech online against Muslims. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods with online and offline data, she contextualizes disparities and variation of participation in digital society.
Schradie has a new book with Harvard University Press, The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives. While hashtag activism captures headlines, conservative digital activism, especially with right-wing populist groups, is proving more effective on the ground. In this counterintuitive study, Schradie shows how the internet has become another weapon in the arsenal of the powerful, particularly conservatives. She has published peer-reviewed research in top sociology and communication journals, such as Social Problems and the International Journal of Communication.