The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives

Mon, Nov 4, 2019, 12:00 pm
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"null"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. She received her PhD from the Department of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley with a designated emphasis in New Media from the Berkeley Center for New Media. She also has a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School. Her broad research agenda is to interrogate digital democracy claims with empirical data. Despite recent panic about digital threats to democracy, many theorists have still suggested that the Internet can enable a more participatory, pluralist society, but her research challenges these claims, spanning three areas: the digital divide, digital activism, and digital labor. Schradie has found that inequalities, ideologies, and institutions shape participation in our new information society.

Due out this spring from Harvard University Press, The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives, traces what she calls the Digital Activism Gap. Rather than early utopian claims of Facebook and Twitter Revolutions or more recent dystopian ones of Russian bots, state-sponsored hacking, or fake news farms, she reveals a more insidious problem. Instead of the internet spawning democracy or then taking it away, it does not have a life of its own. A Digital Activism Gap is driven by social class inequalities, organizational hierarchies, and reformist conservatism. The prototype of the radical left digital protester did not fit the mold of the 34 groups she studied in North Carolina. Digital activists were much more likely to be Tea Party members than student anarchists. These findings challenge the view of the internet as a pluralist space for social movements. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, has also generated three journal articles in The International Journal of CommunicationSocial Problems and Social Media + Society.

She has published four articles on what she coined as “digital production inequality.” After articles on this topic were published in Poetics and Information, Communication and Society, the publicity she garnered from these publications earned her the 2012 Public Sociology Alumni Prize at UC Berkeley. Currently, she is examining egalitarian claims of tech start-up entrepreneurs in a comparative research project between France and the United States.

Her current projects are on the digital economy – a comparative study between France and the United States and the role of the state in mediating risk with start-ups, with a focus on gender and class inequality. She is also working on a European Commission funded project with partners in the UK and Italy to analyze online hate speech against Muslims.

Before entering academia, Schradie directed six documentary films, including, “The Golf War – a story of land, golf and revolution in the Philippines.” Most of her films, however, focused on social movements confronting corporate power in the American rural South. Schradie’s documentaries have screened at more than 25 film festivals and 100 universities. She is also a beginning banjo player and an occasional yoga teacher.