People. Power. Change. 38 Degrees and Digital Micro-Activism on Social Media

Photo by  38 Degrees  /  CC

Photo by 38 Degrees / CC


With a membership of over three million, 38 Degrees is a significant force in British politics. A member of the Online Progressive Engagement Network (OPEN), 38 Degrees uses email, e-petitions, and increasingly social media to offer membership-driven campaigning. Drawing upon a three-month participant observation, ethnographic data from interviews with staff and members, as well as campaign emails, social media data, and online news articles, Dennis examines how 38 Degrees seek to avoid slacktivism through their mobilisation strategy. By exploring the group’s use of social media across the continuum of participation model, this chapter challenges the attitudinal and behavioural claims of the slacktivist critique. In what Dennis describes as the organisational management of digital micro-activism, the leadership creates opportunities for meaningful participation through its use of Facebook and Twitter. Members use social media to guide the strategic direction of the group, to mobilise wider publics, and for direct action. Rather than acting on the basis of reputation management, members mobilise around issues of personal relevance. However, when a campaign requires strong-tie relationships that are built around a collective identity, these democratic shortcuts prove less useful.

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