Citizen politics (IV): New Mobilization Strategies

Notes from the workshop Citizen Politics: Are the New Media Reshaping Political Engagement? held in Barcelona, Spain, on May 28-30th, 2009. More notes on this event: citizen_politics_2009.

Assessing Internet Mobilization – A Methodological Approach for Integrating Web Analysis and Survey Data
Camilo Cristancho and Jorge Salcedo

Analysis on two demonstrations against the crisis: how were they organized and how were people mobilized.

How did you find out about this protest rally: face to face (44%), e-mail (31%), traditional media (15%), website (10%).

Online mobilization is received by the same profile of individuals who get mobilized by offline channels: participants are both activists and Internet users.

Online contact is limited to association networks. Organizations are more likely to use face-to-face and less likely to use e-mail.

Past participation types have an influence on future ways of contact: people that have taken action online are more likely to get e-mail. E-mail mobilization is linked to past forms of online engagement, though there is no previous consent to get these e-mails.

Surprisingly, on a second order mobilization, activists contacted online shifted to offline to propagate the message.

Associations which mobilize the majority of people do not have a high presence in cyberspace: there is an inverse relationship between presence and e-mail mobilization.

Internet mobilization has a great potential for expanding participation. On the other hand, need for visibility leads to clusterization and concentration.

Opt in or Tune out: Online Mobilization & Political Participation
Brian Krueger

There is a huge difference between solicited contact between online and offline models: online contact from mobilizing institutions is 62% unsolicited vs. 38% solicited. In offline contact, 24% is solicited and 76% is unsolicited. It thus looks like online activists are always “the same people”, and it is easier to expand your base for mobilization by going offline. At least in theory. At least in a first order of things.

Expanding participation by online means would then depend on several things, and it depends whether you want to activate the active (mobilization from solicited political e-mail) or you want to activate the inactive (mobilization from unsolicited political e-mail).

So, does unsolicited political e-mail induce individuals to participate in politics?

Unsolicited online mobilizing measures do not seem to have an influence on being actually mobilized. Same with offline, though, if it has any impact, it is more due to the system (being offline) than because of it being solicited or unsolicited.

There’s another point to be made: major institutions (parties, political organizations) do not normally engage in unsolicited mailing. This might be another reason why unsolicited e-mail is not effective: because it is used by already “marginal” organizations, so it’s the organization (not the means) what does not matter.

Research should be made on a 2-step mobilization process, where more focus is put on the role of friends and family, so that to avoid the appearance of spam. Need for more studies on peer-to-peer engagement.

The Impact of Online and Offline mobilization on Participation Modes
Sarah Vissers, Marc Hooghe, Dietlind Stolle and Valérie-Anne Mahéo

Is mobilization tool-specific or is there a spill-over effect of online mobilization on offline participation and of face-to-face mobilization on online participation and visa versa?

An experiment was designed with two organizations trying to mobilize (online and offline) two different groups of people (+ control group) to rally for environmental issues.

Results show that in the long run, mobilization rates drop, but for the group belonging to a lower socio-economic profile, the web (web tools) has a positive impact in maintaining mobilization rates.

For face to face, it always has a positive effect on both groups regardless of their socio-economic profile, but web mobilization has a negative effect in the long run in the higher socio-economic level group.


  • Effects of mobilization processes tend to be tool-specific.
  • Pre-existing levels of Internet skills had no effect on the mobilization potential of Web mobilization.
  • Strong differences between students and participants with lower socio-economic status. Mobilization most effective for least-mobilizsed and least-interested.


Andrew Chadwick (discussant): A distinction between impersonal unsolicited e-mail and interpersonal unsolicited e-mail. Where’s the line that separates spam from “ambient information”? What about the economy of time? We should do more research on the availability of time amongst activists, and see whether they go online because they cannot attend face-to-face meetings, or they precisely go online because they have plenty of time to commit in more ways. And also use time as a proxy of the degree of involvement of a specific individual in a specific action, and thus be able to compare offline and online activities with a common “currency”.


Citizen Politics workshop (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Citizen politics (IV): New Mobilization Strategies” In ICTlogy, #68, May 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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