The dark side of online participation: Exploring non-, passive and negative participation.

Lutz, C., & Hoffmann, C. P. (2017). The dark side of online participation: Exploring non-, passive and negative participation. Information, Communication & Society, 20(6), 876-897. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1293129

Studies on the ‘second-level digital divide’ explore the socio-economic antecedents and effects of (a lack of) user participation on the Internet. At the same time, some have criticized a normatively affirmative bias in online participation research as well as a one-sided focus on observable user activity. This contribution addresses the ensuing call for a more nuanced understanding of online participation in general, and online political participation in particular. We differentiate the online participation concept based on a focus group study among 96 Internet users from a broad range of social backgrounds in Germany. We derive a framework of eight types of online (non-)participation along three conceptual axes: activity, agency, and social valence. Taking user experiences and terminology into account, we differentiate participation from non-participation, active from passive and positive from negative (non-)participation. The proposed typology allows for a more balanced evaluation and more focused exploration of phenomena such as destructive or involuntary online participation as well as online abstention, boycotts, self-censorship, lurking, or digital exclusion.