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Political Consumerism 2.0: Towards A Participative Panopticon

Nicolas Baygert
Université catholique de Louvain
Nicolas Baygert
Université catholique de Louvain
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Abstract

Web 2.0 devices such as Facebook or Twitter allow a horizontal relationship between ‘political brands’ and citizen-consumers. A new political communication paradigm, in which the online behaviour of citizen-consumers becomes a significant issue, requires political parties to respect the balance between brand exposure and participativeness. In fact, in a context of political ‘dedifferentiation’ as regards other consumption practices, individuals develop into ‘prosumers’ (Bolz, 2002): they produce their own consumption, thereby shaping the political offer. This proactive virtual audience may also generate new organised forms of political action, with the emergence of grassroots movements at the outskirts of the traditional political spectrum. Hence, examples such as the contagious rise of the Tea Party in the US and the emergence of several European look-alikes, already reveal how a protest nebula of virtually aggregated political consumers, may seek to influence the public debate. As a result, this ‘counter-opinion’ judging political action in real-time, demands a permanent vigilance from political brands as regards their "digital reputation”. The Web 2.0 indeed coincides with an absence of privacy for political representatives: all forms of discourses or events involving politicians are to be discussed and digested in real time. This 2.0 assessment of politics makes the internet a genuine battlefield where parties and representatives are also subject to virtual agitators, scamming or smearing. Overall, these trends lead to the gradual legitimacy decrease of representativeness losing ground on a new form of plebiscite democracy, which seems better adapted to this political consumerism 2.0.