This essay explores the role of online communities and cyber-activism in fostering ‘real-life’ participation. It begins by revisiting a topic of controversy among citizenship studies scholars: the erosion vs. the expansion of citizenship and active participation instances in the past three decades. Arguably, participation in online communities is one of the most notable instances of reinventing active citizenship. While sceptics view the Internet and social capital as a contradiction in terms and deplore the waning of traditional communities, supporters of online participation emphasize the potential of the Internet to bring together people who would have otherwise never met in support of a cause. The second half of the essay will demonstrate that, in some cases, the actions of protest undertaken by online communities turn into “acts of citizenship” by challenging habitus, power and regulations (Isin, 2008). It will discuss the activity of Houses that Cry, a project created by architecture students in Bucharest in order to protect the architectural patrimony of the city. Their initiative can be considered an act of citizenship for two reasons: first, they shifted online protests from blogs and forums to the street, community and the media. Second, they transformed the protection of endangered historical buildings into a matter of public interest.
Visan, Laura C.
"Houses that Cry: Online Civic Participation in Post-Communist Romania,"
The McMaster Journal of Communication:
Vol. 7, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/mjc/vol7/iss1/3