Mutual affordances: the dynamics between social media and populism

Jeroen Hopster

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Abstract

In a recent contribution to this journal Paolo Gerbaudo has argued that an ‘elective affinity’ exists between social media and populism. The present article expands on Gerbaudo’s argument and examines various dimensions of this affinity in further detail. It argues that it is helpful to conceptually reframe the proposed affinity in terms of affordances. Four affordances are identified which make the social media ecology relatively favourable to both-right as well as left-wing populism, compared to the pre-social media ecology. These affordances are neither stable nor uniquely fixed: they change in concordance with ongoing technological developments and in response to political events. Even though these dynamics can be quick-moving, a fairly stable alliance of interests between social media and populism seems to have emerged over the last decade. This raises the plausibility that as long as the current social media ecology persists, populist tendencies will remain prevalent in politics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • affordances
  • algorithms
  • attention economy
  • populism
  • socially disruptive technologies
  • social media

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