LE LABORATOIRE DE RECHERCHE EN SCIENCES DE L’INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION DU CELSA
EA 1498
Chapitre

Digital Parrhesia as a Counterweight to Astroturfing

François Allard-Huver, Nicholas Gilewicz
Online Credibility and Digital Ethos: Evaluating Computer-Mediated Communication, IGI Global, 2013, 215-227

Astroturfing—fake grassroots communications about an issue of public interest—is further problematized in digital space. Because digitally mediated communication easily accommodates pseudonymous and anonymous speech, digital ethos depends upon finding the proper balance between the ability to create pseudonymous and anonymous online presences and the public need for transparency in public speech. Analyzing such content requires analyzing media forms and the honesty of speakers themselves. This chapter applies Michel Foucault’s articulation of parrhesia—the ability to speak freely and the concomitant public duties it requires of speakers—to digital communication. It first theorizes digital parrhesia, then outlines a techno-semiotic methodological approach with which researchers—and the public—can consider online advocacy speech. The chapter then analyzes two very different instances of astroturfing using this techno-semiotic method in order to demonstrate the generalizability of the theory of digital parresia, and the utility of the techno-semiotic approach.

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