Dr. Joel Penney (associate professor, School of Communication and Media) received the 2018 Best Book Award in Information Technology and Politics from the American Political Science Association for his book The Citizen Marketer: Promoting Political Opinion in the Social Media Age,” in which he explores how everyday people use social media to persuade and change the minds of their peers in the political sphere. Since being published by the Oxford University Press, The Citizen Marketer has received acclaim for its depiction of how people use political communication through the lens of social media in the digital age.
From hashtag activism to the flood of political memes on social media, the landscape of political communication is being transformed by the grassroots circulation of opinion on digital platforms and beyond. By exploring how everyday people assist in the promotion of political media messages to persuade their peers and shape the public mind, Penney offers a new framework for understanding the phenomenon of viral political communication.
While marketing is considered a dirty word in certain critical circles — particularly among segments of the left that have identified neoliberal market logics and consumer capitalist structures as a major focus of political struggle — some of these very critics have determined that the most effective way to push back against the forces of neoliberal capitalism is to co-opt its own marketing and advertising techniques to spread counter-hegemonic ideas to the public. Dr. Penney argues that the citizen marketer approach to political action is much broader than any one ideological constituency or bloc. Rather, it is a means of promoting a wide range of political ideas, including those that are broadly critical of elite uses of marketing in consumer capitalist societies. The book includes an extensive historical treatment of citizen-level political promotion in modern democratic societies, connecting contemporary digital practices to both the 19th century tradition of mass political spectacle as well as more informal, culturally-situated forms of political expression that emerge from postwar countercultures. By investigating the logics and motivations behind the citizen marketer approach, as well as how it has developed in response to key social, cultural, and technological changes, Penney charts the evolution of activism in an age of mediatized politics, promotional culture, and viral circulation. You can read more at citizenmarketer.org.