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CFP: Understanding and Examining the Digital Advocacy Pioneers (University of Portsmouth )

March 30, 2018

Understanding and Examining the Digital Advocacy Pioneers

Dates: Thursday, 6 September — Friday, 7 September 2018

Location: University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Convenors: Dr James Dennis (University of Portsmouth) and Dr Nina Hall (Johns Hopkins University)

Sponsored by the Transnational Civil Society Project at the University of Portsmouth and the Political Studies Association Media and Politics Group.


Description and Objective

A new generation of digital advocacy organizations have emerged around the world including: 38 Degrees in the UK, MoveOn in the US; GetUp! in Australia and Amandla.Mobi in South Africa. These organizations all share the same basic organizational form: they are progressive, multi-issue, and membership-driven. These organizations are at the forefront of digital campaigning. They are pioneering the use of new technologies — be it WhatAapp, analytics, or Facebook — to rapidly mobilise people online and offline.  The activism fostered by these groups has fundamentally changed how groups mobilise and organize citizens for political engagement.

While research has been conducted on these campaigning groups independently within a national context (Chadwick and Dennis, 2017; Karpf, 2012; Vromen, 2017), there has been no research on the global network within which they operate: the Online Progresive Engagement Network (OPEN). Spanning six continents and mobilising over 17 million citizens, this workshop will bring together scholars researching these groups at the forefront of innovations in online campaigning. From established netroots organisations like Campact (Germany) and Leadnow (Canada), to newer groups such as Uplift (Ireland), amandla.mobi (South Africa), ActionStation (New Zealand), Skiftet (Sweden), #aufstehn (Austria), and Campax (Switzerland), this workshop seeks to document the evolution of online organising and digital campaigning across the world. This workshop marks the first gathering of scholars working in this area.

We are delighted to host Andrew Chadwick (The Hybrid Media System), David Karpf (The MoveOn Effect) and Ariadne Vromen (Digital Citizenship and Political Engagement) for the workshop, three leading scholars in this area.

We are keen to attract new theoretical and empirical inquiries that examine:

  • How these groups are shaping contemporary political participation (e.g. the influence on campaigning tactics adopted by other political organisations).
  • The origins and evolution of new OPEN organisations, such as #aufstehn, ActionStation, Uplift, and Campax.
  • The OPEN Movement, and how these campaigning groups operate at the global level.
  • Case studies of particular campaigns, illustrating the working practices of these activist groups.
  • How and why citizens engage with these organisations, and what this means for broader questions about democratic citizenship.
  • How these organisations contribute to debates surrounding slacktivism/clicktivism.
  • The relationships formed between netroots organisations and political parties, professional media, and legacy interest groups.
  • What counts as “success” and “impact” for these organisations.
  • The role of affect, emotion, and personal identity within campaigns.


Please email your proposals to james.dennis@port.ac.uk and nhall@jhu.edu. Proposals should include the following: title and name, institutional affiliation, and email address, together with a paper title and abstract of not more than 500 words. Proposers should also indicate whether or not they are current postgraduate students. No fees will be required for this workshop.


Key dates

  • March 30, 2018: 500-word paper proposals due. Please email your proposals to james.dennis@port.ac.uk and nhall@jhu.edu
  • April 27, 2018: Authors informed of selection and invitations issued.
  • May 18, 2018: Send confirmation of willingness to participate.
  • August 3, 2018: Full workshop papers emailed to James and Nina.
  • September 6-7, 2018: Workshop
  • December 2018: Request for revised papers for special issue.


Outputs from the workshop

We are in discussion with relevant journals for a special issue. If successful, submissions for the workshop will be considered and full papers invited in December 2018.


March 30, 2018
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