Cultural activism : A content analysis of popular culture petitions on Change.org Spain

Marta Pérez-Escolar, Alejandro Tapia-Frade, Javier Lozano-Delmar

Abstract

The digital platforms for citizen mobilisation host a multitude of protest petitions with different purposes and intentions. In this complex and pluralistic context, this study analyses the success of citizen-driven initiatives on Change.org Spain, as this platform appears to have become one of the most consequential participative websites in Spain, especially for petitions that are related to popular culture. To this end, this study used a quantitative content analysis method to examine a total of 304 petitions. The main results reveal some communication weaknesses of Change.org Spain as an important platform for cyber-activism. Specifically, troll petitions—joking messages that adulterate the seriousness of fan dynamics—are as impactful as fan or antifan initiatives; as a result, Change.org Spain has certain communicative deficiencies as a model cyber-activist channel. On the other hand, there are a significant number of non-diegetic petitions: the fandom profile is more concerned with issues outside popular culture than about modifying or changing the content. Finally, our findings show that, in general, the most successful popular culture initiatives are better written and include a longer title and text than closed initiatives, regardless of whether they were part of fan or antifan movements. In short, this study concludes that the length and linguistic correctness are relevant and meaningful elements that determine the success or failure of popular culture petitions on Change.org Spain, while all other variables (addresser, audiovisual elements, popular culture community type and type of actions) were not significant in determining the success or failure of the e-petition. In general, most of the petitions are not successful, typically use images, usually address issues related to music, are extradiegetic, contain linguistic errors and are addressed to an individual.

Keywords

cyber-activism; cultural activism; popular culture; fans; antifans; civic participation

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