Selfie Democracy

Selfie Democracy

The New Digital Politics of Disruption and Insurrection

By Elizabeth Losh

How politicians' digital strategies appeal to the same fantasies of digital connection, access, and participation peddled by Silicon Valley.

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How politicians' digital strategies appeal to the same fantasies of digital connection, access, and participation peddled by Silicon Valley.

Smartphones and other digital devices seem to give us a direct line to politicians. But is interacting with presidential tweets really a manifestation of digital democracy? In Selfie Democracy, Elizabeth Losh examines the unintended consequences of politicians' digital strategies, from the Obama campaign's pioneering construction of an online community to Trump's Twitter dominance. She finds that politicians who use digital media appeal to the same fantasies of digital connection, access, and participation peddled by Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, smartphones and social media don't enable participatory democracy so much as they incentivize citizens to perform attention-getting acts of political expression.

Losh explores presidential rhetoric casting digital media as tools of democracy, describes the conflation of gender and technology that contributed to Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016, chronicles the Biden campaign's early digital stumbles in 2020, and recounts the TikTok campaign that may have spoiled a Trump rally. She shows that although Obama and Trump may seem diametrically opposed in both style and substance, they both used mobile digital media in ways that reshaped the presidency and promised a new kind of digital democracy. Obama used data and digital media to connect to citizens without intermediaries; Trump followed this strategy to its most extreme conclusion. What were the January 6 insurrectionists doing, as they livestreamed themselves and their cohorts attacking the Capitol, but practicing their own brand of selfie democracy?

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$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262047050 368 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 22 b&w illus.

Endorsements

  • “Dr. Losh provides thought-provoking criticism and helpful context about the potential of social media to improve the relationship between citizens and the leaders they elect.”

    Macon Phillips

    Founder of Starling Strategy, former Director of Digital Strategy for President Barack Obama

  • “With chilling logic, Losh reveals a disturbing window into the socio-technical dimensions of online political communication at the presidential level. Researchers, policymakers and anyone interested in social media use by presidential administrations will find this book a valuable, insightful, and compelling read.”

    Jane E. Fountain

    Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Author of Building the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change