Beyond Web-based Memorialization

Politics of web space and archivability are two issues which I had to grapple with when I began my research on e-petitioning. In my attempt to examine defining characteristics in successful e-petitions, I first decided to do a comparative analysis of successful and unsuccessful e-petitions from two popular e-petitioning websites. But, I soon realized that the two chosen websites do not archive unsuccessful or failed e-petitions. Even though such initial setbacks can be frustrating, they highlight the need for considering certain discrete protocols underneath the largely democratic persona of social media platforms. Despite users’ ability to create content on social media platforms, content production and content ownership are two different cogs in the wheel. Who is the real owner of social media content? If I want to access a post on my blog from five years ago, I should be able to find it in the archives. But how does one find failed e-petitions on free e-petitioning websites? Why would such leading platforms contending for the top spot make such information openly available on their space when it could potentially affect their member base?

So, given the limitation, I decided to focus solely on successful e-petitions and the role of gender and topic in their success. Aside from selecting successful e-petitions based on the self-reported petitioner gender and topic of the e-petition, the seven characteristics delineated in the Foot, Warnick, and Schneider (2005) article on Web-based memorialization would help inform the process of content analyses.

Aside from the first two dimensions (focus/topic and content producer), the voice of the petition would be a critical parameter in determining whether and to what extent univocal or multivocal content are effective. While univocal narratives are the norm when it comes to petitioning because of the positive impact of a unified voice, it might be interesting to know how multivocal narratives in petitions written by one author affects it success. Furthermore, information on the intended audience and positioning of the affected party would decidedly impact the narrative. The dimension of fixity could be important in learning if fixed or dynamic content in these successful e-petitions affected their outcome in any way. That is, if addition of new content or modification brought about increased number of signatures at a given time? Lastly, immediacy of production could be another factor determining success in addition to the sociopolitical environment. For instance, an e-petition pleading media to boycott Donald Trump would possibly garner more support right now than one urging the food industry to ban GMO ingredients.

Therefore, even though per the assertions of the researchers of the above-mentioned 2005 article that their findings are not generalizable, the proposed framework could be applied to computer-mediated communication phenomena other than Web-based memorializing.

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