Karin
Tusting,
The
University
of
Lancaster

Hosted by The Centre for the Study of New Literacies

3rd
May
2012
@
12.15
‐
2.00pm
Room
7.02
Internet forum as community of practice and as political voice: Researching Mumsnet
Mumsnet is a UK parenting forum which attracts 20,000 posts a day. Over the decade or so of its existence, users of the site have developed a distinctive community identity which sets it apart from many of the other online parenting fora. Discursive practices associated with sentimentality or ‘fluffiness’ are resisted, while swearing and robust discussion, frowned upon and moderated out by many competing sites, are common. This ‘spiky’ identity is explicitly recognised and oriented to by participants. Mumsnet has also more recently become a force in the public sphere. As a site thought to give access to a key ‘floating voter’ electoral demographic, engagement on Mumsnet has become a necessary part of political campaigning and activity. Every major party leader participated in a Mumsnet webchat before the last election. The site also runs its own campaigns, and discussions started here can have the power to shape the news agenda. This paper will explore the relationships between the nature of this self-reflexive community, as constructed by the dominant discursive practices on the site, and the voice of Mumsnet as it is represented in the public sphere. It will ask what this forum can tell us about the extent to which new technologies and social media are changing the possibilities for and nature of participation in political debate.

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