Online Communities

Assessing the discursive legacy: online feminist communities

The third component, assessing the discursive legacy, will be operationalised through a snapshot analysis of the presence and content of feminist discourse on the internet, scanning Australian-based feminist websites, blogs and e-lists. This will include seeking information from website and list-owners concerning server statistics and traffic. Although important scholarship exists on the limitations of the internet in producing community (Calhoun 1998), the internet has been chosen for the case study in response to views that the web might be the source of the 3rd WWWave (Garrison 2000) or new feminist communities (Wajcman 2004).

Australian studies have shown how social movements other than the women’s movement are operating through the internet (eg Edwards 2005). We have chosen the internet as a site for exploring discursive impact in part because of the way the internet has been conceived as an alternative space for ‘new’ young women’s feminism (Harris 1998; 2003), as well as because the internet provides new resources for existing social movement organisations.

The study will begin by identifying appropriate cues for inclusion under the rubric of ‘feminist discourse’ even where feminism itself is not the obvious marker, as with the e-list linking national women's organisations. The findings of the internet case study will be analysed with a view to tracing changes in feminist discourse, specifically between generations of women (Maddison 2004). The findings will be tested against existing literature that explores expressions of feminist discourse in popular culture (eg Hollows & Mosely 2006), where concerns about the vulnerability of this legacy to market forces and the commodification of discourse are expressly addressed.

Frances Shaw is the member of the team with responsibility for developing the study of online feminist communities, as her doctoral project. She is supervised by Sarah Maddison.

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