PhD Thesis proposal

Who are the WhatsAppers? Reinventing Political Participation in the Twenty-First Century

Supervisor/s: João Arriscado Nunes and Jesús Sabariego

Doctoral Programme: Democracy in the Twenty-first Century

Funding: FCT

This PhD research investigates how the WhatsApp appropriation is redesigning political participation and resistance today. I argue that a new type of political activist is emerging amongst contemporary social movements: the WhatsApper, a digital activist who intensely appropriates the chat app leveraging its affordances for participation in political life. The theorecthical framework combines digital sociology and digital activism to investigate identities, action repertoires, organizational forms and the social-technical imaginaries of resistance movements in Brazil and Portugal. The qualitative approach includes a digital ethnography of selected WhatsApp groups, a content analysis of a sample chat conversations, and a number of semi-structured interviews with WhatsAppers. This project will focus on making apparent that WhatsApp is not only a chat app for "hanging out" with like-minded people, but also the battlefield itself for the political struggle and a central element guiding collective action today.

Keywords: WhatsAppers, Digital Sociology, Digital Activism, Data Ethics.