Carnegie Mellon University

   Jason Gainous 

Special Election Seminar

Tuesday November 3, 2020 4pm-5pm EDT

Talk Title: Directed Digital Dissidence in Autocracies: How China’s Digital Strategy Wins

Zoom Conferencing: REGISTER HERE

Abstract: Scholars have debated the consequences of the Internet for democracy and citizen activism since its advent. With the ubiquitous rise of social media around the globe, this debate has further blossomed. Does the Internet fundamentally change the flow of politically relevant information, and as a result, alter the attitudes and behavior of citizens? We argue here that the answer to this question is a definitive yes. Particularly, we make the case that the Internet largely via social media facilitates the flow of dissident information in authoritarian regimes, and that government control over this flow, is critical for them to maintain their hegemony. We assert a theory that we are calling Directed Digital Dissidence to explain this process and its mass consequences. In a non-democratic state like China, where citizens’ opportunity to defend their rights is limited, they often resort to lodging complaints about the local government to the central government by using the rhetoric and commitments of the central government. The central government allows, and even encourages, this kind of dissidence because it gives citizens a place to express dissent while simultaneously confirming and reinforcing the legitimacy of the authoritarian state. We are interested in how this strategy plays out in the digital environment. We use original survey data to suggest that the expansion of the Internet both stimulates dissent and provides the central government an avenue to direct that dissent toward local governments, and away from the central government. This allows the government to give citizens a voice while maintaining their central authority. This is Directed Digital Dissidence.

Bio: Dr. Jason Gainous’ research focuses on information technology and politics. He has published two books, one with Oxford University Press (Tweeting to Power: The Social Media Revolution in American Politics) and one with Rowman and Littlefield (Rebooting American Politics: The Internet Revolution). He has also published various articles in journals including American Politics Research, Democratization, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Political Behavior, Political Research Quarterly, Political Communication, Social Science Quarterly, and Statistical Science among others. His research has won awards from the American Political Science Association, the Kentucky Political Science Association, the Southwestern Social Science Association, and the Florida Political Science Association. The University of Louisville has also honored him with their most prestigious award for research and creative activity. Dr. Gainous is also the Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Information Technology & Politics. He did his undergraduate work at Florida Atlantic University before receiving a Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida.