New book explores 'Facebook Democracy'

CLU professor studied site's impact on politics

José Marichal's book, “Facebook Democracy: The Architecture of Disclosure and the Threat to Public Life,” will be released in late August.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Aug. 8, 2012) A California Lutheran University professor is the author of a new book that examines the impact of Facebook on democracy.

London-based Ashgate Press is scheduled to release “Facebook Democracy: The Architecture of Disclosure and the Threat to Public Life” by José Marichal, an associate professor of political science, in late August.

Despite high interest in politics and social media, there has been little academic work on Facebook’s impact on politics and, in particular, on democratic processes. The work that does exist has centered on Facebook's impact as a mobilization tool used by social movement activists.

Marichal’s book looks at how the Facebook revolution is transforming democratic citizens. Drawing on an ethnographic analysis of 250 Facebook political groups, he explores how the site’s emphasis on social connection affects key dimensions of political participation including mobilization, deliberation and attitude formation.

The Thousand Oaks resident argues that Facebook’s “architecture of disclosure” shapes users’ political identities by drawing them further into their pre-selected social networks.

Marichal examines both the potential and the problems associated with Facebook when it comes to political discourse. Facebook’s business model calls for creating an affirming environment so that people want to stay there, not one that lends itself to challenging discourse. He found that people who do talk about politics on Facebook usually do it to vent rather than mobilize people. The structure of Facebook also encourages conversations about how people feel about issues rather than what should be done about them.

A member of the CLU faculty since 2004, Marichal teaches courses on politics and the Internet, politics and race, public policy, community development and California politics. He launched the multidisciplinary blog ThickCulture, which is sponsored by Contexts magazine. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and communication from Florida State University, a master’s in political science from Florida Atlantic University and a doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.