In this brief book review, I discuss what I liked about Outside the Bubble: social media and political participation in western democracies, by Cristian Vaccari & Augusto Valeriani. Why not check it out, to see if you might like it too.
Outside the Bubble is a very welcome addition to research on the effects of digital media on political participation. Its findings provide an important counterpoint to much of the simplistic popular narratives about detrimental effects of digital media on participation. Especially by providing broad comparative evidence across nine countries, Vaccari and Valeriani provide an important template for future work, taking potential variations across countries and political contexts seriously instead of merely paying lip-service to the need for comparison.
Clearly, as the authors show, echo chambers and filter bubbles are the wrong metaphors to describe what most people experience in online communication environments. But this does not mean that those users who do, or those who enter largely homogenous environments at times do not experience specific effects, some beneficial some detrimental to political participation and democracy. Here, the work by Vaccari and Valeriani offers many promising points for moving forward.
Andreas Jungherr. 2022. Review of Cristian Vaccari & Augusto Valeriani (2021). Outside the Bubble: social media and political participation in western democracies. Journal of Information Technology & Politics. (Online First). doi:10.1080/19331681.2022.2136321