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Palgrave Macmillan

Online Communities and Crowds in the Rise of the Five Star Movement

  • Book
  • © 2020


  • Explains the complex relationship between an intensive use of Internet services and feelings of political disempowerment
  • Presents an in-depth case study of Italy’s Five Star Movement
  • Questions the assumption that the Internet is a source of unconditional democratising power

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Table of contents (7 chapters)


About this book

This book reflects on the political capacity of citizen users to impact politics, explaining the danger in assuming that mass online participation has unconditionally democratising effects. Focusing on the case of Italy's Five Star Movement, the book argues that Internet participation is naturally unequal and, without normative and strong design efforts, Internet platforms can generate noisy, undemocratic crowds instead of self-reflexive, norm-bounded communities. The depiction of a democratising Internet can be easily exploited by those who manage these platforms to sell crowds as deliberating publics. As the Internet, almost everywhere, turns into the primary medium for political engagement, it also becomes the symbol of what is wrong with politics. Internet users experience unprecedented, instantaneous and personalised access to information and communication and, by comparison, they feel a much stronger level of irrelevance in the existing political system.


“This book provides a nuanced and compelling analysis of how digital media empowered both activists and elites during the unprecedented ascent of the Five Star Movement in Italian politics. Francesco Bailo’s book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how the internet is changing democratic participation.” (Cristian Vaccari, Professor of Political Communication, Loughborough University)

“Francesco Bailo has written a fascinating book that raises important and interesting questions about the changing nature of political participation and organisation. The account of asymmetric online deliberation reminds us of the vulnerable potential of digital communication media.” (Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication, University of Leeds)

Authors and Affiliations

  • School of Communication, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia

    Francesco Bailo

About the author

Francesco Bailo is Lecturer of Digital and Social Media at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. His research focuses on the use of digital and social media in politics. He obtained his PhD in 2017 at the University of Sydney, Australia.

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