Lurkers and the Fantasy of Persuasion in an Online Cultural Public Sphere

  • Jakob Svensson


This contribution revolves around political discussions in forum discussion threads on the Swedish online LGBTQ community platform, Qruiser. Political discussions in these online forum threads are studied as cultural participation in an online cultural public sphere. The specific question the chapter seeks to answer is what role so-called lurkers play for active participants’ meaning-making practices. Lurkers could be understood as a fantasy, an imagined audience willing to listen and be persuaded by active participants’ arguments. However, applying a Lacan inspired analytical framework, the chapter will conclude that the fantasy is not so much about the lurkers themselves (that may be imagined or just invisible), but the belief in persuasion. Hence, the answer to the question of why users participate in verbal battles with each other online would be because they are driven by a fantasy of persuasion as a way to cope with the lack of enjoyment in terms of them being split from a harmonious world of political unity.


Cultural participation Fantasy Lurking LGBTQ community Political discussions 



This research project around has been supported by the Nils Eric Svensson foundation and the Torsten Amudsson foundation.


  1. Abercrombie N, Longhurst B (1998) Audiences. A sociological theory of performance and imagination. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Akdogan I (2012) Digital-political fantasies in Istanbul. An analysis of the perceived role of ICT in changing institutional politics, activism, and identity. Doctoral thesis, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. Accessed 10 Apr 2016
  3. Anderson B (2006) Imagined communities. Verso, London. First published 1983Google Scholar
  4. Andersson E (2013) Det politiska rummet. Villkor för situationspolitisk socialisation i en nätgemenskap av och för ungdomar. Doctoral thesis, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden. Accessed 3 Oct 2014
  5. Arendt H (1998) The human condition, 2nd edn. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. First published 1958CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brake DR (2012) Who do they think they’re talking to? Framings of the audience by social media users. Int J Commun 6(2012):1056–1076Google Scholar
  7. Carpentier N (2011a) Media and participation. A site of ideological-democratic struggle. Intellect, BristolCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carpentier N (2011b) Policy’s hubris: power, fantasy and the limits of global media policy interventions. In: Mansell R, Raboy M (eds) The handbook of global media and communication policy. Blackwell, Chichester, pp 113–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carpentier N (2014) ‘Fuck the clowns from Greece!!’ Fantasies of participation and agency in YouTube comments on a Cypriot Problem documentary. Inf Commun Soc 17(8):1001–1016CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chee WP, Atreyi K, Bernard CYT (2015) What motivates contributors vs. lurkers? An investigation of Online Feedback Forums. Inf Syst Res 26(4):773–792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dahlgren P, Alvares C (2013) Political participation in an age of mediatisation. Towards a new research agenda. Javnost Public 20(2):47–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dewey J (1927) The public and its problems. Ohio University Press, AthensGoogle Scholar
  13. Dryzek JS (2000) Deliberative democracy and beyond; liberals, critics, contestations. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Edelmann N (2012, September) Lurkers as actors in online political communication. Paper presented at Communicazione Politica: Il perimetro della democrazia in rete. A che punto è il dibatittio? XXVI Convegno SISP, Rome, Italy. Accessed 13 Apr 2016
  15. Edelmann N (2013) Reviewing the definitions of “lurkers” and some implications for online research. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 16(9):645–649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Foucault M (1994) The political technology of individuals. In: Faubion JD (ed) Power – essential works of Foucault 1954-1984, vol 3. Penguin Books, London, pp 403–417. First published 1988Google Scholar
  17. Fridlund AJ (1991) Sociality of solitary smiling: potentiation by an implicit audience. J Pers Soc Psychol 60(2):229–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Geertz C (1973) The interpretation of cultures. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Glynos J, Stavrikakis Y (2008) Lacan and political subjectivity: fantasy and enjoyment in psychoanalysis and political theory. Subjectivity 2008(24):256–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Graham T (2009) What’s wife swap got to do with it? Talking politics in the net-based public sphere. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Retrieved from
  21. Gross L (2007) Foreword. In: O’Riordan K, Phillips DJ (eds) Queer online. Media technology and sexuality. Peter Lang, New York, pp vii–vixGoogle Scholar
  22. Habermas J (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere: an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. Polity Press, Cambridge. First published 1962Google Scholar
  23. Habermas J (1996) Kommunikativt handlande; Texter om språk rationalitet och samhälle, 2nd edn. Daidalos, GöteborgGoogle Scholar
  24. Hermes J (2005) Re-reading popular culture. Blackwell, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hermes J (2006) Hidden debates: rethinking the relationship between popular culture and the public sphere. Javnost Public 13(4):27–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kozinets R (2011) Netnografi. Studentlitteratur, LundGoogle Scholar
  27. Kücük M (2010) Lurking in online asynchronous discussion. Procedia Soc Behav Sci 2(2010):2260–2263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Laclau E, Mouffe C (1985) Hegemony and socialist strategy. Verso, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Lai H-M, Chen TT (2014) Knowledge sharing in interest online communities: a comparison of posters and lurkers. Comput Hum Behav 35(2014):295–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Litt E (2012) Knock, knock. Who’s there? The imagined audience. J Broadcast Electron Media 56(3):330–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marwick AE, Boyd D (2010) I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media Soc 13(1):114–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McGuigan J (2005) The cultural public sphere. Eur J Cult Stud 8(4):427–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morozov E (2011) The net delusion: how not to liberate the world. Penguin Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Mouffe C (1993) The return of the political, 2005th edn. Verso, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Mouffe C (2005) On the political. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Nielsen J (2006, October 9) 90-9-1 Rule for participation inequality: lurkers vs. contributors in Internet communities (Web log post). Accessed 15 Apr 2016
  37. Nonnecke B, Preece J (2003) Silent participants: getting to know lurkers better. In: Lueg C, Fischer D (eds) From Usenet to CoWebs – interacting with social information spaces. Springer, London, pp 110–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pariser E (2011) The filter bubble: what the internet is hiding from you. Penguin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  39. Preece J, Nonnecke B, Andrews D (2004) The top five reasons for lurking: improving community experiences for everyone. Comput Hum Behav 20(2004):201–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Puar JK (2007) Terrorist Assembalges. Homonationalism in Queer Times. Duke University Press, DurhamCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shirky C (2009) Here comes everybody: how change happen when people come together. Penguin Books Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  42. Stavrakakis Y (1999) Lacan and the political. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  43. Street J (1997) Politics and popular culture. Temple University Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  44. Svensson J (2013) What kind of cultural citizenship? Dissent and antagonism when discussing politics in an online gay community. In: Casteknovo W, Ferrari E (eds) Proceedings of the 13th European conference on eGovernment ECEG2013. Academic Conferences and Publishing International Ltd., Reading, pp 674–680Google Scholar
  45. Svensson J (2014) Polarizing participation frames. A study of political participation in a gay community. eJ eDemocr 6(2):166–181Google Scholar
  46. Svensson J (2015) Participation as a pastime. Political discussions in a queer community online. Javnost Public 22(3):283–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Svensson J (2017) Gay the correct way. Mundane queer flaming practices when discussing politics online. In: Dhoest A, Szulc L, Eeckhout B (eds) LGBTs media and culture in Europe. Routledge, London, pp 192–207Google Scholar
  48. Van Zoonen L (2005) Entertaining the citizen: when politics and popular culture converge. Rowman & Littlefield, LanmhamGoogle Scholar
  49. Van Zoonen L (2012) I-Pistemology: changing truth claims in popular and political culture. Eur J Commun 27(1):56–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wojcieszak M, Mutz D (2009) Online groups and political discourse. Do online spaces facilitate exposure to political disagreement? J Commun 59:40–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wright S (2012) From “third place” to “third space”: everyday political talk in non-political online spaces. Javnost Public 19(3):5–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Malmö UniversityMalmöSweden

Personalised recommendations