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By Dewe, Johan; Karlgren, Jussi; Bretan, Ivan

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As some of this research showed that younger, white men were the earliest adopters, worries of addiction began to capture the public’s interest: Would these young men waste away, lonely and pale, in their basements, only talking to other isolates online? Research that suggested trade-offs between the time spent online and the time spent engaged in other more traditional activities fueled public concern (Nie and Erbring 2000). Other skeptical commentators wondered about the oddity of a virtual environment that could offer potentially socially significant levels of anonymity and allow people to impersonate social identities different from their own: What could we make of a “world” where men could be women, women could be men, and anyone could choose their race?

In part, this is due to simple oversight by these fields, and in part, we believe this is due to the way that scholars select online cases to study. As we discuss at greater length at the end of this chapter, this book concentrates on e-tactics because we view them as both an analytically and empirically privileged place for examining online protest dynamics. Most important, e-tactics are actions that have some characteristics in common with e-movements, but Where We Have Been and Where We Are Headed 31 others in common with e-mobilizations: they’re firmly online (like e-movements), yet also have clear histories as offline actions (like e-mobilizations).

If we were using technological affordances to examine such questions, we would agree with Rappert’s criticism of the affordances concept as sidestepping critical questions about human agency in shaping the development of the Web as a technology. Yet while we hope that he and many others focus on those questions (likely without using affordances in their work), our project here is different. We want to understand how people use a technology as it exists at a particular time and why that might matter.

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