Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Dark Participation

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Abstract:  Citizen participation in the news-making process has been a hopeful promise since the 1990s. Observers hoped for a rejuvenation of journalism and democracy alike. However, many of the enthusiastic theoretical concepts on user engagement did not endure close empirical examination. Some of the major fallacies of these early works (to whom the author contributed himself) will be outlined in this article. As a bleak flip side to these utopian ideas, the concept of “dark participation” is introduced here. As research has revealed, this type of user engagement seems to be growing parallel to the recent wave of populism in Western democracies. In a systematization, some essential aspects of dark participation will be differentiated. Finally, the benefits of (also) looking at the wicked side of things will be discussed.

Keywords:  citizen engagement; dark participation; fake news; news-making process; participatory journalism; populism; propaganda; user-generated content


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© Thorsten Quandt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.