Online Discussion and the Moral Pathway to Identity Politicization and Collective Action


  • Augusta Isabella Alberici
  • Patrizia Milesi


Research on the mobilizing potential of the Internet has produced some controversy between optimistic vs. skeptical perspectives. Although some attention has been paid to the effects of online discussions on collective participation, very little is known about how people’s experience of online interactions affects the key psychosocial predictors of collective action. The present research investigated whether use of the Internet as a channel for deliberation influenced the moral pathway to collective mobilization by shaping users’ politicized identity, thereby indirectly influencing collective action. Results showed that when people perceived online discussions as a constructive communication context, their politicized identity was imbued with the meaning of responding to a moral obligation, and willingness to participate in collective action was sustained. However, when participants perceived that online discussions were not constructive, their identification with the movement did not refer to moral obligation, and intention to participate in collective action was not sustained. Our discussion focuses on the need to deepen investigation of how people experience the particularities of interacting online, and on how this can affect psychosocial processes leading to collective action.