Cite Bailo, F. (2020). Online communities and crowds in the rise of the Five Star Movement. Palgrave Macmillan.


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.

Table of content

  1. Introduction

    • Why Italy, Why the M5S
    • Political Participation
    • What Does the Internet Change for Political Participation?
    • What Does the Internet Change for Political Organisation?
    • What Does the Internet Change for Political Deliberation?
    • Citizen Users, Communities and Crowds
    • Outline of the Book
  2. The Emergence of the Citizen User

    • Decline in Trust
    • Internet Users
  3. Mobilisation and Elections

    • The Mobilisation of the Citizen User and the Creation of the M5S
    • Internet and Legacy Media in the Electoral Trajectory of the M5S
    • The M5S in the Ideology Space
  4. Online Communities and Online Crowds

    • The Media Ecology of the M5S Community
    • Participation on the M5S Media System
  5. Online Discussion Within the M5S Community

    • Issues, Topics and Style on the Forum
    • Discussion Networks
  6. The M5S Community and Citizen’s Income

    • Mapping Documents in the Concept Space
    • The GMI Debate: Offline and Online
  7. By the Crowd, for the People?

    • Internet-Enabled Organisation Beyond the M5S and Italy
    • Asymmetric Online Deliberation
    • Citizen User and Democracy
    • Crowd-Mediated Politics

Video presentation