Social media platforms and civic engagement. Exploring the discursive construction of the Facebook Manifesto


The aim of the chapter is to investigate the rhetorical construction of the nearly 6,000-word message posted by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2017 to his personal profile on the social media he co-founded. The post is entitled Building Global Community and features an open letter addressed to all Facebook’s users where he envisions the strategic role of the platform as the “social infrastructure” for civic participation. The document has been defined by many a “manifesto” as it is a public declaration of policy and aims, and its textual structure is more similar to that of political speech than to a status update on a social networking site. In order to analyze it, the paper adopts a critical multimodal approach – which is a perspective that merges critical discourse analysis and multimodality to study contemporary political discourses that are communicated not only through political speeches or news items and where argumentation is realized making use of language in combination with different kinds of semiotic resources. In particular, the paper explores how verbal and visual codes, together with the digital platform’s affordances, are used to shape the image of Facebook as a socio-political space. Indeed, the post features a complex ideological and rhetorical construct that is articulated linguistically, digitally and multimodally, and that interweaves a cognitive theory of history, the Habermasian conceptualization of the public sphere and the notion of artificial intelligence in a frame that depicts the social medium as the enabler of participation for civically engaged global communities.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v42p151

Keywords: critical discourse analysis; Facebook; multimodality; social media discourse; US political discourse


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