"There’s Got to be a Review Democracy": Communicative Capitalism, Neoliberal Citizenship and the Politics of Participation on the Consumer Evaluation Website Yelp.com

Kathleen Mary Kuehn


Celebrated for its capacity to decentralize the processes of knowledge and reputation management, Yelp.com is the subject of this case study, which analyzes the politics of participation on the user-driven consumer evaluation website. A comparative discourse analysis of Yelp’s promotional campaign and virtual geography demonstrates how the website structures the practice of consumer reviewing within a neoliberal political rationality that interpellates users as consumer-citizens. Theorized within the framework of communicative capitalism, this research argues that Yelp reproduces and stabilizes traditional power relations. Situating Yelp within the political economy of consumer evaluation sites, consumer reviewing is analyzed as a form of post-politics that reconfigures democratic participation in economic terms and effectively contributes to the depoliticization of contemporary citizenship.

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