Moving from potentiality to diversity: A typology of Belgian civil society’s online media practices to enhance social engagement | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1757-2681
  • E-ISSN: 1757-269X



The article presents a recently developed typology of the diversity of online media practices in and by Belgian civil society organizations (CSOs) to enhance social engagement. Framed by the ambition to move away from utopian (and dystopian) discourses of certainty and potentiality, the article’s objective is to access the enormous diversity of ways the online is put to use, without imposing normative expectations about, for instance, participatory intensities. To generate this overview, the structuring logic of the typology is used, despite the loss of detail and nuance caused by the use of this bird’s-eye view-generating method. The construction of this particular typology took place in different iterative phases, each with its own methodological approach. These were a theoretical phase, a case study phase and a CSO survey phase. Through these iterations, a two-dimensional typology was constructed, grounded in the distinctions between internal, internalexternal and external use, and between access, interaction and participation. Showing the vast diversity of civil society’s online media practices not only increases our understanding of their online use, but also facilitates a more nuanced discussion of the use and importance of participatory online practices that will move away from exclusively utopian approaches or discourses of potentiality.


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