Inter-organizational digital divide: Civic groups' media strategies in the Trinity River Corridor Project


5. Discussion
In interviews, the leaders of TrinityVote and Vote No! Save the Trinity were generally
ambivalent about new media's ability to help their organizations, and they had little personal
new media experience or skill. They could not explain how they calculated costs and benefits of
ICT use before making decisions about investing resources in them. Instead, in a phenomenon
familiar to organizational sociologists (e.g., Meyer and Rowan, 1977; DiMaggio and Powell,
1983), it appears that leaders of these organizations often engaged with new media in a ritualistic
way, using it when they felt they were expected to, and because other organizations with close
ties to their own were using it. But they did so without much explicit, rational calculation of new
media's costs and benefits for their campaign.
If we compare the finances, supporters, and media strategies of the two groups (Table 1 and
Table 2), it appears that the use of new media by the less wealthy and less well-connected anti-
toll road group (TrinityVote) was similar to that of the wealthier, pro-toll road organization
(VNST). Based on this comparison, the lowered barriers thesis could be argued to be correct:
microcontributions collected from large numbers of small contributors via the Internet allowed
TrinityVote, the less powerful, more grassroots organization, to compete with the much better
financed VNST campaign. Also, local bloggers were much more supportive of TrinityVote and
the anti-toll road campaign than they were of VNST.
However, if instead of comparing the two main organizations we compare the two fields or
networks of civic organizations that fought over Proposition One, the picture that emerges is
strikingly consistent with Diani's (2000) contention that ICTs have the greatest potential to
mobilize citizens "who act professionally on behalf of causes with vast resonance among the
public ... and low radical potential" [13]. These are organizations with "an emphasis on
professional structures" and a constituency that is dispersed and shares "similar broad views on a
given set of related issues. In this case there is ... comparatively little need to develop strong
identities - precisely because members do not need specific incentives to mobilize directly"
[14]. Consistent with Diani's argument, in the case of the debate over Proposition One, new
media was used by all the groups involved in the referendum, but it was used more by groups
that did not spearhead the campaigns, such as the Dallas Sierra Club, the Trinity Trust
Foundation, and Save the Trinity, and it was the wealthier, more powerful, and more
conservative groups in the pro-toll road campaign that were more strongly linked through ICTS,
financial arrangements, and social connections to a network of civic organizations and public
relations firms that produced more social media, and more expensive, professionally produced
new media, than did the smaller network of organizations that supported TrinityVote (Table 2).
While there was not much of a digital divide between TrinityVote and VNST per se, there was a
sharp digital divide between the two networks of civic organizations that mobilized mostly
participatory resources (the anti-toll road campaign), and the network that mobilized mostly
professional resources (the pro-toll road campaign). Thus although we cannot estimate the net
effect of ICTs and new media on either campaign or on the outcome of the vote, in this case the

Ignatow, Gabriel & Schuett, Jessica Lynn. Inter-organizational digital divide: Civic groups' media strategies in the Trinity River Corridor Project. [Chicago, Illinois]. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc78305/. Accessed April 19, 2014.