Can technology help citizens overcome barriers to participation in emerging democracies? We argue that, by lowering costs, technology brings new participants into the political process. However, by shaping the selection of participants, it also generates a “crowd” that is both more responsive to incentives (malleable) and more sensitive to costs (fragile). We illustrate these dynamics using VIP:Voice, a novel, multi-channel information and communication technology/digital media (ICT/DM) platform that we built to encourage South African political engagement during the 2014 national elections. VIP:Voice recruited South Africans through a variety of methods and allowed citizens to engage via low-tech mobile phones and high-tech social media. VIP:Voice generated engagement in over 250,000 South Africans, but saw large attrition as people were asked to switch from low-cost digital engagement to high-cost, real-world engagement. The implementation of a standard platform across multiple technology channels, combined with a set of experiments in the role incentives play in driving participation, reveal how technology shapes not just the level of participation but the very nature of the crowd that forms.