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Podemos: Spain’s new ‘transmedia’ party

June 12, 2014











One of the biggest surprises in the recent European elections has been the sudden rise of the Spanish party Podemos (“We Can”), which obtained 8% of the vote in Spain. Podemos is a 4-month old, leftist formation rooted in the indignados (15M) movement and led by the charismatic political scientist Pablo Iglesias, 35. The following passage (my rough translation) is from a thoughtful analysis of the elections published today by another 15M-based party, Partido X, which is currently critically reviewing its own campaign. It contains an intriguing reference to Podemos’ successful ‘transmedia’ approach worthy of further research and reflection.

“[...] Podemos have done a masterful, strategic job and have doubtless carried out the most intelligent and effective electoral campaign amongst all of us [new] contenders.

They have managed to anticipate and lay the groundwork thanks to the efforts of Pablo Iglesias and his colleagues with whom he created La Tuerka [a successful TV programme shown via YouTube] with great self-reliance and skill.

With this independent, original programme – a labour of love – they first carved out a sizeable niche audience, and then a space sustained by more resource- and infrastructure-rich media organisations such as HispanTV or [the online newspaper] Público. It was the latter media outlet that eventually became their headquarters, an outlet whose information flow they were able to directly shape, practically turning it into their campaign’s main communication media. Pablo Iglesias then participated as a skilful counterpoint in the political debates broadcast by the [conservative TV channel] Intereconomía, from which he made the leap into the [mainstream channels] Cuatro and la Sexta as a twice-weekly current affairs panelist, thereby creating a highly recognisable persona in his claims and demands.

It was only after all this groundwork was laid that Podemos attacked the electoral front, achieving a highly effective combination of TV work and a “transmedia” use of social media in order to feed back and replicate its message.”

Original Spanish passage

“Concretamente en el caso de Podemos, queremos señalar que han hecho un trabajo estratégico magistral y sin duda han sido los más inteligentes y eficaces en politica electoral de todos los que estamos en juego.

Han sabido anticipar y preparar su terreno y esto es debido a un esfuerzo propio de Pablo Iglesias y de los compañeros con los que ha creado la Tuerka, sin la ayuda de nadie y con mucha habilidad.

Con este programa independiente y de estilo propio se han labrado a pulso, y trabajando mucho, primero un nicho de audiencia muy considerable; luego un espacio amparado por otros medios de mayores recursos e infraestructuras como son HispanTV y Público. En este último han acabado estableciendo su sede y así han pasado a influir directamente en la información que llegaba a este medio, consiguiendo que fuera prácticamente el medio de comunicación de su campaña; luego participando muy hábilmente como contrapunto en los debates en Intereconomía, Pablo Iglesias consiguió saltar así a Cuatro y a la Sexta como tertuliano fijo dos veces por semana, creando así un personaje claro y reconocible en sus reivindicaciones y demandas.

Solo después de todo este trabajo previo, se han lanzado a atacar el frente electoral, consiguiendo una combinación muy efectiva de trabajo en televisión y de uso “transmedia” de las redes sociales para retroalimentar y replicar su mensaje.”

Photo credit: Equinox Magazine

Afterword to Consent of the Networked by Rebecca MacKinnon

May 21, 2014

The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom. A book by Rebecca MacKinnon.

In late January 2012, thousands of people across Poland took to the streets to protest the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The treaty had already been signed in late 2011 by European Union trade negotiators and twenty-two EU member states without much media attention, but by early February anti-ACTA protests had spread to over two hundred cities across Europe. Politicians got the message. On July 4, 2012, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly against ratification. Several dozen parliamentarians held up bright yellow signs: HELLO DEMOCRACY, GOODBYE ACTA.

Europe’s rejection of ACTA was just one victory of a global movement for digital liberty that came into its own in 2012. As Chapter 7 described it, ACTA was conceived by the United States and negotiated over the course of several years—initially in secret—with thirty-four other nations. For years, debates over ACTA—and related debates over how to balance intellectual property rights and online free-speech rights—had been confined to relatively obscure and specialized communities of activists, lawyers, and academics. That has changed, as the global netizen-rights movement to counter abuses of digital power has grown from infancy to adolescence.

I ended Consent of the Networked with a call for action, and in 2012 netizens around the world proved they are willing to act, as demonstrated by the movement’s recent successes. But while we have gained momentum, we face continuing challenges in the pursuit of digital liberty that will not easily be overcome.

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Global directory of freedom technologists: projects, networks, organisations

May 19, 2014

This is a working directory of some of the global projects, networks and organisations where leading freedom technologists — that is, individuals who combine technological and socio-political skills to pursue greater internet and democratic freedoms — congregate and collaborate. It is part of current research towards my forthcoming book Hacker, Lawyer, Journalist, Spy: Freedom Technologists and Political Change in an Age of Global Protest. Please note that I am only including initiatives with a global remit, rather than a national or regional one. Further suggestions are always very welcome [1].

Last updated 16 August 2014

  1. The 99%, @AllOccupyNews
  2. Actipedia,
  3. Al Jazeera, @AJEnglish
  4. All Voices,
  5. Amnesty International, @amnesty
  6. AnonOps,
  7. Anonymous, @YourAnonNews
  8. A-Revolt,
  9. Article 19,
  10. Association for Progressive Communications, @APC_News
  11. Avaaz,
  12. Avocats Sans Frontières,
  13. BBC Technology, @BBCTech
  14. BBC World Service,
  15. Berkman Center, Harvard University, @berkmancenter
  16. Center for Civic Media, MIT, @civicMIT
  17. Chaos Computer Club,
  18. Citizen Lab,
  19. citizenme,
  20. CIVICUS Alliance,
  21. The Committee to Protect Journalists,
  22. Community Informatics Research Network,
  23. Democratic Society,
  24. Democracy Now!, @democracynow
  25. Deutsche Welle,
  26. Diaspora,
  27. Digital Democracy,
  28. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), @EFF
  29. Fight for the Future, @fightfortheftr
  30. Free Culture Forum, @fcforum_net
  31. Free Press,
  32. Freedom House,
  33. Freedom of the Press,
  34. FrontlineSMS,
  35. Global Development (Guardian), @GdnDevelopment
  36. Global Integrity,
  37. Global Investigative Journalism Network,
  38. Global Journalist Security, @JournoSecurity
  39. Global Network Initiative,
  40. Global Revolution,
  41. Global Rights,
  42. Global Uprisings,
  43. Global Voices, @globalvoices
  44. Global Voices Advocacy,
  45. Google,
  46. Guardian,
  47. Guardian Tech, @guardiantech
  48. Hack College,
  49. IFEX (formerly the International Freedom of Expression Exchange),
  50. Index on Censorship, @IndexCensorship
  51. Intercept,
  52. International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, @nvconflict
  53. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,
  54. International Modern Media Institute (IMMI),
  55. Internet Governance Project,
  56. Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3),
  57. Internet Rights and Principles Coalition,
  58. Internet Society,
  59. IT for Change,
  60. LeWeb,
  61. Liberationtech, Stanford University,
  62. Librarians Without Borders,
  63., @aym
  64. NataliaProject,
  65. Netizen Rights, @netizenrights
  66. New York Times,
  67. Nieman Journalism Lab, Harvard University,
  68. Open Data Institute,
  69. Open Democracy, @openDemocracy
  70. Open Gov Partnership,
  71. Open Knowledge,
  72. Open Media,
  73. Open Net Initiative,
  74. Open Rights Group, @OpenRightsGroup
  75. Open Society Foundations,
  76. Open Wireless Movement,
  77. Oui Share,
  78. P2P Foundation,
  79. Privacy International,
  80. Privaterra,
  81. The Public Voice,
  82. La Quadrature du Net,
  83. Reclaim,
  84. Reporters Without Borders, @RSF_RWB
  85. Reset the Net,
  86. Sunlight Foundation, @SunFoundation
  87. Tactical Tech,
  88. Tax Justice Network, @TaxJusticeNet
  89. Tech Defenders, @tech_defenders
  90. Telecommunications Industry Dialogue,
  91. Tor Project,
  92. Transparency International (TI), @anticorruption
  93. Die Trendblogger,
  94. UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Coalition,
  95. Ushahidi,
  96. Web Science Trust,
  97. WebWeWant, @webwewant
  98. WikiLeaks,
  99. Wikimedia Foundation,
  100. Wikipedia,
  101. World Wide Web Consortium (W3C),
  102. World Wide Web Foundation,

[1] With many thanks to Robert Bodle, David E. Kaplan, Victor Lasa, Ismael Peña-López and Armando Ramos for their suggestions.

See also the following related directories

Global movement for Internet freedom and digital rights (by Rebecca MacKinnon):

Transparency advocates from all around the world (by Sunlight Foundation):

European Digital Rights (EDRi) country members:

Freedom technologists and the new protest movements: a theory of protest formulas

May 2, 2014

20 July 2014 update: Now published online ahead of print here:

Postill, J. in press. Freedom technologists and the new protest movements: a theory of protest formulas. Special issue of Convergence journal, “New Media, Global Activism and Politics” Vol. 20, no. 3 (2014) [1] [PDF]

See also Global directory of freedom technologists: projects, networks, organisations


In this article I draw from anthropological fieldwork in Spain and secondary research on Tunisia and Iceland to explore the connection between internet freedom activism and post-2008 protest movements. I introduce two new concepts: ‘freedom technologists’ and ‘protest formulas’. I use the term freedom technologists to refer to those individuals who combine technological and political skills to pursue greater internet and democratic freedoms, which they regard as being inextricably entwined. Far from being techno-utopians or deluded ‘slacktivists’ (Morozov, 2013, Skoric, 2012), I argue that most freedom technologists are in fact techno-pragmatists; that is, people who take a very practical view of the limits and possibilities of new technologies for political change. I also differentiate among freedom technologists, singling out three main specialists for their strong contribution to the new movements, namely hackers/geeks, tech lawyers and online journalists. The second new coinage I develop is protest formulas. This term refers to the unique compound of societal forces and outcomes that characterises each protest movement – as well as each phase or initiative within a movement. In the article I track the influence of freedom technologists on emerging protest movements as they interact with other agents within these political compounds.


Social movements, protests, protest formula, internet activism, freedom technologists, free culture, techno-pragmatism, Anonymous, WikiLeaks, Arab Spring, indignados, Spain, Tunisia, Iceland


In recent years an emergent literature has begun to theorise the rise of internet-based activism and protest through studies of the free software movement (Kelty, 2008), the information freedom movement (Beyer, 2014) or networks such as Anonymous (Coleman, 2013a) and WikiLeaks (Cammaerts, 2013). However, we still know little about the part played by net activists and other techno-political actors in the new protest movements that arose in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the Tunisian uprising in late 2010 which led to a protracted period of upheaval in the Arab world, southern Europe and many other regions.

Existing accounts of the new protest movements have merely touched on this connection, the focus to date being on the networked technologies used by protesters rather than on the technologists themselves. A great deal of energy has been expended on debating the role of social media in the protests. On one side of the debate, a number of scholars and journalists have highlighted the positive contribution of social and online media to the various revolts. For instance, Tufekci and Wilson (2012) have argued that new digital media were ‘game-changers’ in that they allowed Arab citizens to circumvent mainstream media censorship and mobilise at great speed. Similarly, for Castells (2012) the protests were the result of post-2008 ‘networks of outrage’ that morphed into ‘networks of hope’ in a globalised self-communication order based on the Internet. On the other side of the debate, authors such as Morozov (2012, 2013) and Gerbaudo (2013) have criticised ‘techno-utopian’ authors and activists for seeking simple technical fixes or ‘solutions’ to complex societal problems. Steering clear of technological determinism, Gerbaudo (2012) suggests that the 2011 protest networks in the Arab world and elsewhere resulted from activists’ conscious orchestration of digital and physical forms of collective action anchored to the occupied squares. Meanwhile, Tejerina et al (2013) place the new technologies within a political economy perspective in which the protests are but the latest manifestation of a protracted crisis of global capitalism.

Amidst the polemics, not enough attention has been devoted to examining the links between an emergent global freedom technology movement and the recent uprisings, with Beyer (2014) and Hintz (2012) among the rare exceptions. In this article I draw from anthropological fieldwork in Spain and secondary research on Tunisia and Iceland to explore these links. To this end I introduce two new concepts, namely ‘freedom technologists’ and ‘protest formulas’. I use the term freedom technologists[2] to refer to those geeks, hackers, online journalists, tech lawyers and other social agents who combine technological skills with political acumen to pursue greater Internet and democratic freedoms, both globally and domestically. Indeed, freedom technologists regard the fate of the Internet and of human freedom as being inextricably entwined. Far from being techno-utopian dreamers or deluded ‘slacktivists’ (Morozov, 2012, Skoric, 2012), I argue that most freedom technologists are in fact techno-pragmatists; that is, people who take a very practical view of the limits and possibilities of new technologies for political change, as we shall see in the empirical examples below. I also differentiate among freedom technologists, singling out three main specialists for their strong contribution to the new movements, namely hackers/geeks, tech lawyers and online journalists. This tripartite distinction arose inductively both from the empirical materials gathered in Spain as well as from secondary research on the global Internet freedom movement. In the present article I put it to the test in three very different national contexts: Spain, Tunisia and Iceland.

Read more…

Performing, narrating and calculating the future of democracy: the complex digital futurities of Spain’s Partido X

May 2, 2014

Postill, J. 2014. Performing, narrating and calculating the future of democracy: the complex digital futurities of Spain’s Partido X. Paper to the Studying Futurities conference, Leiden University, the Netherlands, 26-27 June 2014.


On 8 January 2013 a new political party was launched in Spain. But this was no ordinary launch – and indeed no ordinary party. For one thing, its creators chose to remain anonymous for the first year of its life. In addition, their first ‘press conference’ was a YouTube video in which two unnamed actors opened with the gambit: “This press conference from the future is to announce in our past (your present) that the X Party, the Future Party, has won”. Far from being a joke, this audiovisual performance was a serious political intervention by a group steeped in Barcelona’s free/digital culture and indignados (15M) scenes, which I have been researching since 2010 (Postill 2013, 2014, in press). This was the first in a series of ‘anticipatory’ actions (Anderson 2010), both online and offline, accompanying the steady growth of Partido X over the past 16 months. As I write these lines, its candidates (including the HSBC whistleblower Herve Falciani and the free culture activist Simona Levi) are busy campaigning in the coming European elections of 22-25 May 2014. In this paper I retrace the extraordinary trajectory of Partido X, paying particular heed to how ‘different forms of the future… affect our global present’ (Pels 2013) and putting forth two main claims: 1) Partido X is making intriguing use of Anderson’s (2010) three forms of anticipatory practice (i.e. performing, narrating and calculating the future), and 2) its expert and lay participants are collaboratively developing an ‘anticipatory democracy’ model (Toffler 1970, Bezold 1978), albeit one that displays marked historical, cultural and technological differences from Toffler’s original 1970 conception. I conclude by arguing that Partido X’s complex ‘techno-political’ praxis (Toret 2013) invites us to interrogate current academic typologies and divisions of labour around the study of futurities.


Anderson, B. 2010. Preemption, precaution, preparedness: Anticipatory action and future geographies. Progress in Human Geography, 34(6), 777-798.

Bezold, C. (Ed.). 1978. Anticipatory democracy: People in the politics of the future. Random House.

Pels, P. 2013. Call for papers for a conference on FUTURITIES. Leiden University, The Netherlands, June 2014.

Postill, J. 2013. We are the 1 percent: rethinking national elites as protest participants. Reviews & Critical Commentary (CritCom), 26 November 2013.

Postill, J. 2014. Democracy in an age of viral reality: a media epidemiography of Spain’s indignados movement Ethnography 15 (1): 50-68.

Postill, J. in press. Freedom technologists and the new protest movements: a theory of protest formulas. Special issue of Convergence journal, “New Media, Global Activism and Politics” Vol. 20, no. 3 (August 2014).

Toffler, A. 1970. Future shock. New York, Bantam.

Toret, J. 2013. Tecnopolítica: la potencia de las multitudes conectadas. El sistema red 15M, un nuevo paradigma de la política distribuida. IN3 Working Paper Series.

New protest movements and the mainstreaming of internet politics

March 31, 2014

New protest movements and the mainstreaming of internet politics: a ground-up comparison of Malaysia, Iceland, Tunisia and Spain

Paper to the Anthropology Department seminar, University of Melbourne, Wednesday 16 April 2014, 4.30- 6.00 5.45-7.00 pm.

School of Social and Political Sciences
John Medley (Building 191)
Venue located in the link way on the 4th floor between the two ‘wings’
(entrance 10, off Grattan st.)
The University of Melbourne
Parkville, VIC 3010

John Postill
RMIT University, Melbourne

In this talk I draw from fieldwork in Spain and Malaysia and from secondary research on Tunisia and Iceland to explore the link between the mainstreaming of internet politics (epitomised by organisations such as WikiLeaks, Anonymous or the Pirate Parties) and the emergence of new protest movements around the world in 2009-2011. Inspired by the Manchester School of anthropology, I follow the protest practices and actions of leading ‘freedom technologists’ (geeks, hackers, online journalists, tech lawyers) across online and offline sites. Contra Morozov, I argue that far from being techno-utopians, freedom technologists are in fact pragmatists who are playing crucial parts as protest vanguards in numerous national struggles. In doing so, I am shifting the analytical focus from our current fixation with new protest technologies towards greater attention to a new breed of protest technologists. This suffix is literally the gist of my argument.

Framing Bouazizi (Lim 2013)

March 3, 2014

Lim, M. (2013). Framing Bouazizi: ‘White lies’, hybrid network, and collective/connective action in the 2010–11 Tunisian uprising. Journalism, 14(7), 921-941.


By delving into the detailed account of the Tunisian uprising, this article offers an explanation that sets the 2010 uprising apart from its precursors. The 2010 uprising was successful because activists successfully managed to bridge geographical and class divides as well as to converge offline and online activisms. Such connection and convergence were made possible, first, through the availability of dramatic visual evidence that turned a local incident into a spectacle. Second, by successful frame alignment with a master narrative that culturally and politically resonated with the entire population. Third, by activating a hybrid network made of the connective structures to facilitate collective action – among Tunisians who shared collective identities and collective frames – and connective action – among individuals who sought more personalized paths to contribute to the movement through digital media.


922 Bouazizi was by no means the first Tunisian ‘martyr’. Why did his self-immolation in December 2010 succeed in garnering so much attention and trigger the Tunisian uprising and Arab Spring? ‘How was media used to propel Bouazizi’s death into a large-scale and successful movement?’.

923-926 Section ‘A great disconnect: online activism vs. working-class struggles’. The 2010-2011 uprising in Tunisia rooted in history of online activism and working-class/labour activists.

923 At least a decade of struggle against online censorship. In 1991 Tunisia connected to internet, first Arab country. Publicly available from 1996 but that same year Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) established. Created ‘the most severe internet censorship in the world’. Activists still used the net for politics, incl. cyber think-tank Takriz created in 1998, or websites like Perspective Tunisiennes in 2000 or TuneZine in 2001. In 2004 political blogs were born, gathered around which became ‘a platform for Tunisian dissident voices and debates’. Many blogs censored, with cyber dissidents and bloggers arrested.

923-924. Despite this vibrancy, online activism didn’t connect with majority of population, with issues of concern to the working class. First attempt at online-offline connection was 22 May 2010 street rally against net censorship. Only hundreds participated.

924 Online activists are mostly well-off, highly educated, urban. Closer to global struggles and platforms like WikiLeaks or Reporters Without Borders than local issues. [see Wolfson 2014 on similar problem in the USA, but contrast this with Postill 2014 on Malaysia]. Thus on 28 November 2010, TuniLeaks launched by, to republish WikiLeaks revelations about Tunisia, ‘only one hour after WikiLeaks’ release of 17 cables that contained information that undermined the Tunisian authorities’.

924-926 For instance Gafsa protests January to June 2008, videos posted on YouTube or DailyMotion never went viral, not even popular with net activists. Al Jazeera didn’t cover Gafsa either because banned from Tunisia, and hadn’t yet started integrating citizen contents into their broadcasts. Activists framed Gafsa as struggles of the poor, unconnected to lives of urban middle classes or to ideas of freedom of expression or anti-censorship. This was to change with the framing of Bouazizi.

926 Bouazizi’s self-immolation often presented as trigger of Tunisian revolution. However, important not the death itself but ‘the framing of the narratives around it’. To mobilise death it must be framed ‘as part of something bigger, beyond the death itself’.

926-927 Unlike previous immolations, this one was video recorded. A distant cousin of the deceased, Ali Bouazizi, ‘a long-time opposition activist’, recorded the death and subsequent protest on his Samsung mobile. With help from a friend, edited content and posted in on Facebook, not blocked in the country (unlike other sites). Images went viral.

However, ‘images alone do not propel a movement’, so Ali fabricated some of the facts, what he calls ‘white lies’, incl. the lie that he was a jobless university graduate having to make do selling produce (in fact, he never completed high school), or the ‘slap in the face’ by a woman in a position of authority (it never happened).

927. By adding these two ingredients – a university graduate and a slap – to the story, Ali rendered Mohamed’s burning body political, affixing to it the political body of a citizen whose rights were denied. Mohamed Bouazizi no longer represented the uneducated poor who struggle to provide food on the table, but represented all young people of Tunisia whose rights and freedom were denied.

928 This was a classic example of ‘frame bridging’ (Snow et al 1986: 467): linking a movement to people with comparable grievances yet ‘structurally disconnected or disengaged’. Leila Ben Debba, a lawyer-turned-activist-leader: “It was a revolution where the young people did not rally for food but for a dignified life”.

928-929 Framing not enough. Protests must be diffused nationally and overseas. Networks must be galvanised, contention turned into a social movement. Social media not sufficient. What achieved this was ‘a hybrid network’ made of social media, big media (eg Al Jazeera) and small media (laptops, sneakers, mobiles, memory cards).

929 Al Jazeera particularly important in that fostered practices of ‘networked journalism'; all sorts of media practitioners interacting. 933 Thus the self-immolation broadcast across Arab world only a few hours after it happened (Al Jazeera reporters had trawled the net in search of materials, finding Ali Bouazizi’s video). After this Al Jazeera kept in touch with ‘citizen journalists on the ground’ incl Ali and a collaborator, both becoming regular contributors. Very few smartphones, but mobiles allowed ordinary people to share news and keep informed.

934 This hybrid media network follows logic of media convergence (Deuze 2006, Jenkins 2004). A govt can shut down a given channel, but not a hybrid media network, for information would still find another route in this ‘redundant and resilient’ network.

936 As citizen journalism was main source of information, Ali Bouazizi’s ‘white lies’ ‘became the master frame’, winning in a ‘frame contest’ among competing frames (Ryan 1991). The result was a united sense of identity and shared injustice between the population and the Ben Ali regime.

937 There was also at work a potent combination of collective action and connective action (more personalised, ‘an act of personal expression [via] trusted relationships [, e.g. via Facebook], Bennett and Segerberg 2012).

937 In conclusion, Tunisian activists managed to bridge the class and geographical divides through three main mechanisms:

1) an archetypal image (the self-immolation) turned from a ‘non-event of the poor’ to a ‘public spectacle’

2) frame alignment via a master frame that appealed to whole society, fostering a sense of injustice and unity

3) activated hybrid media network to attain both collective and connective action.


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