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Social media and political activism

November 13, 2009

Was thinking earlier this week about how one may go about studying social media from a practice theory perspective. For example, it would be interesting to do ethnographic reseach among social/political activists and their social media practices.

Take Jeff Juris’ (2008) Networking Futures monograph, on Barcelona-based antiglobalisation activists. Juris did his anthropological fieldwork before the explosion in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, delicious, scribd, blogs, wikis,  etc. What sorts of uses of social media are these activists making today? Who is being included and excluded from these new media? How are earlier technologies such as personal email and mailing lists being used? How can a practice-theoretical approach illuminate activists’ emerging social media practices?

The cultural setting is crucial. Wellman et al have pointed out that the Internet in Catalonia is following a very different social trajectory from North America, esp. as it fits into different local patterns of residence, work, urban nightlife, etc. The notion of ‘networked individualism’ – the idea that modern societies have seen a reconfiguration of social relations away from localised groups and towards mobile individuals and their personal networks – doesn’t seem to travel well outside North America (it is indeed problematic even there).

And the historical moment is of course different as well, following the 2008 financial crash.

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