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The hybrid media space of nerd politics

January 25, 2017

Invited paper to the ECPR joint sessions workshop on Digital Media and the Spatial Transformation of Public Contention, Nottingham, UK, 27-30 April 2017.

Abstract

The rise of WikiLeaks, Anonymous, the Pirate Parties, Edward Snowden and other new techno-political actors has coincided with the global emergence of ‘hybrid media systems’ (Chadwick 2013) in which new and old media forms interact in complex ways. In this paper I explore the idea of a hybridly mediated space of ‘nerd politics’ through the case studies of four controversial internet bills: SOPA in the United States, Ley Sinde in Spain, Lei Azeredo in Brazil and UU ITE in Indonesia. I argue that the formation of transient publics around these contentious issues has helped to both politicise technology and technologise politics in domestic and international contexts. I also suggest that transient publics are paradoxically crucial to the maintenance of dispersed social spaces such as the space of nerd politics, particularly when they are able to swiftly reconfigure themselves into new publics, e.g. from SOPA to ACTA, from Ley Sinde to indignados, or from Lei Azeredo to Marco Civil da Internet. I end with a reflection on the broader theoretical implications of the complementary concepts of ‘hybrid media space’ and ‘transient public’ for our understanding of digital media and political change in the contemporary era.

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