Media practices and social movements reading list
A preliminary, abridged reading list on the topic of media practices and social movements in preparation for the Summer School on Media in Political Participation and Mobilization, Centre on Social Movement Studies, Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, 29 June 2017.
I will try to update it in the near future. Further suggestions are always welcome!
Askanius, T., & Espinar Ruiz, E. (2016). Media practices in contemporary feminist movements in and across Europe: Mapping feminist activism in Spain and Sweden. In ECREA, 2016.
This paper presents the results of a pilot study prepared for a larger research project entitled ‘Media practices in contemporary feminist movements in and across Europe’ which examines how feminist groups and networks in Northern Europe (Sweden, Denmark) and Southern Europe (Spain and Portugal) are engaging online media in their struggle for gender equality and transformative social change. As part of the effort to understand how feminist movements are shaped by different socio-economic and political contexts across Europe, this paper details the preliminary analytical steps of identifying and mapping organisations, groups and networks in Sweden and Spain to be selected for further analysis. In the analysis, we consider different types of social movement organizations and actors in the two countries to examine commonalities and differences in the ‘repertoires of communication’ from which activists choose and then engage in different sets of contentious media practices (Mattoni 2013). … Such a comparative case approach to studying social movements (Snow and Trom 2002) is premised on the belief that ‘if we want to explore how web technologies are transforming political participation, we have to explore how different political groups, which are grounded on different political cultures, understand internet technologies according to context-specific political imaginations’ (Barassi 2015).
Boler, M., Macdonald, A., Nitsou, C., & Harris, A. (2014). Connective labor and social media: Women’s roles in the ‘leaderless’ Occupy movement. Convergence, 20(4), 438-460.
This article draws upon the insights of 75 Occupy activists from Toronto and across the United States interviewed as part of the 3-year study ‘Social Media in the Hands of Young Citizens’. This article highlights three major roles adopted by women in the so-called leaderless, horizontally structured Occupy movement – both within the offline, face-to-face General Assembly meetings held during the Occupy encampments and within the online spaces of Facebook pages, Web sites, affinity groups, and working committees. As key participants in the movement, women used social technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and livestreaming as modes of activist engagement, developing unique roles such as that of the ‘Admin’ (Social Media Administrator), the ‘Documentarian’, and the ‘Connector’. The women’s adoption of these roles illustrates, we argue, the emerging notion of ‘connective labor’ an extended enactment of Bennett and Segerberg’s (2012) notion of ‘the logic of connective action’, augmenting its logic to reveal the often hidden labor of women in sustaining the networked and affective dimension of social movements. This article highlights the gendered, hybrid, embodied, and material nature of women’s connective labor that has supported, and in many ways sustained, the contemporary Occupy movement.
Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds.) (2010) Theorising Media and Practice. New York: Berghahn.
Although practice theory has been a mainstay of social theory for nearly three decades, so far it has had very limited impact on media studies. This book draws on the work of practice theorists such as Wittgenstein, Foucault, Bourdieu, Barth and Schatzki and rethinks the study of media from the perspective of practice theory. Drawing on ethnographic case studies from places such as Zambia, India, Hong Kong, the United States, Britain, Norway and Denmark, the contributors address a number of important themes: media as practice; the interlinkage between media, culture and practice; the contextual study of media practices; and new practices of digital production. Collectively, these chapters make a strong case for the importance of theorising the relationship between media and practice and thereby adding practice theory as a new strand to the study of anthropology of media.
Casero-Ripollés, A. (2015). Estrategias y prácticas comunicativas del activismo político en las redes sociales en España/Strategies and communicative practices of political activism on social media in Spain. Historia y comunicación social, 20(2), 533-548.
Social media are introducing significant changes in social movements. The aim of this article is to analyse the strategies and communicative practices developed by political activists on social media in the Spanish context. Three processes are studied: the self-mediation, the monitoring of power centers and the reversed agenda-setting. The methodology is based on case study and in-depth interviews. The results reveal that the web 2.0 offers numerous potential for political activism but also sets limits to their action.
Couldry, N. (2004) ‘Theorising Media as Practice’, Social Semiotics 14(2): 115–32.
This article explores the possibility of a new paradigm of media research that understands media, not as texts or structures of production, but as practice. Drawing on recent moves towards a theory of practice in sociology, this paradigm aims to move beyond old debates about media effects and the relative importance of political economy and audience interpretation, at the same time as moving beyond a narrow concentration on audience practices, to study the whole range of practices that are oriented towards media and the role of media in ordering other practices in the social world. After setting this new paradigm in the context of the history of media research, the article reviews the key advantages of this paradigm in mapping the complexity of media‐saturated cultures where the discreteness of audience practices can no longer be assumed. Keywords: Media Theory, Media practice, practice theory, fnctionalism, Agency
Christensen, T.H., & Røpke, I. (2010). Can Practice Theory Inspire Studies of ICTs in Everyday Life? In B. Bräuchler & J. Postill (Eds.), Theorising Media and Practice (pp. 233–258). Oxford: Berghahn.
This chapter by Toke Haunstrup Christensen and Inge Røpke explores the practical uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the daily lives of Danish families through examples of practices such as shopping, ‘holding things together’, maintaining social networks, or ‘killing time’. Taking issue with Reckwitz’s (2002) depiction of individuals as the ‘carriers’ of practices, the authors stress the importance of social interaction. In most cases, they suggest, ‘the successful performance of a practice depends on the active participation of several persons’, for instance, when micro-coordinating a shared family dinner over several mobile phones. Whilst concurring with Shove and her associates (e.g. Shove and Pantzar 2005) on the need to overcome the neglect of materiality by practice theorists (such as Bourdieu, Giddens or de Certeau) they also point out that Shove et al, like Reckwitz, downplay social interaction. The chapter ends with some remarks on the challenges of using practice theory for the study of ICTs in everyday life, including the empirical difficulties of separating out one practice from another (e.g. shopping vs. ‘holding things together’), or ascertaining whether a given activity belongs with more than one practice simultaneously.
Craig, R. (2005). Communication as a practice. In G. Sheperd, J. St. John, & T. Striphas (Eds.), Communication as … (pp. 38–47). London: Sage.
No abstract available.
Grau, B. E. (2016). Activism and Digital Practices in the Construction of an LGTB Sphere in Spain. Dados, 59(3), 755-787.
Based on the anthropological interrogation into communities and the construction of a public sphere, this article approaches the digital strategies used to shape what may be referred to as the Spanish LGTB sphere. I consider LGTB activism as the main producer of legitimized social discourse, and have therefore analyzed the websites of seven LGTB collectives and other digital resources in order to examine the articulation of digital and non-digital practices, based on a shared knowledge evoking collective identities and feeding activism. In combining anthropological fieldwork on activism and digital ethnographies for virtual environments, I suggest that despite their intensive use of digital resources, the LGTB sphere still largely depends on traditional social networks. As a consequence, the article questions the usefulness of conceiving of digital and non-digital relations as separate and distinct and discusses this embeddedness as a main feature of contemporary activism. Keywords: digital practices; social networks; LGTB activism; mobilization; communities
Ferrell, J., D. Milovanovic and S. Lyng (2001) Edgework, media practices, and the elongation of meaning: a theoretical ethnography of the Bridge Day event, Theoretical Criminology 5(2), 177-202
This article discusses the events that took place at a BASE jumping event in West Virginia (USA) in 1998. BASE jumping is the practice of ‘[often] illegally parachuting from bridges, buildings, antennas and cliffs’ – an increasingly mediated practice. The event, known as Bridge Day, attracted a great deal of mass media attention. But rather than becoming ‘media fodder’, BASE jumping practitioners brought their own media equipment to the encounter, including small video cameras fitted onto their helmets and/or bodies that allowed some jumpers to become ‘stars of their own in-flight movies’. Although many of the practices of jumpers and media professionals were intertwined, the authors also stress the contrasting imperatives of the two worlds of practice: while for the journalists the imperative was to present an easily understandable relationship between doer and deed, for the practitioners the emphasis was on recreating through media technologies the actual experience of the jump. There are ironies here, as the authors point out: jumpers’ increased dependence on collective media representations (the ‘elongation of meaning’) does not fit well with their own accounts of their practice as individual, ineffable and ephemeral. There is also an activist dimension to the world of BASE jumping, more specifically what we might call ‘subcultural activism’ (cf. Faye Ginsburg’s notion of ‘cultural activism’ with reference to indigenous media productions). This is played out especially on the main BASE website, where journalists in search of footage or information are regularly accused of misrepresenting the BASE ‘community’ and leading practitioners seek to legitimise this largely illegal practice as a ‘sport’. Moreover, for jumpers their practice is not a flight from reality: quite the contrary, it is a ‘hyperreal’ (Baudrillard) experience that makes everyday life seem less than real by comparison (for similar accounts by BDSM practitioners in San Francisco, see Weiss 2005) Summary by John Postill
Figueras, J. (2016). Political Parties and Grassroots Participation: digital media practices in the Spanish Podemos. Master’s Thesis, Malmo University.
The creation and rapid growth of the Spanish political party Podemos has created high expectations among citizens who want to participate in politics beyond voting. With a strategy that combines analogue and digital media, the party has emerged as the third biggest party in the last general elections, June 2016. Podemos has been conceived as a hybrid between a political party and a social movement, striving for wining the elections while relaying on grassroots activism through decentralised groups called “circles”, which operate locally and interact with the party via digital media. Although the potential of digital media for participation has been many times stressed, how the circles use these media depends highly on ongoing power relations and struggles within the party. Through semi-structured interviews and participant observation, this research analyses the perceptions of seven participants in two Podemos circles from the perspective of media practices, and looks into the potential of digital tools for political participation and the way ongoing power relations affect this participation. The results show that media practices within the circles are limited by the position of power of the leaders, who make use of analogue media to convey unidirectional messages that can hardly be countered via digital media. Furthermore, the research analyses the existence of relevant tensions in Podemos as a party that promotes citizen participation within a hierarchical, top-down organisation.
Kaun, A. (2015). Regimes of time: Media practices of the dispossessed. Time & Society, 24(2), 221-243.
Media technologies are structuring time and space in crucial ways. Especially the temporal aspect has been of interest lately, which is expressed in a growing commentary on media-related time in terms of speed and acceleration. Taking this discussion as a starting point, I problematize the consequences of temporal structuring by media technologies for civic participation and more specifically protest movements. Drawing on two case studies – the unemployed workers’ movements of the 1930s and the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011/2012 – I explore the changing regimes of time that are related to dominant media technologies. The main aim is to disentangle the relationship between temporal regimes suggested by media technologies and their appropriation by protest movements that emerged in major economic crises. Combing archival materials with in-depth interviews, I discuss the importance of media practices for the two movements and uncover a shift from mechanical speed to digital immediacy having crucial implications for democracy and civic participation.
Lee, A. Y., & Ting, K. W. (2015). Media and information praxis of young activists in the Umbrella Movement. Chinese Journal of Communication, 8(4), 376-392.
Young people were key participants in the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and the media also played an important role in this protest. This study examines how Hong Kong’s young activists developed communication strategies and media practices to mobilize this social movement. A framework termed “media and information praxis of social movements” is proposed for the analysis. The findings showed that in their praxis, the young activists used their media and information literacy skills to initiate, organize, and mobilize collective actions. They not only used social media and mobile networks but also traditional mass media and street booths in a holistic and integrated approach to receive and disseminate information. Hence, these young activists served as agents of mediatization. The results also indicated that the young activists moved away from the traditional movement mode which just tried to motivate a large number of people to protest in the streets. They actively engaged in the new movement mode, which emphasizes the media and information power game. Their praxis in the Umbrella Movement reflects the trend toward the mediatization of social movements in Hong Kong. Keywords: media and information literacy, media and information praxis of social movements, mediatization, Scholarism, Umbrella Movement, young activists
Kubitschko, S. (2015). Hackers’ media practices: demonstrating and articulating expertise as interlocking arrangements. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 21(3), 388-402.
The increased level of technical abstractness poses a challenge for laypersons and politicians alike to notice the political impacts specific technical developments might bring. By presenting qualitative research on Europe’s oldest and one of the world’s largest hacker organizations – the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) – the article shows that the CCC acts as a civil society organization that brings together a wide range of knowledge, skills and experiences related to media technologies and infrastructures. By deconstructing the abstractness of a given technology, the CCC materializes its formerly unrecognized political quality. Yet, the political endeavour of closing the expert-public gap, in the interests of public democracy, is only brought to life once the outcomes of a particular hack are communicated in comprehensible manners to diverse publics and audiences. Overall the article points to the emergence of new modes and practices of expertise by conceptualizing the Club’s active demonstration of expertise through hacking and its articulation of expertise through media-related practices and interactions with institutional politics as interlocking arrangements. Today, hackers – and in particular hacker organizations – are best considered actors whose skills, knowledge and experiences are ever more relevant for political cultures and democracy at large.
Mattoni, A. (2012) Media Practices and Protest Politics. Aldershot: Ashgate.
How do precarious workers employed in call-centres, universities, the fashion industry and many other labour markets organise, struggle and communicate to become recognised, influential political subjects? “Media Practices and Protest Politics; How Precarious Workers Mobilise” reveals the process by which individuals at the margins of the labour market and excluded from the welfare state communicate and struggle outside the realm of institutional politics to gain recognition in the political sphere. In this important and thought provoking work Alice Mattoni suggests an all-encompassing approach to understanding grassroots political communication in contemporary societies. Using original examples from precarious workers mobilizations in Italy she explores a range of activist media practices and compares different categories of media technologies, organizations and outlets from the printed press to web application and from mainstream to alternative media. Explaining how activists perceive and understand the media environment in which they are embedded the book discusses how they must interact with a diverse range of media professionals and technologies and considers how mainstream, radical left-wing and alternative media represent protests. Media Practices and Protest Politics offers important insights for understanding mechanisms and patterns of visibility in struggles for recognition and redistribution in post-democratic societies and provides a valuable contribution to the field of political communication and social movement studies.
Sebastian Kubitschko writes: Alice Mattoni defines media practices as, (1) both routinised and creative social practices that; 2) include interactions with media objects (such as mobile phones, laptops, pieces of paper) and media subjects (such as journalists, public relations managers, other activists); (3) draw on how media objects and media subjects are perceived and how the media environment is understood and known. (Mattoni 2012: 159)
Mattoni, A. (2013) ‘Repertoires of communication in social movement processes’, in B. Cammaerts, A. Mattoni and P. McCurdy (eds.), Mediation and Protest Movements. Chicago: Intellect, The University of Chicago Press. (pp. 39-56).
Starting from activist media practices, this chapter explored the concept of repertoire of communication that is a situated and dynamic the entire set of relational media practices that social movement actors might conceive as possible on the basis of knowledge media practices, and then develop in the latent and visible stages of mobilization to reach social actors positioned both within and beyond the social movement milieu. The literature on media and social movements suffers from fragmentation. One of the reasons for this is the small number of scholars conducting comparative research to explore how social movement actors interact with the media environment in which they are embedded. The repertoire of communication can function as an analytical tool for comparative research on mediation processes and social movement processes. First, repertoires of communication are intrinsically comparative since they refer to the existence, for the same social movement actor, of arrays of activist media practices related to the appropriation of various media technologies, the production of various media texts and interaction with various media professionals. Second, repertoires of communication are extrinsically comparative because, starting from this concept, scholars can engage in comparative research across time to investigate variations in repertoires of communication in past and present media environments, and across space to investigate variations in repertoires of communication in different countries and at different territorial levels. To develop comparative studies on mediaand social movements would also allow more sophisticated theoretical understanding of three interrelated dynamics that occur at the intersections of the political and media realms: transformations in visibility, changes in the patterns of recognition, and variations in the construction of public identities for non-established political actors in democratic and authoritarian societies.
Mattoni, A. and E. Treré (2014) ‘Media Practices, Mediation Processes, and Mediatization in the Study of Social Movements’, Communication Theory 24(3): 252–71.
The aim of this article is to explore the use of 3 concepts of media studies—media practices, mediation, and mediatization—in order to build a conceptual framework to study social movements and the media. The article first provides a critical review of the literature about media and movements. Secondly, it offers an understanding of social movements as processes in which activists perform actions according to different temporalities and connect this understanding with the use of the 3 media related concepts mentioned above. Then, the resulting conceptual framework is applied to the Italian student movements. In the conclusion, benefits and challenges in the use of such framework are considered and lines of inquiry on current movements are suggested.
Postill, J. (2010). Introduction: Theorising media and practice. In B. Bräuchler and J. Postill (eds) Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford: Berghahn.
In this Introduction I review the relevant media studies and practice theory literature to argue not for a new ‘practice paradigm’ in media studies (pace Couldry and Hobart this volume) but rather to argue for practice theory as a new strand to add to existing strands of media theory. Drawing from the practice theories of Giddens, Bourdieu and Warde, as well as from my own research in Malaysia, I sketch out a field-of-practice approach to media around three main questions: media in everyday life, media and the body, and media production. I then note some of the limitations of any practice perspective on the study of media, ending with an outline of the book.
Postill, J. (2015). Fields: Dynamic configurations of practices, games, and socialities. In V. Amit (ed.) Thinking Through Sociality: An Anthropological Interrogation of Key Concepts. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 47-68.
In this chapter I address some of the criticisms of field theory, but my intention is not to provide yet another appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of Bourdieu’s field theory. Instead, my aim is to examine the potential of the concept of field to shed light on obscure aspects of human sociality in tandem with other concepts, including non-field concepts. The chapter is organised as follows. First I reintroduce the Manchester School’s concept of field after decades of virtual oblivion and contrast it with Bourdieu’s own field concept. I then take up two criticisms – namely the view that field theory cannot account for change and the metaphor of the field as a game – and use them to explore the idea that the concept of field can in fact be an invaluable tool in the study of dynamic, heterogeneous domains of practice and sociality. I conclude with a reflection on the limitations and potentialities of this plural approach to the concept of field and with suggestions for future research.
Postill, J. (2016). The multilinearity of protest: understanding new social movements through their events, trends and routines. In Othon Alexandrakis (ed). Impulse to Act: A New Anthropology of Resistance and Social Justice. Indiana University Press.
Clock-and-calendar time is integral to the planning and coordination of modern socio-technical practices and ‘assemblages’ in our increasingly digitised world, including collective actions such as protests. With this premise in mind, in this chapter I explore the heterogeneity of protest-related time through three concepts borrowed from the historian and social theorist William H. Sewell (2005), namely events, trends and routines, in the context of Spain’s indignados (or 15M) movement. Rather than deploying these concepts synoptically, I do so diachronically, drawing a separate protest timeline (or set of parallel timelines) for each concept. This multilinear approach allows us to explore the highly diverse temporality of digitally assisted protest, yet without overlooking the ubiquity of clock-and-calendar time. Keywords: multilinearity, temporality, time, clock-and-calendar time, new social movements, protest, Spain, 15M, indignados, anthropology
Postill, J. forthcoming (2017). The Rise of Nerd Politics: Digital Activism and Political Change. London: Pluto.
The recent irruption of WikiLeaks, Anonymous, Edward Snowden and other tech-savvy actors onto the global political stage raises urgent questions about the impact of digital activism on political systems around the world. The Rise of Nerd Politics is an anthropological exploration of the role that such actors play in sparking new processes of political change in the digital age. Drawing from long-term ethnographic research in Spain, Indonesia and Malaysia – as well as on a wealth of empirical examples from other countries, including the United States, Iceland and Taiwan – the book tracks the rise of technology ‘nerds’ as a new transnational class of political brokers with growing influence. Postill identifies and explores four domains of nerd political praxis that have experienced a dramatic expansion since 2010, namely digital rights, data activism, social protest and electoral politics. Together, these various explorations reveal a dynamic ‘space of nerd politics’ inextricably entwined with broader processes of political change and continuity.
Postill, J. forthcoming (2018) Political culture keywords: exploring the media practices of social movements that are worlds apart, Media, Culture and Society.
The concept of political culture offers scholars of media and social movements a powerful way to overcome the field’s traditional neglect of cultural specificities. This concept must, however, be handled with care to avoid both ahistoricism and sociocultural determinism (the equally evil twin of technological determinism). With this note of caution in mind, the present essay proposes an approach to the holistic study of social movements and their technological mediations inspired by Williams’ (1976) classic Keywords, Peters’ (2016) Digital Keywords remake and Sewell’s (2005) theory of historical change. I propose the urgent compilation of culture-specific political vocabularies from the ground up, i.e. by drawing from vernacular resources along six lines of inquiry: actors, media, divides, practices, trends and events. The resulting glossaries would provide scholars with rich spaces of dynamic relationality in which to locate particular activist groups or movements and their media practices. These lexicons would then be amenable to historical comparisons within the same political culture or to cross-border comparisons with coeval ones elsewhere. I briefly exemplify this approach by sketching the 2004-2017 trajectories of digital rights activists operating within the Spanish and Indonesian political cultures, whose respective sets of keywords are – not surprisingly – worlds apart.
Stephansen, H. C. (2016). 2 Understanding citizen media as practice. Citizen Media and Public Spaces, 25. http://bit.ly/2nqCuzc
Much recent commentary on citizen media has focused on online platforms as means through which citizens may disseminate self-produced media content that challenges dominant discourses or makes visible hidden realities. This chapter goes beyond a concern with media content to explore the much broader range of socially situated practices that develop around citizen media. Drawing on Couldry’s proposal for a practice paradigm in media research, it suggests shifting the focus from ‘citizen media’ to ‘citizen media practices’ and demonstrates, through a case study of communication activism in the World Social Forum, how this framework can bring into view a broad range of citizen media practices (beyond those directly concerned with the production and circulation of media content), the different forms of agency that such practices make possible, and the social fabric they can help generate. I conclude by arguing that a practice framework necessitates a rethink of the way that the concept of (counter-) publics is used in the context of citizen media. Citizen media practices of the kind described here can be understood not only as practices of ‘making public’ previously unreported issues and perspectives, but as practices of public¬-making: practices that support the formation of publics.
Warde, A. (2005). Consumption and Theories of Practice. Journal of Consumer Culture, 5(2), 131-153.
This article considers the potential of a revival of interest in theories of practice for the study of consumption. It presents an abridged account of the basic precepts of a theory of practice and extracts some broad principles for its application to the analysis of final consumption. The basic assumption is that consumption occurs as items are appropriated in the course of engaging in particular practices and that being a competent practitioner requires appropriation of the requisite services, possession of appropriate tools, and devotion of a suitable level of attention to the conduct of the practice. Such a view stresses the routine, collective and conventional nature of much consumption but also emphasizes that practices are internally differentiated and dynamic. Distinctive features of the account include its understanding of the way wants emanate from practices, of the processes whereby practices emerge, develop and change, of the consequences of extensive personal involvements in many practices, and of the manner of recruitment to practices. The article concludes with discussion of some theoretical, substantive and methodological implications.
Yates, L. (2015). Everyday politics, social practices and movement networks: daily life in Barcelona’s social centres. The British journal of sociology, 66(2), 236-258.
The relations between everyday life and political participation are of interest for much contemporary social science. Yet studies of social movement protest still pay disproportionate attention to moments of mobilization, and to movements with clear organizational boundaries, tactics and goals. Exceptions have explored collective identity, ‘free spaces’ and prefigurative politics, but such processes are framed as important only in accounting for movements in abeyance, or in explaining movement persistence. This article focuses on the social practices taking place in and around social movement spaces, showing that political meanings, knowledge and alternative forms of social organization are continually being developed and cultivated. Social centres in Barcelona, Spain, autonomous political spaces hosting cultural and educational events, protest campaigns and alternative living arrangements, are used as empirical case studies. Daily practices of food provisioning, distributing space and dividing labour are politicized and politicizing as they unfold and develop over time and through diverse networks around social centres. Following Melucci, such latent processes set the conditions for social movements and mobilization to occur. However, they not only underpin mobilization, but are themselves politically expressive and prefigurative, with multiple layers of latency and visibility identifiable in performances of practices. The variety of political forms – adversarial, expressive, theoretical, and routinized everyday practices, allow diverse identities, materialities and meanings to overlap in movement spaces, and help explain networks of mutual support between loosely knit networks of activists and non-activists. An approach which focuses on practices and networks rather than mobilization and collective actors, it is argued, helps show how everyday life and political protest are mutually constitutive.