[-empyre-] Social Media Use across Campaigns for Social Justice

mrahul at sas.upenn.edu mrahul at sas.upenn.edu
Thu Dec 11 13:12:25 EST 2014

I wanted to clarify that when I noted "Also grounded activists rarely  
have a technological bias" in the earlier email, I may have sounded  
ambivalent considering the next sentence. What I meant was "Grounded  
activists rarely are technological determinists."

Also, in light of discussions on surveillance and of bodily  
disconnections in the earlier threads by Anaïs and Tim, I was curious  
if at some point we might want to think more closely of the  
entanglements of data bodies and street bodies.

Another aspect was the public-ness of social media. Social media help  
organize public protests in materially public places, but they too are  
to some extent public spaces (of discussion), albeit privately owned.  
Social media cannot be idealized as public sphere or public space  
because they are often privately owned: they are semi-public forums as  
Thérèse Tierney among others have argued. They also can be relatively  
anonymous. A related point: do social media need to idealized public  
spheres/public spaces for social justice efforts? Sometimes, perhaps  
anonymity would help more than online visibility.

Quoting mrahul at sas.upenn.edu:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I appreciate the focus on entanglements of social media and social  
> justice with power. Indeed, social media is being used by different  
> groups for different reasons as David and Tim note. Social media  
> itself as something very different from broadcast or mass or  
> mainstream media needs much debate (though differences exist and  
> need to be accounted for). The proclivity to suggest that social  
> media is essentially decentralized or distributed, and not  
> hierarchical, is again untenable. To be selective about social  
> media's uses would also be a mistake. All this said, activists in  
> situated contexts are trying to find ways of using social media for  
> translocal resistance: they are disrupting and shifting flows of  
> capital for lobal gestures, to borrow from Ricardo. Activists, I  
> talk with, understand electronic medium's power dynamics, are aware  
> of capital's (re)appropriations and sometimes are disenchanted too,  
> but more often than not, they seem to remain committed to tactical  
> trespasses believing another world is possible. Activist  
> idealizations can be problematic and yet one can be self-reflexive  
> about them.
> Also grounded activists rarely have a technological bias: as I  
> earlier noted, an activist said knowing Twitter Trends algorithm can  
> help only to a limited extent; unless enough urban people can be  
> found in Twitter who are interested in rural issues and can  
> circulate them, algorithms cannot work by themselves. Furthermore,  
> as I mentioned before, social movement organizing in campaigns for  
> social justice, depends on many kinds of media and not just social  
> media (if we really have to categorize or separate social media from  
> rest of the media at all). In the cases I discussed, Twitter was  
> only one social medium in a configuration of multiple media. In some  
> cases, text messages sent from a cellphone (with a dying battery  
> (life)) proved most crucial. In medial configurations related to  
> environmental movements I discuss, media include radiation  
> detectors, protest performances, street graffiti: one could argue  
> these media are pretty social. Much can be said about (and should be  
> said about) surveillance in social media, data bodies and metadata  
> collection,and journalists and activists battling surveillance (in  
> social media) negotiate these challenges. A very everyday practical  
> exercise I witnessed was platform jumping - shifting from one  
> platform (where one's identity or anonymity is threatened or  
> expression/article is blocked) to another.
> Thanks, rahul
> Quoting David Golumbia <dgolumbia at gmail.com>:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
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