[-empyre-] Week 2: Social Practice and the logics of Neoliberalism

Elizalde, Miguel MElizalde at winona.edu
Wed May 11 04:50:18 AEST 2016

Thank you Kyle for the introduction. I’m very pleased to join the conversation about the logics of Neoliberalism in relationship with Social Practice. I would like to share with all of you some thoughts about the "Madrid Con Manuela” movement that happened in Spain one year ago.

Thirteen days of "Madrid con Manuela"

 “Madrid with Manuela” is the name of a social movement that aided Manuela Carmena’s successful campaign, resulting in being elected as the Mayor of Madrid in the Spanish local elections of May 2015. This participatory group emerged just two weeks before the voting day when the polls revealed that only 40 % of the voters knew who Manuela Carmena was. The primary goal of “Madrid con Manuela” was to communicate the major achievements of the candidate. The political platform supporting Manuela Carmena, Ahora Madrid, was a coalition between Podemos and social platforms, related to the “Indignados” social movement from 2011, which didn’t have any structural link with the supporting group of “Madrid con Manuela”.

This text analyzes this of “Madrid con Manuela” as its possible definition as a transmedia project. In addition to this, I will research the use by the management group of commercial communication elements for a non-commercial goal, in this case winning the elections.

Social media channeled the stream of creativity from “Madrid con Manuela” involving more than 2000 participants creating visual content in different media. The type of works produced by the group evolved organically from 2D posters to video pieces and performative actions on the street. The main platforms used in the campaign were Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, Youtube, SoundCloud, Instagram, Tinder, Tumblr and Wordpress. The most successful platform was Facebook where more than 23.000 thousand participants were active in the community page. The Facebook secret group that organized the activities had 2000 members in the very first days of the campaign making any type of coordination impossible in such a brief period of time, 2 weeks. The media mix wasn’t planned. The initial idea was to create as much visual content as possible transforming some of them into posters sealed thoughout the city. Pretty soon, individual participants were opening accounts in other platforms for text, video and audio content. The movement expanded from the digital to the physical realm, in particular video projections, collective poster displaying and exhibitions.

As background info, Manuela Carmena is the mayor of Madrid, capital of Spain and a city with a population of more than 3 million in the urban area with another 4 million in the metropolitan area and the rest of the province of Madrid. She was elected on May 24th 2015 as the candidate of Ahora Madrid, a coalition of young political parties and social movements connected to the Indignados[i] movement of May 15th of 2011. Her candidature was the second most voted with 20 representatives, leaving the political party that supports the government as leader with 21 representatives for her candidate Esperanza Aguirre. As the majority of the city council holds 29 representatives, Manuela Carmena was elected as Major, adding the 9 votes of the Socialist Party to her 20 representatives while the governmental candidate, Esperanza Aguirre, had access to only 28 votes, one less that Manuela Carmena, her 21 representatives plus 7 from Ciudadanos, a young right-center liberal party.

The importance of this campaign remains in the size of the opponent, the right wing political party in Spain, Partido Popular or PP. The main leader of PP in the Spanish capital is Esperanza Aguirre. She is a countess with extensive political experience; former minister in the President’s Aznar cabinet (1996-99), President of the Senate (1999-2000) and President of the Community of Madrid, the region where the capital is located, from 2003-12. All the polls guaranteed her a wide victory in the elections. Her only problem was that she didn’t represent a new image for the PP, something the voters demanded based on some previous research. She holds a reputation of being undefeated in Madrid, her main area of influence and the primary reason why President Rajoy chose her to represent their Political Party. During the previous weeks to the campaign, the fact that greatly influenced her campaign was that she was in court accused of running over the traffic police when they tried to give her a ticket. In front of her, the group Ahora Madrid, a temporary political coalition between Podemos and social movements, connected to the May 2011 Indignados demonstrations and had a candidate with no political experience but a long record of professional success, Manuela Carmena. She was a lawyer and emeritus judge of the Spanish Supreme Court with a special sensibility towards social justice issues. She is also a bike rider, as a 71 year old lady she continues riding her bike or taking the subway to go to work. Although Carmena wasn’t a leading figure of the Indignados movement, she showed sympathy for this solidary and collaborative movement emerged from the 2007-08 financial crisis in Spain.

The event that triggered this event was a poll that showed that even being Manuela Carmena the most appreciated candidate only a 37.9% of the voters knew who she was. The same poll revealed the most voted candidate would be Esperanza Aguirre. The day after, Nacho Padilla, a creative Director of the advertising agency Viernes, specialized in PSA and NGOs, shared his worries in a Facebook post. From the comments to that post he decided to create a secret group in Facebook “to do something to reverse the situation”. Most of the original 30 people worked directly or indirectly related to the advertising market from art directors, copywriters or graphic artists as illustrators. Those ties between the conceptual requirements of the creative team and the graphic artist as providers were the ones that shaped the campaign initially. This is the reason of structuring the campaign process with designing posters for the elections, sharing them on internet, printing them back, adhering them on the streets and shared them again online. The presence of volunteers from the digital world like programmers or producers was reduced as the platform never developed any new tool as an application or a website. The team had around 15 people with management responsibilities. Each platform was updated by one person who asked for help to the group in case of a heavy load of work. In case of coordinated operations like creating a Trending Toping in Twitter, the entire group worked coordinated, requesting external help as needed.

The campaign had only three main guidelines; talking positively with an optimistic tone of voice about the candidate, refuse the existence of the adversary, verbalized as Esperanza Aguirre doesn’t exist and verbalizing the support in the sentence Madrid con Manuela. The unique selling proposition was with Manuela Madrid becoming Madrid again. The reason why the campaign was a series of biographical notes about the candidate to reinforce is that she is the best mayor possible for the city. This informative side was materialized in 16 slides uploaded to Slideshare about her professional career and the ethical values she supported as a judge. This was also supported in a Wordpress site that collected all the interviews in mass media about her ideas for the future. The political program of the candidate was the last main piece of information that was added as posters to the online hub, the Tumblr page. The Facebook page worked as an entry point for all those interested in the campaign supported by Instagram and Twitter.

Rather than developing a narrative like any conventional transmedia project, the “Madrid con Manuela” campaign’s goal was to create hype around the candidate, a social buzz that generated a political debate encompassing Manuela Carmena. This was the main success of this phenomenon. The campaign had three stages, an initial effort to create the first pieces, from prestigious graphic artists and generating community on internet, a second step of contacting journalists specializing on internet content that wrote about the social phenomenon from a mass media point of view and helped them go beyond the social media sphere reaching other audiences, like people over the age of fifty. This was the final step involved when traditional mass media like TV and radio networks reported the social movement that was happening in Internet. The redundancy rather than the complementary between platforms was another aspect of the identifying characteristics of this campaign. As the goal was to create as much buzz as possible in the shortest period of time, repetition was key thoughout the sharings in Facebook or the retweets of Twitter. As the campaign moved forward, other type of pieces like movies or songs started to emerge in social media. With so many alternatives and more than 600 posters, it was the participants who decided what to share.

The campaign was never designed as a Transmedia narrative even considering 10 social media platforms were deployed. This is the main reason why only the slideshare[ii] with the Manuela facts or bio notes and the wordpress site with press releases of Mrs Carmena worked as complementary platforms to the Facebook and the Tumblr pages, in turn working as repositories of the posters. The posters were the main element that acted as the glue also present in Twitter and Instagram as images.

The lack of a user journey[iii] is justified by Nacho Padilla, the founder of the movement, as “most of the users just engaged in the aesthetic and emotional experience of the posters without engaging in more informative platforms”. On the other hand, the collective were sure that the information about the candidate supported the rational behind the campaign. This is the reason behind the Manuela Facts, purely informative slides about the candidate. This page had less that 5000 visits, to compare we should consider that some of the posts in Facebook has more 6000 shares. The document ended with a list of links in traditional online media like newspapers marking an ending road. The rational elements of the campaign were structured as an advertising campaign where the rational benefits just support the emotional tone of the campaign. This approach is similar to how Linda Herrera depicts the first movements of the Tahrir Square Revolution in Egypt in 2010[iv]. In that case, she refers to the use of Marketing in a broad sense to raise awareness of the abuses of the Egyptian Government in the death of Khaled Said.

The migratory cues, as described by Geoffrey Long[v] quoting Marc Ruppel as “hints in one media form to look for additional content in a different extension”, they are not present in “Madrid con Manuela”. Beyond the repetition of the sentence Madrid con Manuela and a graphic depiction of the candidate, there are no other elements repeated in more of the pieces. From 616 posters, only 91 didn’t have any visual reference to the image of Mrs Carmona. The role of the migratory cues was filed by explicit mentions to visit another platform and trans-platform hashtag that work in Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at the same time. Examples of this are the hashtags #elprogramademanuela, #madridconManuela #madconmanuela y #manuelaalcaldesa.

Connected with the idea of the migratory cues some authors, like Bernardo Gutierrez, mentions the importance of the figure of the Dave Gray’s idea of brokerage in social media where “brokers are in a position to see the differences between groups, to cross-pollinate ideas, and to develop the differences into new ideas and opportunities”[vi]. Following this idea we find that this is a digital version of what the creative departments of advertising agencies have been doing for decades, specifically aiming to detect tendencies in the social realm that they can apply or use to build commercial messages.

>From a hermeneutic codes[vii] point of view, “Madrid con Manuela” uses the cultural codes in a notable way, making constant cultural cross references to other disciplines like film or music trying to appropriate the meaning of those references. This post modernism process of reappropriation attempted to set up the symbolic world of the candidate, Manuela Carmena, creating some contradictory examples justified by the global appeal of the candidate and helping to break the preconceptions that the opponents political parties had from a movement like Ahora Madrid.

>From a negative capability approach, being an election period is difficult to avoid the suspense of the results. As a way to materialize this kind of cliffhanger, a few days from the election day, a poster submission showed Manuela Carmena in a meditative attitude thinking “What if we win?”

The variety of graphic styles could be identified as the main strength of this campaign. The color palate, illustration style, typography and design were so widely unique that it covers a great deal of the spectrum of possibilities. There were some of them from professional graphic artists to amateurs with a limited control over the technologies they were using. They can be defined by the lack of analog pieces of work, as handmade drawing. This is another key aspect of the success of this campaign, the wide variety of styles prevented saturation in the audience. The vast majority of the pieces could be considered unique as they were very personal approaches to Manuela Carmena, projecting their hopes for the future in their endorsements of the candidate.

Other aspects of the keys of success is the reduced scale of the project to a city. Even considering that the population of Madrid passes the 3 millions, and the surface exceeds 230 square miles, the limited space helped to expand and align the campaign to the physical space of the city in a process of reappropriation of public spaces that were limited in their uses by the former Major such as removing public benches from parks and squares. The volunteers projected the images of the posters in the facades of some of the buildings, the locations of the events were shared via Whatsapp. During the campaign, the collective created a stand in the Reina Sofia square where they gave printed versions of the posters for free. The activities on site included poster exhibitions, performances, placards and collective distribution of posters. This physical presence helped to expand the campaign to those groups of voters who are not users of internet technologies like elderly people, an age group dominated by their main opponent, in this election, the Partido Popular.

As the campaign reached Elections day Eve, in Spain it is a day of reflection, “Madrid con Manuela” faces three main contradictions even considering its success. The first contradiction, or as some of the leading people of the project called it, paradox, is this bottom up social movement where the political campaign was created by the voters themselves without the intervention of the political party just mystified the candidate Manuela Carmena, leaving aside any possible criticism or grey area of her professional resume or ideological opinions aside (unclear sentence). There is some criticism inside the movement supporting her because in the past she was close to the Socialist Party. The main reason for this lack of criticism was that there was not enough time and the overwhelming amount of criticism from her opponents, especially the Partido Popular and Esperanza Aguirre, who even accused Manuela Carmena as a sympathizer towards the Basque terrorist group ETA when in fact she was threatened by ETA, having to use bodyguards for her protection while serving as a judge. Another reason is the goal of building a positive campaign without falling into provocations from her opponents. Even the criticism in social media from supporters of other political parties was answered with positive messages trying to keep a smile no matter how harsh the criticism.

The message was overloaded with emotion rather than an elaborate rational argument to vote for Manuela Carmena. The greater paradox was to have a lot of supporters behaving as apostles claiming the arrival of some kind of Messiah, in this case Manuela Carmena, a person that 2 weeks before the campaign just those ones interested in the political history of Spain knew beforehand. Only breaking the old stereotypes of the left wing parties is how Ahora Madrid and its candidate Manuela Carmena was able to beat all the polls made before the campaign. This new type of citizenship fits some of the characteristics of the cultural citizenship described by Lilie Chouliaraki as a crossover between a silly and an artsy-fartsy type of citizenship where the discursive overruns the narrative[viii].

The second paradox of this phenomenon is the role of open source software to manage this movement. Only some managing aspects were organized via TitanPad[ix] with intention to elaborate collaborative documents where the campaign relied heavenly in big social media networks like Facebook/Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr. Again the lack of time forced the audience rather than trying to build a specific tool for this campaign, with only 2 weeks to convince people to participate in the poster creation process. The goal was to avoid obstacles rather than finding the most coherent and honest campaign. There are online tools available to share content in Spain that weren’t used for the lack of spreadability as their use is still limited to open source and DIY movements. It was more efficient to go where the public was, even considering that most of the instigators of this campaign have serious doubts about some of the practices of these platforms. Electing Manuela Carmena as Mayor of Madrid was perceived as almost an impossible task just until the very last days of the campaign where the election polls were invited to be optimistic. Beating the Partido Popular after more than 26 years ruling the city was difficult enough.

“Madrid con Manuela” always used social media platforms that already existed for a question of efficiency and time constrain as the goal was to reach the maximum amount of people in the minimum time possible. The use of open source tools was used once during the second half of the campaign for internal communication purposes. As most of the volunteers were familiar with the massive online media, these alternative tools were only a priority for the communication team of Ahora Madrid. “Madrid con Manuela” used all commercial social media platforms available for the broad public. From a social discourse point of view there is a lack of criticism over the media used for the campaign.

As some of the responsibilities of the campaign expressed, some of the politicians were surprised by the fact that “the voters themselves were making the campaign for them”. This is the main key of success of the campaign, its openness made it really difficult to attack by other political parties as they didn’t know where to focus their critiques. The hive mind[x] developed during these two weeks by the participants in this process and the relatively small scale of the project, being only one city, were also keys for success. As Nacho Padilla said the only criteria to assigned task inside the collective was just to leave every duty in the hands of the most resourceful person of the group in that task.

 “Nobody told me it was impossible, so I did it” Jean Cocteau said. This could be the summary of the thirteen days of existence of “Madrid con Manuela”.

List of links
1-Madrid Con Manuela, Twitter account. <https://twitter.com/madconmanuela>
2-Madrid Con Manuela, Facebook account. <https://www.facebook.com/events/453287668165177/>
3-Madrid Con Manuela Youtube account. <https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_jzieIHDBV1eW4X5zzX2XA/feed>
4-Madrid Con Manuela, Instagram account. <https://www.instagram.com/madconmanuela/>
5-Madrid Con Manuela, Tumblr account. <http://madridconmanuela.tumblr.com/>
6-Madrid Con Manuela, Wordpress account. <https://madridconmanuela.wordpress.com/>


[i] Moyano Perez, Javier. (They call us Indignados) Guardian Press Books 2013

[ii] Madrid Con Manuela (2005), http://www.slideshare.net/DanielYustos/manuela-hechos

[iii] Giovanely, Max Transmedia Storytelling: Imagery, Shapes and Techniques. Lulu.com 2011

[iv] Herrera, Linda. Revolution in the Age of Social Media. (London, UK, New Left Books. 2014) pp. 59-64

[v] Long, Geoffrey. Transmedia Storytelling Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company <http://cmsw.mit.edu/transmedia-storytelling-jim-henson-company/, accessed 1 December 2015.

[vi] Gray Dave, <https://plus.google.com/+DaveGray/posts/CQRVeKEsUvF, accessed 1 December 2015.

[vii] Giovanely [13].

[viii] Chouliaraki, Lilie. Self-Mediation New Media Citizenship and Civil Selves (NY, USA: Routledge, 2012) pp. 13-21

[ix] https://titanpad.com/B3VqvrhSj1

[x] Surowiecki, James. The wisdom of Crows (NY USA: Anchor Books, 2005).

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