Communicating Protest Movements: The Case of Occupy
AbstractHow do you communicate a protest movement? And how do communication practices shape its character and power relations? Based on a view of communication as constitutive of protest movements, this talk considers these questions as two sides of the same coin. The focus lies on the Occupy movement and particularly on its use of digital media. Characterised by a belief in direct participation and a rejection of central leadership, Occupy emerged through a bottom-up process of organizing that spanned different platforms and physical places, from Facebook pages to public squares. The process of constructing the collective involved the creation of communication sites and foundational texts, and their interlinking. This process was influenced by the rules, affordances and proprietary character of media platforms and physical spaces, as well as the diverse cultures and strategies of the activists using them. A closer look at this process sheds light on the power relations within the movement and particularly on five sources of communication power. These range from the power to create communication sites and texts to the power to access or link them together. The picture that emerges is complex, revealing a movement with both centralizing and decentralizing dynamics. Ultimately, it was the balance between these opposing dynamics that determined both the emergence of the movement and its decline.
Acknowledgement: This contribution is the podcast of a talk Anastasia Kavada gave in the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI)'s Research Seminar Series on February 25, 2015, at the University of Westminster.
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