Digital Communication Technologies and Protest Movements

British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship Project

Researcher: Anastasia Kavada, University of Westminster

During the academic year 2013-2014, Anastasia Kavada will be engaged in a research project funded by the British Academy as part of its Mid-Career Fellowship scheme. Anastasia’s project will critically investigate the role of digital media technologies in current protest movements and in their capacity for social change. The research will focus on activist networks involved in or emerging from the Occupy movement in the USA and the UK. Inspired by the Arab Spring and the Spanish Acampadas, Occupy began in New York in September 2011. Railing against global inequalities and the dominance of corporate interests in the political sphere, Occupy activists have attempted to build a community of equals by occupying public space and practicing the methods of participatory democracy. Occupy activism is also transnational and heterogeneous, attracting diverse participants who are loosely connected through a broad collective identity rather than a rigid ideology. Activist networks and organisations associated with or borne out of Occupy are currently involved in various campaigns and mobilisations around the economic crisis.

The proposed research will explore the uses of digital media technologies, such as social media platforms, wiki and mobile applications, and discussion lists, in processes of organizing, mobilizing and decision-making. It will also examine the activists’ relationship with the media, their interaction with opponents and targets, and their attempts to build solidarity and construct a cohesive collective identity. Methods will include in-depth interviews with activists, content analysis of Twitter hashtags and the press coverage of main Occupy events, analysis of the minutes of meetings, audio and video recordings of mass assemblies, and features analysis of the main digital spaces used by the movement.

Anastasia will travel to the USA for six months for fieldwork. During this time, she will be a Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington, at New York University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If you’d like to hear more about this project, you can contact her at [email protected].

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