Welcome to volte-face!
This our first post on volte-face will a bit out of the ordinary. Instead of digging deep into a specific online movement or networked conflict I will be pinning down a few key points we hope to integrate in our work with the blog.
The below and following texts that will be published on this page over the coming weeks are part of the Malmö University course called “New Media, ICT and Development”. We are a total of five students tasked with dissecting the ins and outs of new media activism. New media activism? Simply put, that is how communication practices and social arrangements through new media can bring about change (Lievrouw, 2011).
So, what do we want to achieve?
There are three main aspects we want to make sure to cover through this exercise.
First off, we hope to explore and critically discuss a broad range of digital/social media activism. We want to analyze how online activism connects with people both behind their screens and out on the streets, and how it can bring about change in both the short and long term. Looking at the use of social media in this regard is important, not the least since it is at the heart of a fundamental transformation of activism as we know it. Through a culture of sharing, as coined by Castells, activism can take place locally at the same time as it is being livestreamed globally. Some scholars, such as Bennett and Segerberg, argue that the communication process itself provides key organizational resources which allows for large crowds to act together with little need for formal coordination.
Our second aim is to achieve interactivity and participation. This follows the long prevailing reasoning that interactivity allows for participation, which in turn is a crucial feature of alternative and activist new media. As Lievrouw writes in her 2011 book on the matter, media scholars have for long considered participation as a key element of new media. This is because social media enables active user engagement, which in turn allows for a “new type of activism”. The idea is that this blog is to serve as an interactive node in the social media universe over the coming weeks. While doing so we recognize the need for being mindful of the criticism against digital activism, or more specifically the school of slacktivism. This terminology expands on how people find it relatively easy to engage in costless support for certain social causes while at the same time lacking the readiness to devote energy to achieve meaningful change (Kristofferson & White, 2013). Far from every online movement is successful.
Both the practices of activists and the dynamics of social media platforms evolve and change regularly. As Poell and van Dijck state in their 2018 piece on social media and new protest movements, protests nowadays unfold online and offline simultaneously. Our third ambition is to dig deep, to find and increase awareness of some of the social movements of the global south that might have gotten lost in the noise on social media. Without losing track of the greater picture, naturally.
We hope that this blog will provide food for thought and make you interact with us. Perhaps we can even get you out of your chair as you do?
Oh yes, before I forget, you might wonder why volte-face? Here’s an explanation for you!
an act of turning round so as to face in the opposite direction.
an abrupt and complete reversal of attitude, opinion, or position.
“a remarkable volte-face on taxes”
Image by Peter Southwood.
- Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2013). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope: Social movements in the Internet age. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
- Kristofferson, K., & White, K. P. (2013, 11 06). The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Prosocial Action.
- Lievrouw, Leah 2011: Alternative and Activist New MediaOxford: Polity Press.
- Poell, T.; van Dijck, J. 2018. Social Media and new protest movements, in: Burgess, J., Marwick, A. & Poell, T. (eds.): SAGE Handbook of Social Media. London: Sage.