Photo by Nikos Kazeros
Our book chapter with Orsalia Dimitriou on the Indignant Movement in Athens was recently published in the edited book ‘Protest Camps in International Context: Spaces, Infrastructures and Media of Resistance’. The title of our chapter is ‘Protest spaces online and offline: the Indignant movement in Syntagma Square‘. Collaborating with Orsalia on this was very interesting, not only because writing a chapter with a friend makes the process much more enjoyable, but also because Orsalia is an architect with a PhD in visual culture. Writing with someone from a different discipline and developing a common framework for our argument was not easy – in the end we found inspiration in Henri Lefèbvre’s analysis of space and William Sewell Jr’s discussion of ‘spatial agency’ and social movements. Many thanks to Gavin Brown, Anna Feigenbaum, Fabian Frenzel and Patrick McCurdy for editing this volume and for providing very useful feedback.
The introduction to the chapter is copied below – email me if you’d like to have a look at a pre-publication draft.
“The summer of 2011 saw the largest occupation of public space in Greece. Enraged by the government’s austerity measures and following the example of the square occupations in Spain, thousands of people flooded Syntagma Square in the centre of Athens on the 25th of May 2011. Calling themselves ‘Αγανακτισμένοι’, meaning ‘Indignants’ in Greek, protesters stayed in the square for nearly two months, turning it into a stage of dissent and a place of political fermentation. This chapter explores the characteristics, practices and agency of the movement by focusing on space, both online and offline. We examine the Indignant’s repertoire of contention (Tilly 1978) – the tactics that they employed to challenge the government, express their anger and construct alternatives – with an eye on the spatial aspects of this repertoire. In so doing, we provide a sense of the movement’s ‘spatial agency’ (Sewell, 2001), of the ways in which the movement altered the physical arrangements and symbolic associations of space. However, our inquiry also looks at how spaces – online, offline and hybrid – shape patterns of mobilization and social movement activity. To provide a basis for this research, we begin by with a framework for understanding space, both physical and mediated and its relation with contentious politics.”
I have recently published a short article on the political agency of social movements in the digital age. I’ve been trying to think of political agency in communication terms, reflecting on the power that social movements may have in their communication with the public and with their adversaries. You can find the beginnings of this argument in this short article. An article on communication power is currently in a very draft stage…
I spent two weeks in Paris, conducting some fieldwork on #NuitDebout and helping Red Pepper magazine in its coverage of the movement. I was very interested in the links between #NuitDebout and the movements of 2011: How was the movement influenced by previous ones? How is it learning from the 2011 protests and how is the model changing? You can find some excerpts of the interviews that I conducted for Red Pepper magazine here.
I’m very excited to deliver my first ever keynote speech at the ‘Political Agency in the Digital Age’ conference taking place in Copenhagen between 9-10 October 2015. The conference is organized by the ECREA section on Communication and Democracy and it is packed with great sessions and papers. You can find the programme here!
Together with my colleague Aswin Punathambekar, we edited a special Crosscurrents section for Media, Culture and Society devoted to the theme of Big Data. A great lineup of contributors, including Zizi Papacharissi, Jack Qiu, Anita Chan, Nick Seaver and Andre Brock, were asked to respond to the provocations for big data research raised by Kate Crawford and danah boyd in their 2012 article for Information, Communication and Society.
You can find our editorial with Aswin here and the section is available on online first here. The articles will be available to download for free for a few more days.
It was the time of the year again for the E-Campaigning Forum, one of the best gatherings of digital campaigners working for social change. Together with Sandy Schumann from Oxford University, we presented the results of our survey of Greenpeace supporters and their engagement with the organization on different social media platforms. One of our main findings: our study contests the ‘slacktivism’ thesis as what are typically considered as ‘slacktivist’ actions – like signing online petitions – are behaviours that correlated positively with our respondents’ commitment to Greenpeace and the environment. Our presentation sparked a broader discussion on how we study online engagement, the benefits and limitations of qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as the research that academic researchers would like to see. See below for a video of our talk:
On the 25th of February 2015, I gave a CAMRI Seminar at the University of Westminster with the title ‘Communicating Protest Movements: The Case of Occupy’. You can now listen to a podcast of this talk via the journal TripleC: Communication, Culture & Critique. Many thanks to my colleague, Professor Christian Fuchs, for organizing this!
I’m now on the last leg of my US trip which started in the middle of October 2013. I first visited Seattle and the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. In mid-December I moved to New York and the Steinhardt School at New York University.
My last stop is Boston where I’m visiting the Comparative Media Studies department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I came to Boston in the beginning of February and I’ll be around until the middle of April. [check my profile on the MIT website!]
The research visits helped me to meet Occupy activists in all of these locations and get to know the context of the US Occupy movement a bit better. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to the interviewees, academic colleagues and friends who are making this research possible.