From Citizen Journalism to Hacktivism: How to Successfully Use Social Media in Grassroots Campaigns

Wednesday, February 20th, 6pm-8pm
Graduate Center, CUNY 365 Fifth Avenue


Social media is said to enable a counter-public sphere. From Tahrir Square to Wall Street, it has been celebrated for making it possible to circumvent traditional flows of one-to-many communication replacing it with more democratic forms. The use, by NGOs and other interest groups. of the affordances of emerging forms of digital tools and platforms can become a tool for promoting bottom-up processes of social change. But there is a danger in techno-determinism. We must not assume that democratic forms and transformatory power result naturally from the mere use of these new resources. Notions like “slacktivism” and “clicktivism” are part of the a more critical stance, warning that the new platforms may just as well be used in conserving and anti-democratic ways in top-down efforts to diminish the space for grassroots initiatives.

This session, “From Citizen Journalism to Hacktivism: How to Successfully Use Social Media in Grassroots Campaigns,” aims to bring together individuals and groups representing a variety of actual experiences of working with digital activism. Activism is understood in this context in a broad sense, as any effort employing digital media to renegotiate or redifine predominant or prevailing forms. Examples may include citizen journalism, blogging, Twitter and Facebook mobilization and campaigning, social media coordination of street level protests (Occupy etc.), pirate culture and hacktivism (WikiLeaks, Anonymous, etc.), fanfiction, remix, etc.

The session is moderated by Simon Lindgren, researcher and author of New Noise: A Cultural Sociology of Digital Disruption, and will have a roundtable/workshop format where the focus will be on experience-sharing, networking, and on identifying pitfalls as well as best practices for harnessing the power of social media in grassroots endeavours. The panel was co-organized by Gregory Donovan, Jen Jack Gieseking, Simon Lindgren, and Suzanne Tamang.