Emiliano Treré, Cardiff University
9th October 2018
Based on Hybrid Media Activism: Ecologies, Imaginaries, Algorithms, my forthcoming book with Routledge, this talk is a journey into the complexities, ambiguities and shortcomings of contemporary digital activism. In the first section, the pars denstruens, I critically assess the three specters and the five fallacies of the communicative reductionism that plagues the media/movement literature. In the second section, the pars construens,
I propose a new conceptual vocabulary in order to restore the communicative complexity of social movements. Hence, I introduce and illustrate the conceptual lenses of media practices, ecologies, imaginaries and algorithms. Drawing on extensive fieldwork on social movements, activist collectives and political parties in Spain, Italy and Mexico over the last ten years, I disentangle the hybrid nature of contemporary activism, showing how activists operate merging the physical and the digital, the human and the non-human, the old and the new, the internal and the external, the corporate and the alternative.
I then move on to elucidate that communication technologies constitute not only the organizational infrastructure of contemporary social movements, but provide crucial resources with which activists forge and cultivate their collective identities, embodying privileged loci for the ignition and perpetuation of the technological sublime, and of the digital myths and the media imaginaries of our age. Unveiling how media imaginaries can be used to conceal authoritarianism or reimagine democracy, I cast light on the ambivalent, contradictory nature of contemporary digital activism. I then look at both side of algorithmic power, scrutinizing strategies of repression and propaganda, and illuminating manifestations of algorithms as appropriation and resistance.
Throughout my lecture, I deliver a picture of activism as inherently communicative, casting media and movements as co-constitutive and showing that digital activism is not an immediate solution to intricate political problems, but can only be effective when a set of favorable social, political, cultural and communicative conditions align.
Emiliano Treré is a lecturer at the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University, UK. A former associate professor at the Autonomous University of Querétaro (Mexico), he has researched extensively on the challenges, the opportunities and the myths of media technologies for social movements, activist collectives and political parties in Europe and Latin America. He is the author of Hybrid Media Activism: Ecologies, Imaginaries, Algorithms and the coeditor of Citizen Media and Practice: Currents, Connections, Critiques. Both volumes are forthcoming with Routledge. He has published extensively in leading journals including New Media & Society, Communication Theory, Convergence, the International Journal of Communication, and Information, Communication & Society.