Far from being neutral, social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WeChat – possess their own material characteristics, which shape how people engage, protest, resist, and struggle. This innovative collection advances the notion of social media materialities to draw attention to the ways in which the wires and silicon, data streams and algorithms, user and programming interfaces, business models and terms of service steer contentious practices and, inversely, how technologies and economic models are handled and performed by users. The key question is how the tension between social media’s techno-commercial infrastructures and activist agency plays out in protest. Addressing this, the volume goes beyond singular empirical examples and focuses on the characteristics of protest and social media materialities, offering further conceptualizations and guidance for this emerging field of research. The various contributions explore a wide variety of activist projects, protests, and regions, ranging from Occupy in the USA to environmental protests in China, and from the Mexican Barrio Nómada to the Copenhagen-based activist television channel TV Stop (1987–2005).
Table of Contents
Introduction: Social media materialities and protest Christina Neumayer, Mette Mortensen and Thomas Poell
PART I: Spatiality
I post, you rally, she tweets… and we all occupy: The challenges of hybrid spatiality in the Occupy Wall Street mobilizations Alice Mattoni
Rethinking networked solidarity Sky Croeser
Nomads of cyber-urban Space: Media hybridity as resistance Emiliano Treré
PART II: Temporality
(Social) media time, connective memory and activist television histories: The case of TV Stop (1987–2005) Tina Askanius
Facebook’s communication protocols, algorithmic filters, and protest: A critical socio-technical perspective Lorenzo Coretti and Daniele Pica
Social media as activist archives Christina Neumayer and David M. Struthers
PART III: Platformization
Theorizing civic engagement and social media: The case of the "refugee crisis" and volunteer organising in Sweden Julie Uldam and Anne Kaun
The materiality of clouds: Beyond a platform-specific critique of contemporary activism Stefania Milan
"Please leave my news feed alone": Exploring user protest against algorithmic personalization Martina Skrubbeltrang Mahnke
Evolving digital repertoires of contention in transitional societies: The case of China Jun Liu
Afterword: Lessons and puzzles in studying social media materialities and protest Alexandra Segerberg and W. Lance Bennett
Mette Mortensen is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She is the Principal Investigator of the collective research project "Images of Conflict, Conflicting Images" (2017–2021) and author or editor of seven books, including Eyewitness Images and Journalism (2015).
Christina Neumayer is Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen. Her research focusses on the role of media technologies in political conflict. She has published on digital media and activism, social movements, racism, and propaganda.
Thomas Poell is Senior Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His research focuses on digital platforms and public communication. He co-authored The Platform Society (2018), and co-edited Global Cultures of Contestation (2017) and The Sage Handbook of Social Media (2018).