Social media and space: solutions to negative media framing of protest

Newlands, Maxine (2015) Social media and space: solutions to negative media framing of protest. In: Presentations from the Protest Participation in Variable Communication Ecologies Conference. From: Protest Participation in Variable Communication Ecologies Conference, 24-26 June 2015, Alghero, Sardinia, Italy.

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Why, when an individual wants to take to the streets at climate summits, set up a protest camp or protest against eco-political policy they are labelled by the media and politicians as anything from tree-hugger to the neoliberal neologism of 'eco-terrorist'?(Arnold, 19891).

Drawing on environmental and media political discourse theory, the paper will such media representation emerges from power shifts away from activism towards environmental governance and free-market economics, nestled in a media discourse. An attempt to shift power back towards activism within environmental discourse has been made with social media, as a solution to limited resources and mobilisation of people as a co-ordinated form of protest. However, although some hail social media as helping to foster greater democracy, there's a risk of over-reliance on social media strategies, resulting in too much focus on 'hits' and 'likes' and less emphasis on the rationale. Democratic change maybe aided by tweets and Facebook events (Ghonm2, 2012), but one over reliance on social media as a protest tool can also be detrimental to wider democratic practices.

Instead the paper argues that by exploring the space of environmental activism is a much-more effective mode of contentious politics. Where and when an action takes places is as significantly important as too why. For many activists, sites of contestations are part of ongoing affirmations to the historical importance of a familiar and workable space that furthers the goal of subverting the existing power structure. Whilst many contemporary activist movements are shaped by histories of social relations, economic practices and formations of political power; technological advances in communication in recent years have enabled activists to contest such power relations through social and new media, alongside mainstream repertoires of protest within the space of protest. Direct action, at or near sites of contestation not only shifts the media and political hierarchy, but also alters power relations between activists, the media and political discourse.

The empirical research draws on original interviews with a variety of environmental activists, newspaper and broadcast media coverage, archival research and activists' literature. The archival data and media reports are scrutinized through the concept of Critical discourse analysis, in combination with the original empirical material. In doing so, this paper asks three important questions (1) why do such discursive structures by the mainstream media and governments frame protest in as a negative act of democracy. (2) What do social media offer as a mode of contestation? (3) How can environmental activists movements move away from the current media climate of negativity?

Item ID: 39326
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Keywords: protest, media, environmental, heterotopia, space, climate change
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Funders: College of Arts, Society and Education
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2015 01:26
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1903 Journalism and Professional Writing > 190301 Journalism Studies @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200206 Globalisation and Culture @ 50%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9402 Government and Politics > 940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified @ 40%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950204 The Media @ 60%
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