The role of social media in social movements


IIt’s hard to imagine a more fitting symbol of white privilege than juxtaposing Colin Kaepernick, kneeling in silence protesting systemic racism and police brutality during the national anthem, with Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, as he gasped. What this image does not show is that there were three other officers standing, or that Chauvin continued to press his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as onlookers begged him to let go. socket.

Video of Floyd’s May 25 murder has circulated on social media and since then has formed an uprising, taking the form of mass protests against police brutality and systemic racism, largely organized online.

In the days that followed, we saw a handful of social media campaigns, including Blackout Tuesday, which, while poised to highlight black voices, raised fears that it might drowned out important information and updates for protesters. Social media has become hotbeds for liking, commenting and sharing information – what some might call “slacktivism” – about local Black Lives Matter protests, guides for people looking to become allies in the fight against racial injustice and political debates about race and equality in America. From documenting and sharing unfiltered images and videos of police violence to instigating legislative changes from local leaders, the role of social media in instigating and sustaining social movements cannot be underestimated, and he stresses the importance of maintaining a free and democratic virtual space.

JHere are some ways to think about the impact of social networks on social movements. The aforementioned “slacktivism” is one, where users circulate information and resources through likes, shares and retweets. Although it has been overlooked as non-engagement and feel-good politics, there is some evidence to suggest that this form of activism can actually help. A study from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication highlighted two important groups in the social protests: a central group and a peripheral group. The core group are users on the street, actively protesting and spreading their message, and the periphery are unengaged participants, echoing and sharing that message through various social media.

For Kelsy Kretschmer, an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University, she thinks this form of activism has its benefits, siding with what is called the “strength of weak ties,” which argues that the information is more engaging when it comes from acquaintances or a stranger with a common community background, as opposed to a friend, family member or loved one.

“If you see a lot of people online on your social media feed showing up for a protest, you’re also more likely to show up for a protest because you feel like that’s what your network is doing, and that can be really valuable,” Kretschmer says. “The best predictor of who shows up to protests are people who have been invited, people who have been asked or coerced into going. , it increases the types of ways people can be invited to a protest, even if it’s indirectly.

Kretschmer, whose work focuses primarily on social movement organizations, mobilizations and the conflicts that arise within groups struggling for social change, argues that social media can be seen as a tool that works by capitalizing on social networks. real or offline who are already mobilizing. . During recent protests, including the Arab Spring, the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and others, social media has played a key role in amplifying their respective messages, even though each movement was born out of very different circumstances and environments. .

“The power of images communicates needs in a new way,” says Kretschmer, noting that the impact of social media today can be seen as the impact of television during the civil rights movement.

“You can see the threads of what’s still going on. George Floyd’s death matters to more people because there was footage of it. And it’s very different from reading an article in a newspaper,” she says. “So social media matters a lot for that, in the same way that national news broadcasts mattered a lot in the 1960s. It changes the number of people who are willing to participate.

FLoyd’s murder is just one name in a long history of police violence against black people. Since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, BLM has organized thousands of national and international protests and demonstrations.

Christopher Stout, an associate professor in the OSU School of Public Policy, has studied the ebb and flow of BLM in the Public Consciousness and How Public Officials Talk About It, and he is currently working on a book about how the movement has shaped discussions of race in American politics. Stout says much of BLM’s standing in the public consciousness is down to how the movement is taking shape on social media.

“Between Rodney King and Philando Castile or Mike Brown, police shootouts were always happening, in fact there’s evidence that there haven’t been big changes in police brutality over time, that’s just that it finally gets some attention. Social media is driving this change,” Stout says. “People can hear about something and not think about it, but seeing images on social media and seeing some of those images go viral, it’s really hard to ignore. It’s hard to say that these things don’t happen. not happen or that those things are not a problem.

Stout says social media is effective in raising awareness about certain issues, “but it needs more sustained action. It’s just a starting point. Generally, once there is awareness, then you have to push your politicians to do something about it.

As images and videos of peaceful protests gone awry due to police brutality continue to emerge, discussions of major policy changes – particularly defunding or abolishing the police (including the office Portland Police Department) – have gained ground. Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is already proposing to withdraw funding for specialized police units and transfer more than $4 million “to fund Portland Street Response, a new unarmed, non-police first response option “, she said. wrote on Twitter June 8.

On Tuesday, June 9, Ted Wheeler announced that the city would disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team, PPB Transit Police, and School Resource Officers, as well as divert $7 million from police and $5 million. millions of dollars in other municipal funds to invest in communities of color. .

Our ability to do all of this – raise our voices, organize and activate, share information, demand social and legislative change – is crucial to building and sustaining a movement, provided we have the physical and virtual space for make.

HHow do architecture and community media intersect? Karim Hassanein can help us find the link. He is an Egyptian-American Senior Marketing Coordinator with Bora Architects and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Signal open, a media arts center in Portland. Spending most of his life outside the United States, Hassanein was studying landscape architecture at the University of Oregon when the Arab Spring emerged in 2010.

“Looking from afar, here I was studying how the built environment is critical to civic well-being and social health and environmental well-being. I didn’t want to focus on parks or beautiful backyards for the wealthy. I wanted to know about special design applications to meet the demands of the revolution in Egypt and create a more democratic participatory society,” he says.

Hassanein was studying how our built environment, especially cities, can be constructed to dictate people’s actions, “how we come together or don’t come together, how we engage with each other and with our government or are bound at arm’s length, the priorities we place on who can develop land and what can be built on it.

What was emerging in 2011, he says, was the virtual space, and in this space, with digital technology and social media, movements and organized actions began to take shape. When Egypt began to regulate the internet, Hassanein thought about how digital environments, much like our physical environments, can be subject to surveillance and control.

When the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality regulations in 2017, it allowed Internet service providers to block or impede access as they saw fit, unless challenged by Congress or the courts. For years, net neutrality advocates have argued that open access to the internet is crucial for innovation and freedom of expression. Hassanein says the BLM movement shows the importance of social media and public, affordable internet access – that without this digital space our ability to organize and mobilize is severely limited, and he points to projects like Municipal Broadband PDX as potential solutions to a growing fear of regulation.

“The ability to maintain a free, fair, accessible, neutral virtual space, the ability to have broadband and affordable access for every resident of this country depends on us demanding that our government regulate the internet as a public service instead of treat as this separate issue,” he says. “Our ability to use these [digital] the spaces for activation and organization to change our physical environment largely depend on public ownership of these infrastructures.


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