I pretty much enjoyed the presentation by Natalie Fenton (Goldsmiths) and Veronica Barrassi (Regent’s College) on the first day of the IAMCR conference. They talked about the way in which social media can be used to bring about, not just political participation, but also political action and political change.What are the ways in which digital media actually produce social change ?

New Media, Old News (by N. Felton)

Here is how I interpret their message : the discourse around social media must no longer be exclusively focused on negative liberties (« liberties from »). One should go one step further and actually think about the conditions that are required for a citizen to be properly autonomous ; the mere absence of constraints – like the absence of censorship, or the absence of barriers to the means of communication – are an insufficient condition for that.

We live in a world in which great political changes are made possible, and are actually been made. But they are conditioned by a process of individuation (cf. M. Castells) : political voices  come into being trough the participation of the individual to the network society. The collectivities, the insitutions are left aside. Mass self communication leaves the individual disconnected form the public sphere.

Veronica Barrassi put this theoretical thinking in relation with her field work about alternative media platforms in Cuba. A very interesting founding in Veronica’s research is that cuban « participatory » media do not easily remain participatory. At a certain point, « interactivity is something they can no longer afford ». They will, for instance, cut the commentaries on their YouTube videos,  in order to avoid « trivial » things from being exchanged, and to keep a certain control on their discourse…

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