The so-called web 2.0 of social network sites was invented as a business strategy to react to the first dot.com bust and, as revealed by the NSA scandal, it has been heavily used by the State as a platform of global surveillance. Yet, this space has also seen the rise of new powerful forms of digital activism, as seen in the adoption of Facebook and Twitter as means of mass mobilisation in the context of the Arab revolutions, the Spanish indignados and of Occupy Wall Street.
These contradictions raise a number of burning questions for contemporary digital activists. What are the real opportunities and threats for digital activism at the time of social network sites and big data? How can protest movements make use of the power of mass diffusion and collective coordination afforded by social media without falling prey of state monitoring or cultural banalisation? And is it better to invest energy in creating alternative and non-commercial communication platforms or in occupying the digital mainstream?
The “Digital Activism #Now” conference will explore emerging digital protest practices at a time of increasing diffusion of social media and progressive massification and commercialisation of the web. By gathering leading international researchers and activists we will examine how digital activists are making use of the affordances of the social web. Moreover, we will debate the main issues of contention among contemporary digital activists, faced with increasing possibilities of mass outreach but also with new threats.
Among the issues covered in the conference will feature the role of social network sites in contemporary protests, hacktivism at the time of Anonymous and Lulzsec, activist use of digital culture, internet memes, and online pranks, as means of digital propaganda and the politics of transparency and secrecy in digital whistleblowing.
The Digital Activism #Now conference is organised by Paolo Gerbaudo and Tim Jordan, researchers in Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London.
It is supported by the School of Arts and Humanities, the department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, the department of Digital Humanities, the China Lau institute and the North American Institute, at King’s College London.