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Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets!: Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement

Manuel Castells
Over the last few years, a wave of social protests has rippled across the
world, and in its wake we have witnessed the profile of the social move-
ments of the information age. Yet, because of the novelty of their forms
of mobilization and organization, an ideological debate is raging over the
interpretation of these movements. Since in most cases they challenge
traditional forms of politics and organizations, the political establish-
ment, the media establishment, and the academic establishment have for
the most part refused to acknowledge their significance, even after
upheavals as important as those represented by the so-called Arab Spring,
the Icelandic democratic rebellion, the Spanish Indignant movement,
the Israeli demonstrations of 2012, Occupy Wall Street, the Brazilian
mobilizations of 2013, and the Taksim Square protests, which shook up
the entrenched Islamic government of Turkey. Indeed, between 2010 and
2014, thousands of cities in more than one hundred countries have seen
significant occupations of public space as activists have challenged the
domination of political and financial elites over common citizens, who,
according to the protesters, have been disenfranchised and alienated from
their democratic rights.
A key issue in this often blurred debate is the role of communication
technologies in the formation, organization, and development of the
movements. Throughout history, communication has been central to the
existence of social movements, which develop beyond the realm of insti-
tutionalized channels for the expression of popular demands. It is only by
communicating with others that outraged people are able to recognize
their collective power before those who control access to the institutions.
Institutions are vertical, and social movements always start as horizontal
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x Foreword
organizations, even if over time they may evolve into vertical organizations
for the sake of efficiency. (This evolution is seen by many in the move-
ments as the reproduction of the same power structures that they aim to
If communication is at the heart of social mobilization, and if holding
power largely depends on the control of communication and information,
it follows that the transformation of communication in a given society
deeply affects the structure and dynamics of social movements. This trans-
formation is multidimensional: technological, organizational, institu-
tional, spatial, cultural. We live in a network society in which people and
organizations set up their own networks according to their interests and
values in all domains of the human experience, from sociability to politics,
and from networked individualism to multimodal communities. In the
twenty-first century there has been a major shift from mass communica-
tion (characterized by the centralized, controlled distribution of messages
from one sender to many receivers and involving limited interactivity, as
exemplified by television) to mass self-communication (characterized by
multimodality and interactivity of messages from many senders to many
receivers through the self-selection of messages and interlocutors and
through the self-retrieving, remixing, and sharing of content, as exempli-
fied by the Internet, social media, and mobile networks). The appropriation
of networked communication technologies by social movements has
empowered extraordinary social mobilizations, created communicative
autonomy vis- à -vis the mass media, business, and governments, and laid
the foundation for organizational and political autonomy. In a world of
2.5 billion Internet users and almost 7 billion mobile phone subscribers, a
significant share of communication power has shifted from corporations
and state bureaucracies to civil society a shift well established by research.
However, we have only scant grounded analysis of the technological,
organizational, and cultural specificity of new processes of social mobiliza-
tion and community networking. Too often, there is a na ï ve interpretation
of these important phenomena that boils down to descriptive accounts of
the use of the newest communication technologies or applications by
social activists. Instead, a complex set of distinct developments is at work.
It is simply silly (or ideologically biased) to deny or downplay the empirical
observation of the crucial role of networking technologies in the dynamics
of networked social movements. On the other hand, it is equally silly to
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Foreword xi
pretend that Twitter, Facebook, or any other technology, for that matter,
is the generative force behind the new social movements. (No observer,
and certainly no activist, defends this latter position; it is a straw man
erected by traditional intellectuals, mainly from the left, as a way to garner
support for their belief in the role of the party any party in leading
the masses, who are deemed unable to organize themselves.) Moreover,
my observations of movements around the world reveal that the new social
movements are networked in multiple ways, not only online but in the
form of urban social networks, interpersonal networks, preexisting social
networks, and the networks that form and reform spontaneously in cyber-
space and in physical public space. This networking consists of a process
of communication that leads to mobilization and is facilitated by organiza-
tions emerging from the movement, rather than being imported from the
established political system. However, to make progress in understanding
these movements, we need scholarly research that goes beyond the cloud
of ideology and hype to examine with methodological reliability how
communication works in such movements and to understand with preci-
sion the interaction between communication and social movements.
From this perspective, the book you hold in your hands represents a
fundamental contribution to a rigorous characterization of the new avenues
of social change in societies around the world. The concept of transmedia
organizing that Sasha Costanza-Chock proposes integrates the variety of
modes of communication that exist in the real media practices of social
movements. From the activists point of view, any communication mode
that works is adopted, so that the Internet and mobile platforms are used
alongside and in interaction with paper leaflets, interpersonal face-to-face
communication, bulletins and newspapers, graffiti, pirate radio, street art,
public speeches and assemblies in the square. Everything is included in
what Costanza-Chock calls the media ecology of the movement. This is
the reality of the new movements and the foundation of their communica-
tive autonomy, on which their very existence depends, particularly when
repression inevitably falls on them.
Costanza-Chock identified this novel interaction between the shifting
media ecology and social movements long before the Arab Spring uprisings
or the Occupy movement came to the attention of the mass media.
He focused on a most significant social development, the movement for
immigrant rights that exploded across the United States in 2006, with its
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xii Foreword
epicenter in Los Angeles. He studied this movement between 2006 and
2013, beginning with his participation in the Border Social Forum, where
the new realities of immigration were debated. Through a commitment to
methods of participatory research, he partnered with organizers and activ-
ists from the immigrant rights movement, and worked with them as code-
signers and coinvestigators in a range of popular communication initiatives.
This courageous strategy of engaged scholarship allowed him to see the
specific, sometimes contradictory effects of different communication pro-
cesses in the dynamics of the movement. For example, he identified the
centrality of critical digital literacy in grassroots social mobilization. In a
world in which the fight for one s rights can be shaped decisively by one s
ability to use the new means of communication, it is crucial to equalize
access to the direct use of communication technologies by grassroots
actors. By developing digital literacy, the movement can raise conscious-
ness as well as find better uses for digital tools as they are adapted
to movement goals. Otherwise the inevitable professionalization of
transmedia organizers leads to the formation of a technical leadership that
does not necessarily coincide with the leadership emerging from the
The close analysis of these and related processes presented in the pages
of this fascinating book is of utmost importance for understanding the
new, networked social movements of the Internet age, as well as the poten-
tial of new communication technologies to broaden citizen participation
in institutional decision making. In the midst of a widespread crisis of
legitimacy faced by governments around the world, understanding these
processes is crucial for activists, concerned citizens, open-minded officials,
and scholars everywhere. This book engages us in a fascinating intellectual
and political journey. It raises, and often solves, many of the questions
now being asked about networked social movements. It is based on impec-
cable scholarship, in which the author s commitment to the defense of
immigrant rights does not impinge on the integrity of his observation and
analysis. This is social research as it best: when normative values are not
denied by a detached academic but are served by investigative imagination
and theoretical capacity, yielding an accurate assessment of the ways and
means of the new world in the making.
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... In the literature, social movement media have been defined as the "outward-directed" practices by movement actors that engage publics through mass media and the "inward-directed'' practices of movement media-making that mobilize movement actors (Rucht, 2004, p. 32). Critical scholars researching the Arab uprisings and subsequent movements have documented online and offline media strategies, noting that effective movement media-making embraces a diversity of media practices that are typically participatory and seek to amplify action for both inward and outward audiences (Costanza-Chock, 2014;Gerbaudo, 2012). Researching contemporary movement media practices, including media activism during and since the Arab uprisings, requires historicizing the diverse ways in which social movement actors used the Internet long before the development of blogging or other forms of social media. ...
... Open publishing at Indymedia was not just for tech-savvy activists, but rather the platform enabled users with minimal computer skills to click a few buttons and contribute to their movement's media-making. Indymedia effectively mobilized new social movement media technology, but the Independent Media Center's open publishing architecture would later be commodified by capitalist social media (Costanza-Chock, 2014;Indymedia, 2017). Such media history, told from the point of view of social movement actors, is necessary to contextualize contemporary media activism. ...
... As a project that spans nearly twenty years, the IMEMC remains active because it relies predominately on volunteer labor. As such, the IMEMC has not been challenged by the NGO-ization of social movements in Palestine, whereby social movement agendas become projects run by a "professional elite for the purpose of accountability vis-à-vis foreign donors" (Jad, 2008, p. 2), or the professionalization of social movement media as documented by Costanza-Chock (2014). Both the Chiapas Media Project and Indymedia have resisted the agendas of donors, the former creating a policy to "apply for grants as long as there were no strings attached and no political agenda of the foundation that conflicted with our/the community's agenda" (Halkin, 2008, p. 70) and the latter rejecting a $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for similar reasons collectively deliberated (Jeppesen & Petrick, 2018). ...
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Critical scholarship investigating media and the Arab uprisings has called for “a return to history.” This article argues that researching the contemporary constraints and opportunities of social movement media in the Arab region requires historicizing such practices. Reflecting on the role of media activism within the Arab uprisings necessitates broadening the historical context of social movement media in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by investigating the diversity of media tactics and alternative political economies mobilized to resist the military-industrial communications complex. This article develops a political economy framework to historicize social movement media practices from Chiapas to Palestine and provides a critical reflection on the use of media for revolution before and beyond the Arab uprisings. Learning from the long and global history of revolutionary media struggle is beneficial to media activists and researchers working in the MENA region.
Based on work with three youth-led activist groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, we explore the hybrid relationship between online and offline activism. This hybridity serves as a ‘third space’ (Bhabha, 2004 Bhabha, H. (2004). The location of culture. Routledge. [Google Scholar]) that combines elements of collective and connective action. Our understanding of hybridity draws on and extends Bennett and Segerberg’s (2012) theory of connective action and MacDonald’s (2002) notion of ‘fluidarity.’ Building on their work, we interpret activist spaces as hybrid spaces where activist identities are constructed as both connective and collective. Hybrid activism contextualizes the ways corporeality remains central to the affective experience of many activist campaigns. The interacting affordances of each space generate possibilities for community organizing and community building that are qualitatively different than either on- or offline spaces alone. Communicative complexity Treré (2018 Treré, E. (2018). Hybrid media activism: Ecologies, imaginaries, algorithms. Routledge.[Crossref] , [Google Scholar]) and activist self-narration are key elements of the hybridity that emerged in our study. In addition, the connective action properties of digital media were maximized when physical and digital campaigns were porous. Digital and material spaces are therefore co-constructing and complementary.
Given its significance for society’s character, future and identity, migration has dominated media discourse. At present, the ascendance of digital platforms which broaden opportunities to produce, share and access content online has ignited debates about migration’s discursive construction. Often approached as promoting tolerance and inclusivity, social media are also believed to unleash xenophobia and intergroup antagonism. Working with a cross-section of tweets from the 2019 Canadian Federal election, this article asks how was migration framed, which users influenced the flow and substance of discourse and did Twitter diverge from conventional media space? It finds, while chains of citizen-users overwhelmingly employed Twitter to distribute original content, anti-immigration communications and actors were disproportionately featured. Considering these results, this article introduces the concept of digital nativism to clarify how technical affordances, user intentions and wider socio-political conditions intersect to produce emergent patterns of anti-immigration discourse and mobilization that are participatory, interactive and broadly distributed.
This article examines the representation of the migrant caravan on Instagram showing how an aesthetics of otherness has prevailed in this representation. Aesthetics of otherness is the result of the interaction between platform users’ selections and platform affordances that creates a gap between the marginalized other and the user. Based on a qualitative content analysis of posts with the hashtags #caravanamigrante and #migrantcaravan, this research reveals that the two hashtags form parallel, although not alike, communicative spaces where migrant caravan representation is mostly mediated by professionals and organizations interested in promoting their own work and not by the migrants themselves. Despite this trend, users posting with #caravanamigrante were less likely to hijack the intent of the public, more likely to reference reasons for migration, and overall less likely to employ the aesthetics of otherness, which point to the possibility of circumventing the role of the platform in shaping the representation of marginalized people and social justice movements.
In this paper we offer a critical analysis of the media discourse around an anti-sexual violence comic book, Priya’s Shakti (2013), which tells the story of a victim of gang rape who becomes an unlikely “superhero” in a crusade to end sexual violence. The comic was created by an Indian American filmmaker, Ram Devineni, in response to the horrific gang rape and murder of a young woman in New Delhi in 2012 (the Nirbhaya case). Positioning a rape victim from rural India as a protagonist with power, it was widely applauded as a means of changing the disempowering discourse surrounding victim-survivors of sexual violence. However, we argue, the comic does not actually center Priya’s experience, and instead renders Priya as marginal in her own story. Although the comic is marketed as promoting women’s agency, in media coverage, Devineni is foregrounded as the agent of change. He is positioned as the perfect diasporic masculine saviour, both respectful of traditional culture and adequately progressive, educated, and modernized. The media spectacle of Priya’s Shakti thus participates in a discursive move to replace the “White saviour” with a proxy—the diasporic Hindu masculine saviour—whilst keeping the underlying structures of both Hindu patriarchal power and US imperialism in place.
This chapter focuses on how asylum-seeker activists and their allies cope with and contest right-wing nationalist rhetoric and interference. The empirical material, consisting of research interviews with migrant activists and an analysis of posts from two pro-migration Facebook pages, is set in a framework in which media studies, social movement studies and discursive psychology intersect. The chapter identifies three discursive manoeuvres through which pro-migration activists resist right-wing nationalist interference and position themselves vis-à-vis the antagonism they face: denying fear, constructing safe spaces and focusing the narrative on the State. Through these manoeuvres, a position is established whereby asylum seekers are not reduced to passive victims or grateful wanderers. Rather, they are presented as self-empowered political figures who anchor their hopefulness in the collective endeavour of creating societal change. The findings bring to the fore the interplay between psychologically aligned coping mechanisms and strategic communication on the one hand, and face-to-face communication and digital interaction on the other.KeywordsMigrant activismPositioning theoryCoping strategiesRight-wing antagonism
La triada comunicación, educación y tecnología se puede estudiar desde diversas disciplinas tanto sociales como exactas, en contextos reales y virtuales, de manera local, regional, nacional e internacional. Investigar en estos campos disciplinares resulta una constante en tanto que sus dinámicas y avances son cotidianos y responden a las mismas dinámicas de la sociedad. Por ello, es necesario observarlas para comprenderlas e interactuar de manera ecológicamente. La presente obra se enfoca presenta una serie de investigaciones y experiencias académicas en torno al vínculo importante que se forma en la interacción de la comunicación, la educación y la tecnología, en contextos geográfica y situacionalmente diversos. Se abarcan textos sobre algunos de los ejes de convergencia de la triada comunicación, educación y tecnología, tales como: estudios emergentes y transdisciplinarios de comunicación estratégica, organizacional y educativa. Comunicación y gestión de negocios; innovación educativa en la gestión y la cultura de inclusión aplicada a metodologías, enfoques didácticos, liderazgo y movilidad de recursos administrativos con el fin de disminuir barreras para el aprendizaje y la participación que enfrentan los estudiantes y docentes. Enfoques y estrategias de los procesos de enseñanza-aprendizaje a través de las nuevas tecnologías. Nuevas tecnologías, canales digitales de comunicación y transmisión para la creación y difusión de las humanidades, ciencias y tecnologías. La dimensión socio cultural de la tecnología como vía de comunicación. La modificación de las prácticas comunicativas a partir de la tecnología. La tecnología y su incidencia en las diversas esferas de la sociedad. La interacción de la sociedad con la tecnología a partir de la mediación comunicativa.
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