Scholars and activists have hotly debated the relationship between social media and social movement activity during the current global cycle of protest. This talk investigates media practices in the Occupy movement and develops an analytical framework of social movement media culture: the set of tools, skills, social practices, and norms that movement participants deploy to create, circulate, curate, and amplify movement media across all available platforms.
Movement media cultures are shaped by their location within a broader media ecology, and can be said to lean towards open or closed based on the diversity of spokespeople, the role of media specialists, formal and informal inclusion mechanisms, messaging and framing norms, and levels of transparency. The social movement media culture of the Occupy movement leans strongly towards open, distributed, and participatory processes; at the same time, highly skilled individuals and dedicated small groups play key roles in creating, curating, and circulating movement media. Insight into the media culture of the Occupy movement is based on mixed qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative insights come from semi-structured interviews with members of Media Teams and Press Working Groups, participant observation and visual research in multiple Occupy sites, and participation in Occupy Hackathons. Quantitative insights are drawn from a survey of over 5,000 Occupy participants, a crowdsourced database of the characteristics of approximately 1200 local Occupy sites, and a dataset of more than 13 million tweets with Occupy related hashtags.
Sasha Costanza-Chock is Assistant Professor of Civic Media in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT. He is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, co-PI of the MIT Center for Civic Media, and cofounder of the Occupy Research Network.