Democratic media activism – a historical look (and a good read)

Researcher and lecturer Anne Kaun (University of Pennsylvania, Södertorn University) has studied the role of media in times of crises. In her book ”Crisis and critique” (Zed Books, 2016), she gives a historical look on the relationship between media and protest movements, starting on the 1930’s and 70’s and strecthing her analysis into our contemporary #blacklivesmatter, #occupywallstreet or the Arab Spring.

Her focus is valid and political, as she challenges uncritical media technology enthusiasm and discusses the shortcomings digital activism. ”Political practices of participatory democracy within progressive movements often do not fit the tight framework of social media’s immediacy”. Kaun argues that these digital channels might be quick in creating citizen engagement but are often insufficient to maintain that commitment over time.

”Media play a crucial role during periods of transitions such as economic crises. At the same time, media are parts of the broader cultural domain and face similar problems as other social areas (…) The most often experience deep crisis, too”

In ”Crisis and critique”, the author reflects on how protest movements adapt to the logic of mass mainstream media – traditionally seen as gatekeepers (and often the target of protest movements themselves) so that their movements are perceived in a positive way. ”This includes professionalization of practices and might include the hiring of media professionals or the development of a separate public relations units”

Sergio Guimaraes, Speaking of PR