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Social media, politics and democracy



The Department of Sociology at City University London will be hosting this half-day conference, featuring speakers Dr. Dan Mercea, City University London, Professor Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster, Dr. Marisol Sandoval, City University London, Dr. Darren G. Lilleker, Bournemouth University and moderated by Dr. Paolo Gerbaudo, Kings College London.

As part of the event there will be the launch of the book 'Public spheres and mediated social networks in the western context and beyond', co-authored by City University London's Petros Iosifidis with Mark Wheeler of London Metropolitan University. This book is available to purchase from Palgrave Macmillan or Amazon.

Petros book cover Petros profile Wheeler profile

About the event

Abstracts and speaker biographies

Persistent activist communication in high-risk protest by Dr. Dan MerceaMercea profile

Dr. Mercea
will revisit the notion of activist persistence to extend it to the study of activist communication on Twitter. He will take an event-based approach and examine Occupy Gezi, an outburst of collective action where organisations were one among many types of participants, and show that counter to the tenets of clicktivism, some of the most invested activist communicators on Twitter were highly involved in the Occupation despite being unaffiliated to activist organisations. They continued to tweet about the Occupation long after its eviction by the police. The talk will identify modes of persistent activist communication, reflect on its organisational ramifications and highlight its significance in a political context posing high risks to participation in dissident politics.

Dr. Dan Mercea is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, City University London. He holds a PhD in Communication Studies from the Department of Sociology, University of York. His book ‘Civic Participation in Contentious Politics’ is due to be published by Palgrave in Spring/Summer 2016.

Social media in the context of the crisis by Professor Christian FuchsFuchs profile

We live in times of crisis. The crisis of the capitalist economy has become a crisis of capitalist society at large, including the political system. The unfolding level of economic, political and ideological violence is not unlike in the situation of pre-world war situations. This presentation will focus on an analysis of the crisis and will situate social media in this context by analysing the capitalist social media industry, the role of social media in political change processes (including protests and revolutions), and how contemporary ideologies are expressed on social media. The presentation aims to show how social media are in complex ways embedded into the contradictions of capitalist society, economy, politics and ideology.

Professor Christian Fuchs is co-editor of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. He is a professor at the University of Westminster, where he is Director of the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), and Director of the Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies (WIAS). He is a member of the European Sociological Association’s Executive Committee. His books include “Reading Marx in the Information Age: A Media and Communication Studies Perspective on Capital Volume 1” (2016), “Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media” (2015), “Digital Labour and Karl Marx” (2014), “Social Media: A Critical Introduction” (2014), “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism” (2014), “Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies” (2011), “Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age” (2008).

Reclaiming social media by Dr. Marisol Sandoval

In the age of social media the term ‘social’ has moved from the margins to the very centre of thSandoval profilee business vocabulary. The ‘social’ has come to signify the various ways of ‘sharing’ content, communicating and collaborating online. Despite the rhetoric of sociality and sharing, social media remain embedded within a largely corporate controlled media landscape. Corporate social media are shaped by private structures of ownership and decision-making, power inequalities, consumerism and systematic surveillance. Going beyond this narrow understanding of the social requires challenging the political economic structures of media power and media ownership. In this talk Dr. Sandoval discusses the potentials of co-operative models to help reclaim social media.

Dr. Marisol Sandoval is a lecturer at the Department of Sociology’s Centre for Culture
and Creative Industries at City University London. Her current research focuses on the politics of worker co-operatives in the cultural sector.

Social media, politics and democracy by Dr. Darren G. Lilleker

What is social media doing to democracy

Do social networks represent an unstoppable democratizing and mobilizing force? Social media offers almost unlimited access to political actors and other citizens, on a global scale, to discuss the big ideas of the day. Thanks to information curation and sharing, any citizen with minimal skills and network access can assemble and sift vast amounts of data and argumentation. In theory we should have a highly informed, highly active citizenry.

Yet for many the Internet represents access to little more than pornography, pictures of pets, celebrity news and other distractions. Where political engagement does take place it is closer to graffiti than deliberation. However there are signs of hope. Social media is used as a means to counter the hegemony of elite ideas and expose and challenge corruption and nepotism within some political systems. These raise the question what is preventing these platforms playing a more significant role in advanced democracies.Lileker profile

Dr. Darren G. Lilleker is Associate Professor in Political Communication and Director of the Centre for Politics and Media Research at Bournemouth University. Dr. Lilleker’s expertise is in the professionalization and marketization of politics, and its impacts on citizens, on which he has published widely including the textbook Key Concepts in Political Communication (Sage, 2006), monographs Political Campaigning, Elections and the Internet (Routledge, 2011) and Political Communication and Cognition (Palgrave, 2014) and has co-edited The Marketing of Political Parties (MUP, 2006), Voters or Consumers (CSP, 2008) Political Marketing in Comparative Perspective (MUP, 2005) and The Media, Political Participation and Empowerment (Routledge, 2013).

Moderatorgerbaudo profile

Dr. Paolo Gerbaudo is a political and cultural sociologist based at King's College London where he acts as director of the Centre for Digital Culture and of the Programme Director of the BA Digital Culture. His research focuses on the transformation of protest movements and political parties in a digital era. He is the author of 'Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism' (Pluto, 2012), and of 'The Mask and the Flag: the Rise of Anarcho-populism in Global Protest (Hurst/OUP, 2016).


1:30pm Registration
2:00pm Talks begin
4:00pm Book launch reception
5:00pm Close

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When & where

2.00pm - 5.00pmThursday 9th June 2016

ELG15 Drysdale Building City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom

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