Brook Foucault Welles gave a talk today about her research on hashtag activism. Brooke is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Northeastern University and faculty affiliate of the Network Science Institute. The title and abstract of her talk are below.
#HashtagActivism: Networked Counterpublics in the Digital Age
The proliferation of social media has given rise to widespread study and speculation about the impact of digital technologies on politics, activism, and social change. Key among these debates is the role social media play in shaping the contemporary public sphere, and by proxy, our democracy. Maligned by some as “slacktivism,” I will argue social computing platforms such as Twitter create unique opportunities for traditionally excluded voices to challenge the terms of public debate. Counterpublics, or the alternative spheres of debate created by marginalized voices, have long played the important role of highlighting and legitimizing the experiences of those at the margins as they push for integration and change in the mainstream public sphere. Using the evidence from the Twitter hashtags #myNYPD and #Ferguson, I will demonstrate how networked counterpublics and hashtag activism are increasingly complementing offline counterpublic spheres to change the terms of mainstream public debates about racial justice and police violence in America.