Social media has been appropriated by activists in order to disseminate social movement frames, to mobilise for direct actions online as well as offline, to coordinate direct action and to self-mediate acts of resistance leading potentially to movement spill-overs. It suffices to point towards the role of social media during the Arab Spring, Occupy, the V for Vinegar protests in Turkey and Brazil ecc. to emphasise this point. In my presentation I will use Foucault’s concept of the technologies of the self to make sense of the various roles social media are playing for protest movements in terms of their self-mediations. Foucault referred to disclosure, examination and remembrance, but I will add a fourth technology of the self, which is highly relevant today, namely amplification. Besides affordances, we also need to acknowledge the constraints inherent to technologies of self-mediation such as social media. These manifest themselves mainly in terms of access, the tensions between individualism and collective identities, issues in relation to narrowcasting versus broadcasting and serious concerns at the level of control and counter-surveillance by states and corporate actors. While an important newtool in the repertoire of contentious action of protest movements, the potency of social media should also not be exaggerated and activists need to be aware of their limitations.
Keywords: Foucault, protest movements, social media, affordances, surveillance.