Technologies of Self-mediation: Affordances and Constraints of Social Media for Protest Movements

Author/s Bart Cammaerts
Publishing Year 2014 Issue 2013/46 Language Italian
Pages 19 P. 15-33 File size 564 KB
DOI 10.3280/SC2013-046003
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

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.

  1. Ball J., Borger J., Greenwald G. (2013), How US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Internet Privacy and Security, «The Guardian», 6 September, www.theguardian.comworld/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security.
  2. BBC (2013), Egypt Profile, 6 August, (last accessed 20 September 2013).
  3. Boutyline A., Willer R. (2013), The Social Structure of Political Echo Chambers: Ideology and Political Homophily, Online Communication Networks, Working Paper, 24 May:
  4. Bruns A. (2008), Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, Peter Lang, New York.
  5. Cammaerts B. (2007), Media and Communication Strategies of Glocalized Activists: Beyond Media-centric Thinking, in B. Cammaerts, N. Carpentier
  6. (eds.), Reclaiming the Media: Communication Rights and Expanding Democratic Media Roles, Intellect, Bristol/Chicago University Press, Chicago, pp. 265-288.
  7. Cammaerts B. (2008), Critiques on the Participatory Potentials of Web 2.0,
  8. «Communication, Culture & Critique», 1(3), pp. 358-376.
  9. Cammaerts B. (2012), Protest Logics and the Mediation Opportunity Structure, «European Journal of Communication», 27(2), pp. 117-134.
  10. eMarketer (2013), Facebook Sees Growth in UK Monthly Users, but Nears Saturation Point, 15 August, (last accessed 20 September 2013).
  11. Foucault M. (1997), Technologies of the Self, in M. Foucault, Essential Works.Volume 1: Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth, Edited by Rabinow, New Press, New York, pp. 223-51.
  12. Gibson J. J. (1977), The Theory of Affordances, in R. Shaw, J. Bransford (eds.), Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing: Toward an Ecological Psychology, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp. 67-82.
  13. Gibson J. J. (1979/1986), The Ecological Approach to Perception, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale.
  14. Goodman A. (2011), Hacktivism’s Global Reach, From Targeting Scientology to Backing WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring, 16 August,
  15. Graham R. (2013), Tor is still DHE 1024 (NSA crackable), «Errata Security», HM Government (2013), Government Communications Plan 2013/14, The Cabinet Office, London,
  16. GovernmentCommunicationsPlan201314.pdf.
  17. Index Mundi (2013), Country Facts, (last accessed 20 September 2013).
  18. Leistert O. (2013), From Protest to Surveillance – The Political Rationality of Mobile Media Modalities of Neoliberalism, Peter Lang, New York.
  19. Mathiesen T. (1997), The Viewer Society: Michel Foucault’s “Panopticon” Revisited, «Theoretical Criminology», 1(2), pp. 215-234.
  20. Monaghana J., Walbyb K. (2012), Making up “Terror Identities”: Security Intelligence, Canada’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre and Social Movement Suppression, «Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy», 22(2), pp. 133-151.
  21. Morozov E. (2009), The Brave New World of Slacktivism, «Foreign Policy», 19/05, See: (last accessed 20 September 2013).
  22. Mourtada R., Salem F. (2013), Arab Social Media Report, Dubai School of Government, Dubai.
  23. ONS (2013), Internet Access Quarterly Update, Q1 2013, (last accessed 20 September 2013).
  24. Purcell K., Rainie L., Heaps A., Buchanan J., Friedrich L., Jacklin A., Chen C., Zickuhr K. (2012), How Teens Do Research in the Digital World, 1 November, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, Washington, WithMethodology110112.pdf (last accessed 20 September / 2013).
  25. Rucht D. (2013), Protest Movements and their Media Usages, in B. Cammaerts, A.
  26. Matoni, P. McCurdy (eds.), Mediation and Protest Movements, Intellect, Bristol, pp 249-268.
  27. Salter C. (2011), Activism as Terrorism: The Green Scare, Radical Environmentalism and Governmentality, «Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies», 1, pp. 211-238,
  28. Telecom Paper (2013), Facebook Use Grows in Italy as Twitter Use Declines, 31 May, -declines-946888 (last accessed 20 September 2013).

Bart Cammaerts, Tecnologie di mediazione del sé: affordance e limiti dei social media per i movimenti di protesta in "SOCIOLOGIA DELLA COMUNICAZIONE " 46/2013, pp 15-33, DOI: 10.3280/SC2013-046003