Social Media Activism, Self-Representation and the Construction of Political Biographies

Barassi, Veronica. 2018. Social Media Activism, Self-Representation and the Construction of Political Biographies. In: Graham Meikle, ed. Routledge Companion to Media and Activism. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781351190022 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter will provide a overview of the current literature on social media activism. It will show that so far scholars questioned and analysed the different ways in which political activists are appropriating and using social media technologies, to organize and partake into collective actions and mass protests (Gerbaudo, 2012; Cammaerts et al, 2013; Mattoni, 2012; Barassi and Treré, 2012; Barassi, 2015; Kavada, 2014; Castells, 2012; Dencik and Leistert, 2015; Wolfson, 2014; Postill, 2014). They also investigated the complex relationship between technological affordances and the emergence of new political repertoires of protest (Gerbaudo, 2015; Wolfson, 2014) and considered collective understandings of online political identity construction (Kavada, 2015; Milan, 2015). Yet, the chapter will argue that very little attention has been placed on a fundamental aspect of social media activism: the relationship between political self-construction, digital storytelling and identity narratives.
Whilst some communication scholars in the past have considered the relationship between digital storytelling and ‘alternative’ publics (Toft and Bennett 2008; Couldry, 2008), within the current literature on social media activism the only example of work, which tackles the complex relationship between the self-construction of political activists, identity narratives and digital storytelling is the work of Vivienne (2016), which explores activists’ need to use digital technologies as tools for self construction through narratives. The chapter will thus try to overcome such gap in the field by introducing the concept of digital ‘political biography’. Drawing on an the findings of an ethnographic study of activists in Italy, the UK and Spain the chapter will argue that social media have become a platform where activists construct their political biographies with reference to both civic engagement and family life. The understanding of the interconnection between social media technologies and political biographies amongst activists is particularly important today, because it can enable us to ask questions about the tension between the creative elements of social media practices for political activists and the broader political economic implications activists data flows on the commercial Web.

Item Type:

Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


January 2018Accepted
March 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Jul 2018 13:10

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 19:02


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