Making Global Publics? Communication and Knowledge Production in the World Social Forum Process

Stephansen, Hilde. 2011. Making Global Publics? Communication and Knowledge Production in the World Social Forum Process. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

SOC_thesis_Stephansen_2011.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This thesis provides an in-depth empirical analysis of the character and significance of media and communication in the World Social Forum (WSF), focusing on their relationship to processes of knowledge production. Using the concept of publics as a theoretical tool, it explores how, through mediated communication, forum organisers and communication activists seek to extend the WSF in time and space and thereby make it public. Engaging critically with the idea of the WSF as a global process, the thesis considers how mediated communication might contribute to making the WSF global, not so much in absolute terms as by creating a sense of globality, and how the idea of the global relates to other scales. It develops an understanding of the WSF as an epistemic project that seeks both to affirm the existence and validity of multiple knowledges and to facilitate convergence between them, and considers how different communication practices might further this project.

Based on ethnographic research carried out in connection with the WSF 2009 in Belém, complemented by fieldwork at other social forums, the thesis is structured as a series of case studies of different communication practices, ranging from efforts to engage with conventional mass media to various initiatives that seek to strengthen movement-based communication infrastructures and enable WSF participants to communicate on their own terms. These demonstrate that there are many different approaches to making the WSF 'public' and 'global', which beyond facilitating the circulation of media content also involve mobilising new actors to participate in media production and generating a sense of identification with a global WSF process. They also show that mediated communication can contribute to knowledge production not only by facilitating information sharing, but also through the more subtle processes of empowerment, network-building, and translation across difference it can stimulate when embedded in movement dynamics.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


world social forum, transnational social movement networks, alternative media, new communication technologies, public sphere, knowledge production, global ethnography

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



7 July 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Feb 2012 19:20

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:15


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)