The promises and limits of media activism for poor people's movements in Portugal after 2011
ESA RN18 Mid-Term Conference Rethinking Power in Communicative Capitalism Critical Perspectives on Media, Culture and Society
Social media played an important role in the protest wave starting with the Arab Spring in 2010 and also in Portugal they were an important factor in organizing protest. The protest of the Desperate Generation (Geração à Rasca) on 12 March 2011, for example, was initiated by a Facebook call by four friends. Activists also in later protest events put a lot of effort in social media activities. Our aim is evaluate the role of social media activism for activist groups that tried to organize unemployed people between 2011 and 2013. This time period in Portugal was characterized by several large protests against austerity measures and related issues. But there were also long phases of absence of protest and some protests that stood rather small. Furthermore the degree of political organization of unemployed people in activist groups stood small. Based on participant observation, interviews and focus groups with activists and former activists of activist groups that tried to mobilize the unemployed, we: 1) analyse activists experiences with different media regarding the organization of unemployed people; 2) compare various activities belonging to media activism with alternative forms of mobilization and; 3) analyse the interplay of media activities and alternative forms of mobilization in the activists repertoire of action. Theoretically we contribute to the question how people with weak resources become politically organized. Unemployed people tend to be socially isolated and the lack social ties is considered an obstacle to mobilization. In how far can this obstacle be overcome by the use of social media activism? We focus on the experiences of activists with different forms of organization and thereby add a focus of social media activism to the existing social movement theories. We further focus on a context of high grievances but a continuingly low degree of political organization of unemployed people. We argue that the role of social media and media capitalism for political participation cannot be evaluated in a wholesale way. It is the specific interplay of social media activities with other activities and the interplay of social media with traditional media that mobilizes people to become politically active. In the case of the unemployed and the precarious workers in Portugal such an interplay resulted sometimes in short term, but in the long-term did not lead to a durable political organization of these groups in a larger scale.
Poor People´s Movements,Media Activism