Producing Visibility with Images of Riots on Social Media

Christina Neumayer, associate professor, IT University of Copenhagen (ITU).

This subproject investigates how activists and authorities disseminate photos and videos of riots through social media (especially Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube) to produce public visibility. Empirically, the project takes its point of departure in representations of riots, i.e., a form of radicalized action shaping the framing of Western European anti-austerity protests (e.g., Blockupy Frankfurt, Europe Says OXI). The subproject studies the dichotomy of activists and authorities using similar social media tactics to, respectively, challenge and reproduce power. It uses narrative analysis to study the meaning attributed to images of riots and quantitative content analysis combined with computational methods to understand their propagation by different actors through social media. Different actors create parallel narratives and seek to represent a positive image of themselves by antagonizing the adversary through visual narratives of violence. Based on the results of this inquiry, this subproject explores how conflictual visual narratives produced by different actors emerge during riots in a social media logic that privileges spectacular images of destruction and damage over representations of peaceful protests (Poell & van Dijck 2015).

Focusing on the connectivity of civic action (Bennett & Segerberg 2013), the empirical results will enhance our understanding of images traversing social media in collective action (Melucci 1996, Bimber et al. 2005, Bakardjieva 2015).