Assignment Ideas: Participatory Politics

Assignment Ideas: Participatory Politics

“Now we have a menace that is called Twitter. The best example of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society” (Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“Granted any social uprising … takes place as an expression of protest against dire economic, social and political conditions, such as unemployment, high prices, inequality, poverty, police brutality, a lack of democracy, censorship, and corruption as a way of life throughout the state. But from these objective conditions emerged emotions and feelings…and these feelings prompted spontaneous protests initiated by individuals: by young people using their networks” (Manuel Castells Networks of Outrage and Hope).

Participatory politics situates ordinary citizens as culture producers and political agents. It draws upon such radically democratic traditions of direct action, situationist intervention, community organizing, and indymedia. It utilizes digital publication and social media to build networks and disseminate messages, emphasizing “quick-response forms of communication that aim to motivate impassioned response and participation” (Leah A. Lievrouw “Oppositional and Activist New Media” 3). Citizen media producers write, compose and engage civically or politically in forms such as culture jamming, alternative computing, mediated mobilization, networked activism, volunteerism, community organizing, and citizen journalism.

Many participatory, social activist genres can be adapted to the multimodal classroom. See especially Shovelware, alternative computing, David Rees, Adbusters, TheYesMen, and Detritus.


Jeffery Juris. Juris is a Professor of Anthropology at Northeastern University, who studies social movements by embedding himself within contemporary activist groups to research them from the inside. In the following sample of his work Juris’ lays out his concept of participatory politics and user driven media: “Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation,” “Global Citizenship and The ‘New, New’ Social Movements: Iberian Connections” (Feiza, Pereira, and Juris), and Spaces of Intentionality: Race, Class and Horizontality at the Unites states Social Forum” (Juris). Live chat on Occupy Movement.  

Leah A. Lievrouw. Lievrouw is a Professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. In her latest book, Alternative and Activist New Media, Prof. Lievrouw explicates ways new, digital genres can unsettle dominant telecommunication networks.

Manuel Castells. Professor Castells works in the disciplines of Sociology, and Communication Technology, and according to one critic is, “the leading scholar of our contemporary networked society.” He has published extensively on the interconnection between communication networks and power. The following texts provide useful theoretic frames for the practice and potential of participatory politics: Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age, Communication Power, and The Rise of Network Society. Castells speaking about networks and power at an Occupy London Event.

Occupy Class. “Occupy Class is the weekly digital publication of ENGL 3120: Electronic Writing and Publishing at Georgia State University. Class members are engaged in a semester-long documentary investigation of the Occupy movement in its local and national manifestations in addition to the movement's effect on popular culture and politics” (Pete Rorabaugh).