Panel paper: Political resistance practices online: activism meets the web
The exponential rise in social media use has been accompanied by an increase in ‘online activism’, whereby activists use the internet to raise awareness about social issues. The purpose of this paper is to examine the huge gamut of these discursive practices, which range from simply posting a link to an online news article or website, to setting up complex satirical websites. While the former can be done with one click, the size and distributed nature of online social networks means that messages can quickly reach huge, diverse groups, who might not otherwise have been aware of the issues. Satirical spoof websites (such as the fake World Trade Organisation site operated by ‘The Yes Men’, or the Swiss anti-foreigner site ‘OLAF’) work in a far more sophisticated way, by appearing to advocatefar more extreme positions, on a range of topics such as exploitation of natural resources or immigration, than even those held by the multinational organisations or extremist politicians they are satirising. However, they are sometimes mistaken for ‘the real thing’, and thus an interesting tension, manifested in online media articles, discussions and forum posts, develops between those who are ‘in on it’ and those who ‘fall for it’.
Through discourse-historical analysis involving a series of case studies, the paper attempts to show how political resistance practices have developed over time, and have changed to take advantage of (or have been limited by) changing formats on the web (e.g. web 2.0) and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter). In addition to extending the discourse-historical approach developed by Ruth Wodak and others to a new research context, the paper will draw on the work of Phil Graham, Jay Lemke and other scholars who have concerned themselves with critical discursive analysis of new media.