Wednesday, May 24
Room C 0.17
This panel examines the temporal aspects of political speech on Twitter and how the platform’s affordances—its rapid reaction loops, ephemeral hashtags, scheduled tweets, its liveness—are deployed to advance competing narratives of progress, identity and belonging.
A Twitter Calendar of Equality? Twitter’s Political Economy of Attention and the Communication Strategies of Five European Pro-Equality Bodies
Tommaso Trillò, University of Lodz, Poland
Claiming that ‘European culture’ is ‘a culture of gender equality’ is usually uncontroversial within EU institutions and other Brussels-based bodies, despite stark disagreement on what ‘equality’ actually means and what would be needed for its achievement. As the current political environment testifies, however, pro-equality bodies often struggle in bringing their messages across to European publics. This study suggests that, alongside other strategies, pro-equality bodies attempt to access visibility by scheduling their messages and campaigns around key events (e.g. International Women’s Day) that appear on an essentially shared calendar. Data to corroborate these claims is drawn from a qualitative analysis of the official Twitter accounts of five pro-equality bodies operating at the European level over the calendar year of 2016.
Tommaso Trillò is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Early Stage Researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Lodz, Poland, in the context of GRACE – Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe. His main research focus is on the production of cultures of gender equality on social media platforms. His doctoral research project aims at exploring how key institutions at the EU supranational level and at the Italian national level contribute to the construction of ‘gender equality’ as a core European value through a comparative analysis of the narratives they advance on Twitter. Trillò holds an MSc in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford and a BA in Political Sciences from John Cabot University, Rome, Italy.
The debate over current migration politics in North America and Europe has found its way onto Twitter under several hashtags. Perhaps the most contentious of these, #rapefugees, reflects the sentiment that incoming migrants pose a sexual threat due to their cultural incompatibility with liberal Western society. Tweets using #rapefugees frame the issue of migration as a conflict between the sexually liberated West and the sexually regressive non-West. We are interested in how the divide drawn between citizens and non-citizens is sustained in terms of a temporal and cultural-symbolic opposition: modern versus primitive, progressive versus backwards. A number of scholars have shown this thinking to be a form of colonial logic that places the colonized other behind in time (Mignolo, 2011; Fabian, 1983; Mamdani, 2005). We want to look at how, in our current “postcolonial” moment, this discourse finds purchase in a sexual politics of migration that carries out an explicitly xenophobic agenda in the name of protecting women.
This paper will investigate this trend as it appears on Twitter. It will straddle three disciplines, namely media studies, cultural studies and political sociology. Data will be collected using the Twitter Capture and Analysis Tool (TCAT) developed by the Digital Methods Initiative using the hashtags #rapefugees and #refugeeswelcome. While #rapefugees is certainly a reflection of the existing political climate, we are interested in analyzing the discursive and affective work the hashtag performs in framing the conversation so that migrants are always already #rapefugees rather than refugees. It is important to ask who is having this conversation and whether the “global town hall” of Twitter largely exports the privileges of citizenship to the digital sphere. The conversation logged under #rapefugees (and on the other side #refugeeswelcome) is one held amongst citizens, citizens on the Right and Left alike, but citizens nonetheless. Do migrants on Twitter remain voiceless even as they are made starkly visible?
Fabian, J. (1983). Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.
Mamdani, Mahmoud. (2005). Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Random House, Inc.
Mignolo, W. (2010) “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, The Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De-Coloniality.” In: Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar (eds.). Globalization and the Decolonial Option. London: Routledge.
Stefania Milan is Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of Amsterdam and Associate Professor of Media Innovation (II) at the University of Oslo. She is the Principal Investigator of DATACTIVE (StG-2014_639379), a five-year research project exploring the evolution of citizenship and participation vis-à-vis datafication and massive data collection (data-activism.net). Her work explores the intersection of digital technology, governance and activism. Stefania holds a PhD in Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute. Prior she worked at the Central European University, the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies, Tilburg University, and the Citizen Lab/Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Stefania is the author of Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013/2016) and co-author of Media/Society (Sage, 2011).
Alexandra Deem is a research master student in the Cultural Analysis program at the University of Amsterdam and a recipient of the Amsterdam Excellence Scholarship. She completed her BA at the University of Washington in English Literature. Her areas of interest include migration, new media, biopolitics and neoliberal governance, critical race studies, postcolonial studies, and 19th and 20th century American literature.
‘We are the true patriots’: Twitter and Debates on National Belonging in India
Sahana Udupa, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich
As one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world, India is witnessing a growing number of citizens actively using digital media platforms to chart their way into and lay claims on the public discourse. Twitter accounts for only 17 per cent of social media users in India, which is less than 2 per cent of the total population. However, the 22 million Twitter users in India influence political debates because of their privileged position as middle class consumers of media and also because mainstream media enlist Twitter posts as the daily news feed to remain interactive in the digital age. The mutual amplification in a polymedia environment has augmented the reach and repercussions of Twitter discussions, turning the microblogging platform into a continuous source of in-the-moment debate cultures. In this paper, I discuss how Twitter’s technological affordances of publicity, rapid reaction loops, and experiential anonymity has led to a distinct politics of nationalism. Without borrowing ‘nationalism’ as a blanket term that can be applied anywhere with little variation, I suggest that nationalism in the digital age should be parsed with an attention to specific user groups who dominate platforms such as Twitter within various national scenarios and the distinct political cultures of speech that come to define Twitter debates. The case of India bears out these distinct elements of middle class nationalism on Twitter, while revealing the curious synergy between the desire to overcome legacy power and claims of national belonging gaining ground through digital media in different parts of the world.
Sahana Udupa researches and teaches digital media politics, journalism and urbanization. She is Professor of Media Anthropology, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, and Senior Research Partner, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Goettingen, Germany. In 2016, she received the European Research Council Starting Grant for the project on digital media politics in India and among the diaspora in Europe. She started the five year project this year at LMU. Udupa is the author of Making News in Global India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Her latest papers include, “Gaali cultures: The politics of abusive exchange on social media” (New Media and Society) and “Extreme speech: An anthropological critique of hate speech debates” (International Journal of Communication, with M. Pohjonen).