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Commnication Study About Activism

The physical space can be used by the activists to further their goals, as well as by those who oppose them to prevent dissent. The importance of this aspect of the term is obvious. If people are allowed to gather publicly and announce their ideals and goals to the general public, it is much easier for the activists to achieve their aims. As Elmer and Opel note, a large part of policing the dissenters consists in limiting them to space where they have no visibility (Elmer & Opel, 2008). If the protesters have no access to public space, they have no hope of presenting their cause to the general public. It is similar to keeping a person in prison where they cannot affect society. For example, there are “free speech zones” established at various political gatherings. Theoretically, their purpose is to protect the protesters. However, they are often positioned purposefully to put them out of media sight. Being able to protest in plain sight of media and the general public is essential to presenting your point of view to the public.

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Another important aspect of space is media space. That term refers to how much media attention a protest gets. By their nature, media outlets are more prone to focusing on materials that are likely to be of interest to the general public. Since the protesters often voice unpopular opinions, getting into media space can be problematic. Moreover, authorities take special precautions to make the protests seem less enticing to the eyes of media consumers. The use of Tasers is one such example. Such nonlethal weapons are a lot less noticeable compared to other crowd control methods like water cannons. That makes riot police look less violent and prevents the recordings from looking enticing to an average viewer. The battle for the media space is an important part of activism. The cause has been helped a lot by the advent of the social media. Since this type of public communications is largely unregulated, it is much harder for the government to initiate a blackout and silence the dissent. Moreover, the social media space serves as a great platform to orchestrate and lead the real world action (Gerbaudo, 2012). Arab Spring protests were fueled by the social media to such a degree that the government has chosen to completely shut down the Internet communications to hinder the opposition at one point.

In the video “Occupiers set up living room in Bank of America lobby” six activists use the physical space to help the protest in media space. By occupying the lobby, they make themselves seen to the people who come to the bank and send the message to them (OccupyTVNY, 2012). However, that aspect is less important than the media space which they try to occupy. An unusual protest like this is likely to catch the public and go ‘viral’ winning a lot of media space for the activists. With the new forms of social media, it is extremely important to produce noticeable and flashy content which will attract the public eye. The protesters no longer have to be favored by large media corporations to be noticed and fairly covered. However, now it is essential to stand out in an overwhelming flood of information which social media users consume. This video is an example of a fairly unsuccessful attempt to do so.

All the various aspects of space are an integral part of any impactful protest. Denying that space is one of the most common strategies employed by the authorities trying to combat dissent. It is important to understand ‘space’ to properly understand the various tactics used during protests.

Activism can be very different. For example, judicial activism means governmental officials using their power to try and bring changes to the society. Artivism is a term which refers to various forms of protest using art. Many of the artists use their work to provoke thought and make the public realize the need for certain changes. Hip-hop artists were artivists of the 1970-1980s. The Idle No More movement uses round dance as a form of artivism (Martin, 2013). The internet has brought new forms of protest into being. Hacktivism and network activism have been a huge part of the recent societal changes in the Middle East (Gerbaudo, 2012). The social media has greatly contributed to exposing violence against the Egyptian protesters and has allowed many people not determined enough to take to the streets to support the protest movement nonetheless. Culture jamming is an old tactic used by the protesters to challenge the way the society operates and make the public question certain rituals and approaches approved by the government. For example, defacing the election signs is a way to oppose the practice of elections (Philipps, 2015).

The goals of activism also differ greatly. Some activists seek to change the laws while others aim to change the way the society operates and thinks. The Wall Street protesters were trying to change the way the American society works while No More Idle oppose certain changes in the Canadian legislation. The wide variety of the definitions of “activism” comes from the different methods of protest and dissent used by the activists. This diversity is explained by the fact that activism is forced to be more fluid and use unconventional methods when trying to promote its goals (Brady & Antoine, 2012). For me, it is important to cover the diverse tactics and approaches used by the movements and individuals when formulating my own view of this practice.

My personal definition of activism is simple: “Activism is term covering a variety of ways to promote social change and make the current problems more visible to the general public through channels other than the official authorities.” In my opinion, this sentence serves to encompass all of the activities we have discussed during the course. Activism is about exposing and opposing the practices which the government is not willing to change. It can be as local as protesting the construction of a new road and as global as opposing the globalization. It takes a great variety of forms. Taking to the streets to occupy a public space is activism as much as hacking a company’s website and replacing their ads with obscene imagery is activism. Going to talk shows, whistleblowing on questionable government practices, even participating in the Internet movements are all forms of activism. In my opinion, the definition I proposed covers all of the approaches and views on activism and offers a comprehensive explanation of the purpose of such activities.

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Brady, M. J. & Antoine, D. (2012). Decolonize Wall Street! Situating Indigenous critiques of the Occupy Wall Street movement. American Communication Journal, 14(3), 1-10.

Elmer, G. & Opel, A. (2008). Preempting dissent: The politics of an inevitable future. Winniped, Canada: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the Streets. Social media and contemporary activism. New York, NY: Pluto Press.

Martin, M. (2013). Round dance: Why it’s the symbol of Idle No More. CBC Manitoba. Web.

OccupyTVNY. (2012). Occupiers set up living room in Bank of America lobby. Web.

Philipps, A. (2015). Defacing election posters: A form of political culture jamming? Popular Communication, 13, 183-201.

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