Presentation Format

I had the idea to present our research as an instagram account, @translationacrossdisciplines, after a meeting where Zhui Ning discussed the ineffectiveness of traditional media and academic research in the face of climate change and also from Maryam’s work about the power that words and imagery have together. It would also follow the recent trend of introducing more academic perspectives onto social media in order to pull academia down from its ivory tower.

One example of this is Maggie Matić’s instagram secondary instagram account @maggiematic connected to a google drive where she shares resources and articles that she has found interesting whilst completing her PhD in Contemporary Visual Feminist Culture. She also posts about certain articles/books she has found useful and also provides her own resources in order to make academia more accessible such as a glossary of terms about feminist theory.


Another more extreme example of academia being integrated into social media is the account @ripannanicolesmith where Kristen Cochrane, a PhD student studying Film and Moving Images Studies at Concordia University,combines critical theory with internet meme culture and pop culture icons. They are amusing yet somewhat jarring as she is freely mixing what some would regard as high and low culture, making the academia accessible whilst also adding criticism and analysis to pop culture.

For our research project, I thought that it would be interesting to present it via and instagram account because even though we have this blog, it would be good to have a record of our presentation that would be freely accessible to others interested in how social media can be used to mobilise people in the face of climate change, perhaps even utilised by activists currently in XR and Youth 4 Climate. This releases our research into the public sphere in a quick and accessible format. However as the slides are primarily for the purpose of a presentation rather than for the sole aim of informing an instagram user some areas are less coherent than others but if we had more time I would have liked to have designed a more informative cohesive account that could be understood entirely without the need for it to be presented. Yet despite its flaws it does introduce some theorisation and sources that would be valuable to others doing similar research projects in the way that Maggie Matic’s instagram account is. I think that it is an interesting way to present research as personally I often feel like a lot of the work I do enters into an academic abyss after I have handed it in and gotten my grade back never to be thought of again. I am not so arrogant as to think that my undergraduate essays would make any significant contribution to the discourse. Nevertheless it is satisfying to have something ‘to show’ for the work we have done on the project and something that is so easy to share with friends and family who are outside of the bubble of King’s College London, so that they can see what Liberal Arts actually is and the interdisciplinary work we produce.

Facebook as an organising tool

Following on from the primary data collected at the banner making event regarding how social media mobilised peoples action in regard to climate change as well as reading ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’ and considering Maryam’s findings about the role imagery plays in mobilisiation, I realised that my assumptions about the effectiveness of visual imagery in relation to mobilising against climate change were more of a personal opinion than a widespread feeling. I thought it was interesting that a significant number of interviewees mentioned Facebook and specifically the role of Facebook events in mobilising them.

I remembered a chapter of a book I read in a Second Year Geography module about the role of social networks (meaning personal relationships here, nothing to do with the social networks we now have on the internet) in leading to the formation of the punk movement in London rather than Manchester. I felt that despite being a very different case study some of the theorisation used may provide and insight into why facebook is an effective mobilising tool.

Week 8 – Meeting Notes

We met and how to address our research the question in relations to our individual research and how to make ties between them. We have worked out a general structure of our presentation and are meeting on Sunday to collate our research.

Looking at our question it is clear to see that the theme of the social media’s role in mobilising people chimes with our earlier intentions (see meeting 30/1/19) to discuss the role of the internet in climate change activism in regard to: Appealing to the public, manifestos and dispersing thier message but throughout our meetings and discussions we have narrowed down our scope of research to social media and mobilisation which is a more specific process that incorporates these themes.

The element of conflict in our presentation is that conflict is inherent in the work of activism, as it is protest against the state as a result of disagreement.

 

‘How can the spectacle of social media be an effective way to MOBILISE people in face of climate change?’

 INTRO

Why the use of social media > its borne out of inadequacy of traditional structures to deal with issue e.g. academia and policy. And using social media b/c it captialises on spectacular society. (Zhui Ning)

– Definition of mobilisation actually creating change.

HOW

– Contextual understanding of mobilisation > how to animate and audience with reference to literary effect of this and specifically look at essays on it. (Maryam)

– How > interview with XR > specificity of case study. (Issey + Ruby)

– Contradictions of how they use social media reflects the contradiction in their organisation/politics. (Ruby)

IS IT EFFECTIVE?

– Visual representation > Whether effective > Critical > if visual imagery if effective in mobilising people (Issey)

– Spectacle of performative wokeness, clicktivism etc.  > does it feed into action or is everything just on appearances with no concrete progress/resulting in change? (Georgie)

CONCLUSION

 All convene with our research on Sunday to discuss

A Case Study – glacier996girl

 

Previously I wrote about fashion and climate change and XR’s utilisation of fashion media’s obsession with the spectacle to increase awareness for their cause via increased media coverage. This week I will look at the work of climate activist Elizabeth Farrell and how she uses the medium of instagram to convey her message.

She uses visual imagery to raise awareness about climate change. She emphasises the important of making climate change visual (which we touched on in our discussion of climate change as a wicked problem and out inability to see if our action has any affect on the outcome). She also mentions ‘the importance of changing the ‘eco friendly’ aesthetic in order to appeal to younger generations to come’1.

Image from Polyester Zine

Like XR she dresses the importance of peer to peer conversation in mobilising about climate change:

“Since I’ve started, there’s been an increase in the amount of people talking about stuff. Young people are becoming more and more engaged. I think the main thing is really just to talk about it and have conversations about it, because it needs to be a political thing and if we are all communicating about what we want then hopefully, eventually that may happen.” 2.

“Communication is number one. The biggest most effective thing you can do is talk about climate change and create as many conversations about it3

It is interesting to see that because of her use of visual imagery her work has been picked up by fashion media and she has worked with with designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Gucci. However recently her activism pace has slowed down, it would be interesting to interview her to ask if this is a result of her workload (she is now studying Geography at Birbeck) or whether she is questioning the impact visual imagery can have in the fight against climate change.

ACTIONS

  1. Later in the week I will be co-hosting a cross-society banner making workshop for  King’s students attending the youth climate strike on the 15th of March. Whilst there I intend to interview the attendees about the role that social media played in their mobilisation/motivation to get involved in climate change protest.
  2. Ruby and I are also intending on interviewing members of the extinction rebellion media team at some point in the near future.
  3. Continue to read Susan Sontag’s ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’ to learn more about how members of society respond to imagery.

Further Reading:

Glacier Girl is reinventing the eco friendly aesthetic for the tumblr generation 

Meet Glacier Girl: the hero the world both wants and needs 

The Glaciers: Introducing Elizabeth Farrel 

 

The Society of The Spectacle

A Situationist International detourned poster – I cannot find the artist behind the work.

Last week (26th February) we tried to finalise our research question and decided on:

“How can the spectacle of social media be an effective way to mobilise people in the face of climate change?”

In my essay I looked at the relationship between the spectacle and action/mobilisation in the context of the events of May 1968 in Paris as the concept of ‘spectacular society’ and the other work of the Situationist International movement is often cited as a key influence to the May 1968 movement. In our group project we will be applying the theory of spectacular society to social media and analysing how this mobilises the public in the face of climate change.

The concept of the ‘spectacular society’ was theorised in Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’. In this text he formulates that, “The spectacle is not the domination of the world by images or any other form of mind-control but the domination of a social interaction mediated by images”1. As a result we have become ‘slaves to the spectacle of consumerism, entertainment, escapism, work, politics’ 2

The society of the spectacle results from the success of capitalism in fulfilling basic needs necessary for survival. In order to find new markets late capitalism  take a consumerist turn. Debord argues that “the present stage is bringing about a general shift from having to appearing – all having must now derive its immediate prestige and its ultimate purposes from appearances.”, late capitalism makes us obsessed with image and appearance above all else. This can be seen in modern advertising however the society of the spectacle is not confined to media/advertising and ‘cannot be understood as a mere visual deception produced by mass-media technologies, it is a worldview that has actually been materialised’. It is propagated by everyone in society rather than imposed from above and is an identification of all human social life with appearances. 

It is clear that societies fixation with social media is symptomatic of the spectacle. Although some argue that the spectacle of social media serves to distract the public from important issues, we will instead be looking at how playing into societies obsession with the spectacle is in fact an effective way of mobilising the public and creating change. 

 

Further Reading: 

Guy Debord predicted our distracted society – John Harris

How Situationism changed history – Luke Haines 

 

Fashion, Climate Change and the Internet

Image by Immo Klink

Most commonly when fashion and protest intersect it feels like a performative attempt to capture the attention, and social media feeds, of millennial consumers. However fashion can be a valuable vehicle in increasing awareness and action regarding issues such as climate change. To scorn it’s power to invoke and interact with social change would be narrow minded.

Skip to 9 minutes 19 seconds to see the ‘feminist protest’.

A particularly notable example of this was Karl Chanel’s 2015 S/S show that featured a ‘feminist’ protest at the end. It came at a point in time when identification as a feminist was becoming mainstream following Emma Watson’s speech to the UN in 2014 and Beyonce’s sampling of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s now infamous TED talk. The reason I am dubious of this example is the fact that Karl Lagerfeld himself had an extremely problematic approach to women and women’s issue by dismissing models claims in the #metoo movement and solidifying beauty standards in both his casting decisions and statements about women’s bodies. Therefore his use of the feminist movement feels entirely performative and thus a strategic move to profit of of the movement due to its popularity in the zeitgeist and thus media attention whilst failing to make any solid contributions to the movement. It is this sort of interaction between fashion and climate change that we should be aware of.

Yet fashion media is so influential that despite apparently making no contribution to the feminist movement, the inclusion of even a performative feminist protest in the finale of the show may have indeed made an impact on engagement with the movement itself. On a personal note I remember being 15 (and at the beginning of my engagement with feminism) and being very excited by the inclusion of it into a mainstream, luxury and artistic setting. The protest’s appearance in the show and its subsequent appearance into widely consumed fashion media not only made the title of ‘feminist’ a more desirable one, but it also sparked conversations between my friends and I about feminism (which as seen by last weeks talk is an important factor in mobilisation). So although it is easy to scrutinise the integrity of fashion’s involvement in protest, it is also important to recognise the influence it has over opinion. Without these preliminary discussions about feminism between my friends and I, as a result of the fashion media consumed, I wonder whether I would be so engaged with feminist thought and theory today.

Via the same process I think that fashion, and fashion media in particular can play a role in raising awareness regarding climate change. Extinction Rebellion have tapped into this and held protests outside of London fashion week last weekend.

Photo by Immo Klink


Extinction Rebellion Meeting #1

  • Issey- how did communities of politics and meaningful engagement play out in her personal experience of Extinction Rebellion?

My task for last week was to look at how meaningful engagement and the communities of politics play out in Extinction Rebellion. Rather serendipitously XR were running a talk on Tuesday evening called “Key Elements in Radical Political Mobilisation” so I went along and took a participant observer approach to learn more about how engagement is achieved although instead the more politicised word “mobilisation” was used. It provided an insight into the strategies used by XR to mobilise people and made me consider how this is achieved using the tool of social media. I also made contact with the media team of XR and they seemed happy to engage with out project and be interviewed about their use of social media in campaigning.

Roger Hallam began the talk by explaining that he would elaborate on 6 key concepts that go against the conventional wisdom surrounding political mobilisation. These concepts were informed by his PhD field research at King’s College London. They are as follows:

TRUTH

SPEECH

ACTION

DILEMMA

LOVE

SORTITION

In the first talk of a series of two (continuing on 19th February) Roger addressed Truth, Speech and Action. Before elaborating further on these concepts he outlines some of his core beliefs. Firstly he rejects the idea that everything about society can be known and discovered in an empirical way instead favouring complexity and the probability that you can know how things work but never be entirely sure. Secondly he finds people motivated not by rational choice but instead a herd like instinct. Finally that politics is social, to use a phrase borrowed from feminist theory, “the personal is political” (Although Roger himself did not mention this connection). He sees politics and society not as separate universe but integrated and as such mobilisation must be a social activity.

TRUTH

First of all, the postmodern conception of truth being subjective was rejected. Instead it was defined as being “a lack of exploitation”. In a mobilisation context Roger said that the way to mobilise the public is to tell them the truth, which for him is to highlight exploitation and why it is not necessary and also that we are living in a period of global destruction. He then went onto define these as “Transcultural Truths”.

SPEECH

He then went on to state that speech is a method by which mobilisation occurs, by this he meant equal social conversation between members of the public regarding his ‘transcultural truths’ rather than a hierarchical lectures by members of the enlightened towards the public.

He used previous research to elaborate on this and explained how the success of a political meeting relied on its structure. Participatory roundtable meetings created 80% empowerment in comparison to conventional speech watching meetings that created 20% empowerment.

Roger hypothesised that this was because people do not focus for long periods of time on the speaker. Instead he highlighted that it is important to create spaces where people can talk to one another and discover they feel the same things about climate change for example. Rather than the enlightened few lecturing and going out to talk to people, it is important to get people to talk to one another.

He used the example of Paolo Favilli (I am not entirely sure I recorded the right name here), who was a marxist revolutionary who realised that the top down marxist model was not the most effective way to bring about revolution among the peasants. Instead he set up literacy programs through which people became aware of and discussed their situations thus mobilising themselves through social conversation (speech).

This led me to consider how the internet facilitates both creating these spaces for social interaction about issues both in an online way (forums, comment sections, group chats) but also makes co-ordinating and advertising larger social events easier (facebook events).

ACTION

Again Roger rejects the traditional paradigm that it is necessary to wait until a large group has been mobilised before an action has taken place, instead he argues that as soon as you have 5/6 willing participants a radical action should take place as this creates attention via media but also interestingly he highlights how the social element is again important as people enjoy “gossiping” about such events. He states that this attraction to drama is another transcultural behaviour of human beings.

However it was also emphasised that action is a key problem with climate change, as people mobilise around action but the impact (action) of climate change is not really occurring this is an issue. The way to get over it he states was to create disruption in the present, he went on the emphasise that tis is not really relevant why the disruption occurs, i.e. if it is due to activists or freak weather, but so long as it upsets people and then makes them think about the cause/motivation behind the disruption then it is successful. Hence the aim is to create the artificial climate change action/disruption now in order to motivate people to mobilise.

Again it is clear that the internet plays a role in escalating the effect of the drama following action and also the organisation elements of action.

At the end of the meeting I spoke to some of the activists involved in Extinction Rebellion and got their contact details in order to talk to the media team about how they think the internet makes and impact on mobilisation and climate change movements. I think that it would also be interesting to survey the members of the public who attend the meeting as to how the internet has influenced their engagement with Extinction Rebellion.