Digital movements: challenging contradictions in intersectional media and social movements

Sandra Jeppesen | 2018 | in Communicative Figurations | working paper

The past decade has seen an incredible increase in global social movements adopting a wide range of digital technologies to mobilize and represent the issues and images of their time. Social movements and media activists together have played an increasingly pivotal role in a global digital and political—or technopolitical—shift through intersectionality practices, digital networks, and distributive leadership structures. These shifts have in some instances very rapidly led not just to policy or legislative change but also to more profound transformations in social norms and behaviours, which are typically much slower to change.

In this context, I critically analyze four key conceptual frames for understanding contemporary autonomous digital media movements—translocal organizing, transmedia mobilizations, intersectionality, and the political economy of autonomous media. I argue that intersectionality theory is fundamental to our understanding of the online and offline actions of contemporary digital movements and we must therefore critically analyze and account for the ways in which social movement and media activists use intersectionality in their organizing and media work. Further we must better understand how activists themselves articulate and attempt to mitigate and shift the political economies, organizational structures, media affordances, and economic exigencies of intersectional autonomous media.

Finally I argue that the integration of intersectional politics with new technological affordances and innovations has created a key framework— intersectional technopolitics—for understanding the hybridity of digital media and social movements as part of our contemporary technosocial assemblage.