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From Leaflets to Live Stream: Protest Movements and Their Media Practices–with Anne Kaun

January 15, 2015
12:00PM - 01:30PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 300
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Speaker: Anne Kaun

Categories: Seminar

Academics, journalists and other commentators considered social media as a major driver for mobilization and organization in recent protest movements. My project Crisis and Critique investigates historical forms of media participation of protest movements questioning the overemphasis on social media. The aim is to provide a history of how – often banal – media technologies as means of communication have been employed by protest movements that emerged in the context of major economic crises in order to promote radical social change. The projects premise – relying on Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht – is that crisis situations are crucial junctures in which potentially new forms of critique crystallize.

Starting with the Great Depression in 1929, the project explores the media practices of the unemployed workers movement and different political actors that aimed to organize and channel the activities of the unemployed, most prominently the Communist Party, the Socialists and Labor movement organizations. The second case study considers what Manuel Castells has called new urban social movements and more specifically the tenants’ movement that emerged in the context of the 1970s oil and fiscal crisis. The third case study investigates the latest large-scale economic crisis, the Great Recession in 2008. In this context, the analysis focuses on forms of media participation used during the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Methodologically the project is based on a multimodal approach combining extensive archival work with in-depth interviews. The preliminary findings point to subtle but crucial changes in terms of the production of time and space in the context of the protest movements’ media participation. In terms of temporal change, I identify a shift from mechanical speed in the 1930s to digital immediacy in 2011, which has fundamental implications for the movements’ internal organization and negotiation process.


Dr. Anne Kaun is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department for Media and Communication Studies atSödertörn University, Stockholm. Being interested in the relationship between crisis and social critique, her current project concerns historical forms of media participation that emerged in the context of moments of crisis. Furthermore she is working in a collaborative project on European Narratives. She has previously published in peer-reviewed journals such as Participation; Communications – The European Journal of Communication Research; Information, Communication and Society and the International Journal of Qualitative Methods. In 2013 Anne has published the book Being a Young Citizen in Estonia – An Exploration of Young People’s Civic and Media Experiences. Anne is board member of European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), vice-chair of ECREA’sYoung Scholars Network as well as student board member of the International Communication Association (ICA).