Always connected, frequently datafied.
The practices of social movements .
between digitalization and datafication.

WORKSHOP (Aula Gambi)
June 25, 2020 • 4.30 – 6.30 pm
June 26, 2020 • 2.30 – 4.30 pm

Political activists are confronted, daily, with the overarching presence of digital communication technologies in their lives, the continuous production of data related to their actions and habits, the pervasive necessity of information about what is going on in the world, right here and right now. As such, digital communication technologies pervade social movements as a whole, intersecting with all their different dimensions. And so do the algorithmically automatized platforms that political activists employ in their daily political work. Engaging in the organization of mobilizations, trying to gain the support of the wider public, becoming visible to protest targets, and making decisions together are all activities that develop thanks to the support of mobile devices and algorithmic automation in the daily life of social movements.

In short, political activists are always connected one with the other as well as to their protest targets, opponents, and potential supporters. Social movements, then, moved from a logic of collective action to a logic of connective action sustained by the massive employment of social media platforms in the past decades (Bennett and Segerberg 2013). Today, then, we are witnessing another relevant shift, with political activists increasingly engaging with forms of data-enabled activism and social movements hence following a logic of datafied (collective) action.

This seminar looks at what datafication implies for social movements and political activists through three different, yet interrelated questions: Which are the various points of intersections between social movements and datafication in our societies, also considering the broader media ecology in which they develop? How can we develop a critical understanding of what datafication means for social movements and political activism in a global world? How can social movements and political activists engage with datafication as a terrain of struggle and contention in different geopolitical settings? 

Alice Mattoni is Associate Professor in the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Bologna. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC funded project BIT-ACT - Bottom-up Initiatives and Anti-Corruption Technologies: How Citizens Use ICTs to Fight Corruption. She published extensively on social movements and their intertwining with different forms of communication technologies, media organizations and professionals, and data. She is one of the founding editors of the Routledge Series Media and Communication Activism