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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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22

Participation Beyond Production

Possibilities for Reception and Ritual in the Study of Activist Audiences

Jennifer Rauch

ABSTRACT

In an era of “social media” technologies, instrumental goals such as networking, organizing, and information-sharing hold great sway over the study of activist culture. Researchers often conceptualize activists' media use as participation in message production and dissemination, while overlooking practices related to reception and interpretation – that is, activists as audiences. In this chapter I propose that the moments in which activists engage with media as listeners, readers, and viewers are just as interesting to scholarship as those in which people create and/or share media relevant to activism. By shifting some emphasis from the transmission mode of activists' media use to the ritual or symbolic dimension, we can better understand how media habits help sustain activist identities and a sense of belonging, which serves as a precursor to participation. I also assert the importance of low-tech media, face-to-face communication, and offline participation among such audiences, whose members aim to connect mediated activities with real-world ones, and identify some social limitations in technological activism. The chapter concludes by suggesting avenues for future study that explore why activists choose to receive certain messages and how ritual contributes to people getting and staying involved with activist communities.

“We the Media.” “Be the ...

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