Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [A]

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Christina Neumayer, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

This entry engages with activism as a form of citizen-led intervention in public space with the aim of improving society through political, economic, environmental or social change. Until recently, media played a minor role in studies concerning activism. This has changed dramatically since the 2010s, as numerous studies have been conducted on how activists have used the Internet and, later, social media platforms to mobilize support and organize themselves and their campaigns (Lievrouw 2012; Bennet and Segerberg 2013). Media are appropriated by activists but also possess their own material characteristics, which shape how people engage, protest, resist and struggle. This interaction between control and emancipation has fostered critical investigation into protest and digital media (Dencik and Leistert 2015; Uldam and Vestergaard 2015; Trottier and Fuchs 2014).

This entry empirically and conceptually understands activism as a mediated form of resistance – including media technologies as well as material and immaterial artefacts and devices endowed with expressive power to communicate information, emotions, values and narratives. The tension between activist agency and media materialities opens up new trajectories for research, permitting a critical assessment of how activism can bring to the fore calls for social change.


Bennett, W. L. and A. Segerberg (2013) The Logic of Connective Action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics, Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press.

Dencik, L. and O. Leistert (eds) (2015) Critical Perspectives on Social Media and Protest: Between control and emancipation, London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Trottier, D. and C. Fuchs (eds) (2014) Social Media, Politics and the State: Protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, London & New York: Routledge.

Lievrouw, L. (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Uldam, J. and A. Vestergaard (eds) (2015) Civic Engagement and Social Media: Political participation beyond protest, Springer.



Karen Cross, Roehampton University, UK

Ranging from the ‘unqualified’ (Keen 2007) producer of content to the ‘citizen witness’ (Allan 2013) who challenges professional forms of reporting, the amateur has been conceived of in both negative and positive terms. This entry begins by exploring such perspectives and the way in which the amateur has been thought to form a disturbing, yet authentic presence (Becker 2011 and Berger) within the field of media production. The reporting and commemoration of key historical events, including the London Bombings, are explored in order to locate the historical emergence of a critical discourse of the amateur. More recent examples involving the remediation of the role of the professional are also discussed. These range from the curatorial approaches of news reporters and art curators to the adoption of amateur modalities and materialties by professional reporters (for instance, Damon Winter and Erin Trieb’s use of the snapshot aesthetic in the reporting of the war in Afghanistan). Through such examples, the entry shows how the concept of the ‘amateur’ is entangled within the mediality of ‘the connective turn’ (Hoskins 2011) and how its use confers a broader cultural desire to ensure social presence.


Allan, Stuart (2013) Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning journalism in times of crisis,. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Becker, Karin (2011) ‘Looking Back: Ethics and aesthetics of non-professional photography’, in Kari Andén-Papadopoulos and Mervi Pantti (eds) Amateur Images and Global News, Bristol: Intellect, pp. 23-39.

Berger, Lynn (2009) ‘The Authentic Amateur and the Democracy of Collecting Photographs’, Photography and Culture 2(1): 31-50.

Keen, Andrew. (2007) The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s internet is killing our culture, London: Doubleday.

Hoskins, Andrew (2014) ‘A New Memory of War’, in Barbie Zelizer and Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt (ends) Journalism and Memory, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 179-191.


Anthropology and Citizen Media

Nina Grønlykke Mollerup, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

This entry engages with anthropological contributions to the study of citizen media based on long-term, ethnographic fieldwork and immersive engagement. Media anthropology has developed as a cohesive subfield of anthropology, mainly since the turn of the century (Boyer 2012, Postill and Peterson 2009), but anthropologists have paid attention to media for much longer (Spitulnik 1993). Methodologically, anthropology engenders a decentring of media as but one part of the social worlds under interrogation, thus facilitating the analysis of subtle ambiguities and tensions in citizens’ engagement with media. With their wide geographical scopes, anthropological studies further serves to decentre the West, which has historically been favoured in media studies (Hirschkind 2006, Postill 2011, Shipley 2009, Westmoreland 2016). Citizen media are often intricately related to institutional media, as illustrated by Anonymous attacks on film and music industry websites (Coleman 2014) and activist campaigns against mainstream media (Barassi 2015). Grappling with the sociocultural complexities of citizen media entails interrogating the complex entanglements of the personal and the political (Shipley 2009) as well as the deliberate and the inadvertent (Alexandrakis 2016). This entry covers overt citizen media activism as well as the gradual, implicit and everyday practices of citizen media entailing quiet ruptures, which become significant or enable opportunities for distinct action over time.


Alexandrakis, O. (2016) ‘Incidental Activism: Graffiti and Political Possibility in Athens, Greece’, Cultural Anthropology 31(2): 272–96.

Barassi, V. (2015) Activism on the Web: Everyday Struggles against Digital Capitalism, New York and London: Routledge.

Boyer, D. (2012) ‘From Media Anthropology to the Anthropology of Mediation’, in R. Fardon, O. Harris, T. H. J. Marchand, M. Nuttall, C. Shore, V. Strang & R. A. Wilson (eds) The Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology, 383–92.

Coleman, G. (2014) Hacker, Hoaxer, Whisteblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, London: Verso.

Hirschkind, C. (2006) The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics, New York: Columbia University Press.

Postill, J. (2011) Localizing the Internet: An Anthropological Account, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Postill, J. and M. Allen Peterson (2009) ‘What Is the Point of Media Anthropology?’, Social Anthropology 17 (3): 334–44.

Shipley, J. W. (2009) ‘Aesthetic of the Entrepreneur: Afro-Cosmopolitan Rap and Moral Circulation in Accra, Ghana’, Anthropological Quarterly 82(3):631-668.

Spitulnik, D. (1993) ‘Anthropology and Mass Media’, Annual Review of Anthropology 22(1): 293-315.

Westmoreland, M. R. (2016) ‘Street Scenes: The Politics of Revolutionary Video in Egypt’, Visual Anthropology 29(3): 243–62.



Jess Baines, London College of Communication, University of the Arts (UAL), UK

Archives and archiving have expanded from their once traditional role as restricted and institutionalized domains into a growing host of autonomous, often community-orientated but also artistic resources and practices that act against the exclusions and notions of ‘historical significance’ which permeated their formal counterparts (Schwartz and Cook 2002). These alternative archives, sometimes referred to as counter-archives or community archives, can be invaluable resources for researchers of citizen media, and the alternative archive itself may be seen as an instance of citizen media in practice. Alternative archives are not simply repositories for excluded narratives. They contain documents and enable practices that can bear witness, affirm identities, forge collective memories and new socialities, offering sites for critical engagement with both the past and the present (Flinn 2010; Baldi 2016). In that sense they are anticipatory, even hopeful endeavours (Appaduri 2003).

The affordances of digital technologies have enabled the growth of alternative archives and made them more visible to researchers, with a proliferation of online archives and digitization projects now readily available for analysis. However, the counter-archive has a longer history.  This entry initially draws on examples of pre-digital counter archives such as the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York (established in 1974), and then proceeds to engage with more recent counter-archiving activities, including 858: An Archive of Resistance, an online archive of 858 hours of video footage from the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. It also engages with some of the vulnerabilities of alternative archives, both online and offline varieties (Bosi and Reiter 2014).


Appadurai, A. (2003) ‘Archive and Aspiration’, in J. Brouwer and A. Mulder (eds) Information is Alive, Rotterdam: V2_Publishing/NAI Publishers, pp. 14-25

Baldi, L. (2016) ‘Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age, Archiving as an act of resistance.’ Ibraaz. 010_03 / 28 July. Available at

Bosi, L. and H. Reiter (2014) ʻHistorical Methodologies: Archival research and oral history in social movement research’, in D. della Porta (ed.) Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 117-143.

Flinn, A. (2010) ‘Independent Community Archives and Community-Generated Content: Writing, saving and sharing our histories’, Convergence 16(1): 39-51.

Schwartz, J.M.  and T. Cook (2002) ‘Archives, Records, and Power: The making of modern memory’, Archival Science 2: 1-19.



Lina Dencik, Cardiff University, UK

As discourses of the empowering nature of digital media for ordinary citizens and non-elites have developed, certain attributes of these technologies have become prominent. The question of authenticity, in particular, has received significant attention in an age that hungers for anything that feels authentic, just as we lament more and more that it is a world of inauthenticity (Banet-Weiser 2012). Social media, especially, has come to occupy an important role in this debate as social media companies and commentators have jointly advanced a myth of ‘us’ (Couldry 2015); the generating of the idea that platforms like Facebook underpin a kind of natural collectivity. That is, the institutional architectures and political agendas that usually accompany mediated activity are made away with, and instead, a ‘new authenticity’ towards the public can emerge (Chouliaraki and Blaagaard 2013; Dencik 2015). At the same time, as the myths of depoliticized and deinstitutionalized digital media become uncovered in an age of bots, filter bubbles and fake news, this attribution of authenticity becomes evermore complicated. This entry looks at how the perceived authenticity of social media has been appropriated by different actors, giving examples of politicians, journalists, corporations and activists, and how this perception of social media is now being challenged by the growing debate on algorithmic design and computational propaganda as a key feature of the contemporary public sphere.


Banet-Weiser, S. (2012) Authentic, New York and London: New York University Press.

Chouliaraki, L. and B. Blaagaard (2013) ‘Cosmopolitanism and the New News Media’, Journalism Studies 14(2): 150–55.

Couldry, N. (2015) ‘The Myth of ‘Us’: Digital networks, political change and the production of collectivity’, Information, Communication & Society 18(6): 608-626.

Dencik, L. (2015) Social Media and the ‘New Authenticity’ of Protest, in L. Dencik & O. Leistert (eds.) Critical Perspectives on Social Media and Protest: Between control and emancipation, London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 203-218.


Autonomous Movements

Cristina Flesher Fominaya, Loughborough University, UK

This entry provides an overview of the key characteristics of autonomous movements, a brief outline of their history, and their political importance in contemporary processes of mobilisation.

The ideological framework that underlies autonomous movements and its relation to praxis is developed, and is contrasted with more institutionalized forms of organization. The evolution of these movements and their synergy with anarchist, feminist and techno-political movement traditions is also covered. The key challenges and tensions of autonomous praxis in social movements are explored, and their invisibility within social movement studies is explained.


Flesher Fominaya, C. (2010) ‘Creating Cohesion from Diversity: The challenge of collective identity formation in the global justice movement, Sociological Inquiry 80(3): 377-404.

Flesher Fominaya, C. (2007) ‘Autonomous Movement and the Institutional Left: Two Approaches in Tension in Madrid’s Anti-Globalisation Network’, South European Society & Politics 12(3): 335-358.

Flesher Fominaya, C. (2015) ‘Autonomous Social Movements and the Paradox of Anti-identitarian Collective Identity’, in A. McGarry and J. Jasper (eds) The Identity Dilemma, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 65-84.

Katsiaficas, G. (1997) The Subversion of Politics: European autonomous movements and the decolonization of everyday life, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.

Pickerill, J. and P. Chatterton (2006) ‘Notes towards Autonomous Geographies: Creation, resistance and self-management as survival tactics’, Progress in Human Geography 30(6): 730-746.

Van der Steen, B. (2014) The City is Ours: Squatting and autonomous movements in Europe from the 1970s to the present, Oakland, CA: PM Press.