Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [D]

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Digital Storytelling

Çiğdem Bozdağ, University of Groningen, The Netherlands | Bremen University, Germany

Sigrid Kantengießer, Universität Bremen, Germany

Digital stories are produced and distributed by digital media. The formats of digital stories differ: short films, blog entries, forum threats, etc. can all be forms of digital stories. This entry focuses on “classical digital storytelling” (Lundby 2008: 2), which is “a workshop based practice in which people are taught to use digital media to create short audio-video stories, usually about their own lives” (Hartley and McWilliam 2009: 3). These workshops are often used (mainly by non-governmental organizations) as a strategy to empower marginalized people, hence justifying a focus on this form of digital storytelling as citizen media. Digital storytelling workshops are a widespread phenomenon and take place all over the world. This entry discusses classical formats of digital storytelling as citizen media. After presenting theories which conceptualize digital storytelling and empirical studies which analyze practices of digital storytelling, the empowerment character of this media practice is discussed. Finally, the entry explores whether, and if so to what extent, might the practice of digital storytelling be treated as a form of citizen media, understood as media practices through which citizens gain a voice and experience empowerment.


Couldry, N. (2008) ‘Digital Storytelling, Media Research and Democracy: Conceptual choices and alternative futures’, in K. Lundby (ed.) Mediatized Stories. Self-representation in New Media, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 41-60.

Hartley, J. and K. McWilliam (eds) Story Circle. Digital storytelling around the world, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lundby K. (2008) Mediatized Stories. Self-representation in new media, New York: Peter Lang.

Kannengießer, S. (2012) ‘Digital Storytelling to Empower Sex Workers: Warning, relieving and liberating’, in E. Zobel and R. Drücke (eds) Feminist Media: Participatory spaces, networks and cultural citizenship, Bielefeld: Transcript, pp. 238-249.

Reed, A. (2010) ‘“Don’t Keep It to Yourself!“: Digital storytelling with South African youth’, International Journal of Media, Technology and Lifelong Learning 6. Available at <> [Accessed on 25 January 2017].


Direct Action

Benjamin Franks, University of Glasgow, Scotland

This entry begins by tracing the origins of direct action to labour activism and industrial sabotage of the early twentieth-century syndicalist movements. In doing so it locates this class of activity within largely anti-hierarchical social movements. It then describes more recent manifestations of direct action in environmental campaigns and utilizing digital technologies. Whilst recognizing some contingent overlaps between ‘direct action’ and ‘civil disobedience’ in terms of them both being militant forms of collective action, this contribution nonetheless demarcates one from the other. It identifies the core principles of direct action in terms of prefiguration and rejection of mediation, distinguishing it from civil disobedience’s essential characteristics of pacifism and deliberate law-breaking. Direct action is prefigurative as it aims to embody through its methods its wider goals – albeit only temporarily or partially. It is direct in the sense that it does not primarily seek to bring about social change through reliance on representatives acting on behalf of others. The entry then examines the relationship between direct action and symbolic action, highlighting proponents’ critiques of activities that simply prioritize discursive interchange, but which nonetheless identify the distinctive communicative features of direct action.

Because of its critiques of instrumentality and hierarchy, direct action structures social movement organizations, identities and communication strategies. The entry considers some of the problems associated with these prefigurative frameworks, such as elitism or exclusion, as they unintentionally prioritize specific agents and develop insular group identities (De Shalit 2001). It describes and assesses proposals, from within and outside direct action communities, as to how these problems can be overcome.


Carter, A. (1973) Direct Action and Liberal Democracy, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Carter, A. (1983) Direct Action, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

De-Shalit, A. (200) ‘Ten Commandments of How to Fail in an Environmental Campaign’, Environmental Politics 10(1): 111-37.

Graeber, D. (2009) Direct action: An ethnography, Edinburgh: AK press.

Pouget, E. (2003 [1907]) Direct Action, London, Kate Sharpley Library.


Disability Media

Filippo Trevisan, American University, Washington, D.C., USA

Disability and disability-related issues are often ignored or misrepresented in mainstream news and popular media. Disability scholars have also argued that initiatives launched by major news organizations to provide better representations of disability, such as the BBC’s Ouch! website, have fallen short of expectations to incorporate the perspective of persons with disabilities effectively (Riley 2005). In addition, traditional forms of media are not fully accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, nor to people with different disabilities including, to name a few, blind and vision-impaired people, people with intellectual disabilities, and language processing issues. To address these problems, disability communities and Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) have built alternative media outlets with a view to providing accessible news coverage, enhancing the visibility of disability issues, and contrasting ableist and stereotypical representations of disability both within news and popular culture (Ellis and Goggin 2015a; Haller, 2010). While historically most of these efforts were oriented toward the provision of information to the disability community and meeting its various accessibility needs, the proliferation of digital media has enabled exponential growth in the disability media sector. Dozens of new disability news websites, blogs, podcasts, sign language video services on YouTube and other media are created every year, and can reach ever expanding audiences (Ellis and Goggin 2015b). Importantly, many of these outlets seek to have an impact beyond the disability community and influence legacy media and non-disabled audiences more broadly.

This entry provides a brief history of disability media initiatives and reviews their relationship with the changing technologies and organizational structures that support them. In particular, grassroots projects that seek to empower aspiring disabled writers, reporters, and videographers and augment the visibility of their content, such as Rooted in Rights and The Disability Visibility Project, are presented. The entry discusses how these initiatives, which follow in the footsteps of community-based projects that equipped people with disabilities with key journalistic skills (Thorsen, Jackson and Luce 2015) and build on the use of unmediated storytelling in disability rights advocacy (Trevisan, 2017), empower new disabled voices to challenge the status quo, enrich news and popular culture with more diverse disability representations, and can become catalysts for the participation of the disability community in key civic moments such as elections and important policy debates.


Ellis, K. and G. Goggin (2015a) Disability and the Media, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Ellis, K. and G. Goggin (2015b) “Disability Media Participation: Opportunities, Obstacles and Politics’, Media International Australia 154(1): 78-88.

Haller, B. (2010) Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media, Louisville, KY: Avocado Press.

Irvin, C. (1994) ‘Why We Do What We Do’, in B. Shaw (ed.) Ragged Edge: The Disability Experience from the Pages of The First Fifteen Years of the Disability Rag, Louisville, KY: Avocado Press, xiii-xv.

Riley, C. (2005) Disability and the Media: Prescriptions for Change, Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England.

Thorsen, E., D. Jackson and A. Luce (2015) ‘I Wouldn’t Be a Victim When It Comes to Being Heard: Citizen Journalism and Civic Inclusion’, in E. Thorsen, D. Jackson, H. Savigny, and J. Alexander (eds) Media, Marings and Civic Agency, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 43-61.



Julie Boéri, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar

The ‘unity in diversity’ political motto has become a staple of multicultural societies, despite increased restrictions on the fundamental rights of certain groups. As a political principle, diversity is thus often instrumentalized, and its application in practice is fraught with contradictions. Several scholars have engaged with the challenge of embracing diversity in transnational networks, public spheres and social movements (Boéri and Hodkinson 2004, Maeckelbergh 2009), but accounts of how citizens struggle to implement diversity as they express themselves across media platforms remain very scarce. Media studies have acknowledged that new media have enabled a diversification of content, formats, approaches and publics, as different groups of citizens increasingly report on the events they witness and experience (Carpenter 2010). However, there has been little engagement with the ways in which citizens face the challenge of diversity when they use media for bringing about social transformation.

This entry explores how citizen media, understood as the media of expression of emerging publics (Baker and Blaagaard 2016), are underpinned by a complex articulation of diversity in the linguistic, discursive, social, cultural and technological spheres. Drawing on a range of case studies, it analyses the interplay between the claim for diversity and the reproduction of uniformity within citizen media at both the macro- and the micro-level of citizens’ interactions. The case studies selected engage with the decision making processes and bodies created by citizens in their attempt to construct truly democratic spaces in the 1960s movement, the alter-globalization movement of the 1990s, the Social Forum process at the turn of the century, and the more locally-rooted uprisings of the current decade (the Arab uprising, the Occupy and the Square movements, etc.). Discussion of the case studies focuses on two themes: attempts by unaffiliated citizens to implement the political principle of diversity and the difficulties they face in inscribing it in the spaces they reclaim as alternative to the mainstream; and the diversity of linguistic, discursive and visual performances of citizens within digital and non-digital environments. Diversity is shown to be inherent to the communication practices deployed across a constellation of media and by heterogeneous groups of actors, using multiple and hybrid languages. At the same time, this multi-layered diversity constructs a unique subject (an urban space, a cyber-space, a community), and in so doing creates the conditions of citizenship.


Baker, M. and B. B. Blaagaard (2016) ‘Reconceptualizing Citizen Media: A preliminary charting of a complex domain’, in M. Baker and B. B. Blaagaard (eds) Citizen Media and Public Spaces: Diverse expressions of citizenship and dissent, London & New York: Routledge, 13–31.

Boéri, J. and S. Hodkinson (2004) ‘Babels and the Politics of Language at the Heart of the Social Forum’, Redpepper, December.

Carpenter, S. (2010) ‘A Study of Content Diversity in Online Citizen Journalism and Online Newspaper Articles’, New Media and Society 12(7): 1064-1084.

Maeckelbergh, M. (2009) The Will of the Many: How the alterglobalisation movement is changing the face of democracy, London: Pluto Press.


Documentary Film Making

Mark R. Westmoreland, Leiden University, The Netherlands

The framework of citizen media complicates the notion of ‘documentary’ in compelling and crucial ways. Various filmmaking efforts by people trying to address civic issues – whether as a means for enacting social change, shifting public narratives, claiming representational autonomy, or expressing personal ambitions – illuminate critical fissures in the edifice of the documentary truth-claiming modality. This entry provides an overview of these issues as an important access point for understanding citizen-led efforts to claim public expression. It considers four modalities in which citizens have accessed and utilized the documentary form to both enable self-empowerment and challenge representational authority. First, the formation of public-access television and non-profit organizations have played an important role in providing access to production and distribution opportunities, but nevertheless depend on institutional structures to ensure accessibility to the means of production. Key examples include the work of George Stoney, considered the ‘father of public-access television’ in the US, and the Scribe Video Center operating in Philadelphia since 1982. Second, under the banner of ‘participatory video’, various projects initiated by educators, artists or other social mobilizers offer important examples of collaborative forms of expression that cede control to unaffiliated individuals and communities. By facilitating the sensibilities of citizen groups, participatory projects may challenge the professional conventions of genre, form and aesthetics. Third, activist-led documentary projects that respond to particular situations or events provide alternative sources from mainstream media that both challenge the authority of conventional documentary and journalistic authorship and advance convincing cases for redressing injustices. A key example here is the Independent Media Center, especially founded to cover the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. More recent examples elaborate the potential of crowdsourced material and include the making of the 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, as well as innovative examples from the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, including the locally coordinated efforts of the media collective Mosireen and the internet-based project 18 Days in Egypt. Lastly, the documentary work that has emerged from indigenous communities around the world provides an important global perspective on citizen-led documentary filmmaking. Key examples from Inuit communities in northern Canada, Aboriginal communities in Australia, and Maya communities in Central America, among others, demonstrate the way in which such communities utilize documentary modalities to reclaim representational sovereignty.


Edgerton, K. (2013) ‘How ‘The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film Demonstrates Crowdsourcing in Action’, Open Documentary Lab at MIT, 13 February 2013. Available at

Gubrium, A. and K. Harper (2013) Participatory Visual and Digital Methods, Walnut Creek, CA.: Left Coast Press.

Lebow, A. (2016) ‘Seeing Revolution Non-Linearly:’, Visual Anthropology 29(3): 278–95.

Rose, M. (2014) ‘Making Publics: Collaborative documentary as DiY citizenship’, in M. Ratto and M. Boler (ends) DIY Citizenship: Critical Making & Social Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wilson, P. and M. Stewart (eds) (2008) Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, poetics, and politics, Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books.