Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [P]

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Michael Atkinson, University of Toronto, Canada
Kristina Smith, University of Toronto, Canada

Parkour continues to grow rapidly as physical culture around the globe. Once an activity of marginalized suburban youth, it has become a modern fixture of contemporary metropolitan life. There are Parkour street crews, Parkour gym classes, Parkour courses in physical education, and even Parkour-inspired fashion shops (Gilchrist and Wheaton 2011). While the physical culture has seeped into many modern institutional spaces and has become ideologically diluted in its representation as simply ‘alternative youth exercise’, many urban participants remain loyal to the original ethics of Parkour practice. More specially, as Atkinson (2008) has noted, Parkour carries with it a geospatial-corporeal-political ethic for many practitioners. The physical culture of Parkour is not merely about daring gymnastic performances such as building-to-building leaps, vaults, climbs and rolls, as much as it is about the deliberate use and contestation of urban space as a place wherein youth may articulate their own political concerns, philosophies, experiences and values outside the frameworks of mainstream organized sport and leisure (Kidder 2012). As such, Parkour remains a physical culture that allows some youths to express their social beliefs, political ideologies and lived realities. Important at this time, given the multifold uses of the practice and in the age of engaged citizenship through digital media, is the fact that many practitioners have become meaning-makers through the use of documentary, YouTube style videos, and vlogs. This entry will discuss the burgeoning importance of doing ‘digital Parkour’ as a central technique for representing the practice at this pivotal historical juncture.


Atkinson, M. (2008) ‘Parkour, Anarcho-environmentalism and Poises’, Journal of Sport and Social Issues 33(2): 169-194.

Gilchrist, P. and B. Wheaton (2011) ‘Lifestyle Sport, Public Policy and Youth Engagement: Examining the emergence of parkour’, International Journal of Sports Policy and Politics 3(1): 109-131.

Kidder, J. (2012) Parkour, the Affective Appropriation of Urban Space, and the Real/Virtual Dialectic’, City and Community 11(3): 229-253.



Dr Karen Cross, University of Roehampton, UK

Photography has long been viewed as the medium par excellence of social forms of communication. This is evident right from the moment of its invention with such key figures as Fox Talbot (1944) describing it as a form of ‘light writing’ right up until the time when it became an object of popular and political fascination (Benjamin 1931, and more recently Azoulay 2012). Later still, and the transition of the camera to the mobile phone focused attention on the rise of ‘the networked image’ (Rubinstein and Sluis 2008), along with the emergence of citizen forms of witnessing. Following this history, it is clear that photography is deeply rooted in the experience of the citizen who invests in photography as a means of creating social change (Ritchin 2013).

This entry will consider the role of photography in providing voice to citizen perspectives, including such global uprisings as the so-called Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. It will also reflect upon the way that the camera phone has been used to documents the immediate aftermath of events where professional photojournalists were not present, such as in the case of natural disasters and terror attacks. In relation to these, the entry will also reflect upon how such productions have come to signify the renewal of a form of documentary ‘truth’, which both provides a departure from institutional concerns but also articulates new relations of power and politics of representation that begs for a renewed critical theorizing in relation to the production and circulation of photographic images.


Azoulay, A. (2012) Civil Imagination: A political ontology of photography, London: Verso Books.

Benjamin, W. (1972[1931]) ‘A Short History of Photography’, Screen 13(1): 5-26.

Ritchin, F. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, documentary and the citizen, New York: Aperture.

Rubinstein, D. and K. Sluis (2008) ‘A Life More Photographic: Mapping the networked image’, Photographies 1(1): 9-28.

Talbot, F. (2010[1844]) The Pencil of Nature, Gutenberg Ebook. Available at: (accessed 2 June 2017).



Jacob Breslow, London School of Economics, UK

This entry’s exploration of the relationship between precarity and citizen media includes, but is not limited to, the traditional analysis of the precariat. While the precariat has been understood in primarily economic terms to define a class of people constricted by unstable labour conditions and sustained economic instability, this entry expands on the notion of ‘precarious’ to include other forms of uncertainty and insecurity. Taking on the call to situate citizen media as multifaceted and performative interventions in various forms of sociality and world building projects, the entry additionally considers precarity in regards to acts of citizenship, negotiations of criminalized and unrecognized labour, contested geographies, radical subjectivities, and acts of performative refusal. It specifically examines creative acts of collective and individual resistance to forms of precarization which include outsourcing, hazardous working conditions, the criminalization of sex work, the proliferation of flexible labour and zero-hour contracts, anti-black racism, environmental destruction, and the afterlife of apartheid and colonialism. Taking on an intersectional feminist, critical race, queer, and postcolonial perspective, it highlights fleeting, quotidian and longstanding acts of mediation and embodied activism which recalibrate and interfere with dominant narratives and structures of precarization.


Andrijasevic, R. et al. (2012) ‘European Citizenship Unbound: Sex work, Mobility, Mobilisation’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30: 497-514.

Butler, J. (2012) ‘Precarity Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Bojana Cvejić, Isabell Lorey, Jasbir Puar, and Ana Vujanović’, TDR: The Drama Review 56(4): 163-177.

Gill, R. and A. Pratt (2008) ‘Precarity and Cultural Work: In the Social Factory? Immaterial Labour, Precariousness and Cultural Work’, Theory, Culture & Society 25(7-8): 1-30.

Grahm, L. (2016) ‘Representing Marikana’, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 18(6): 834-851.

Tari, M. and I. Vani (2005) ‘On the Life and Deeds of San Precario: Patron Saint of Precarious Workers and Lives’, Fibreculture Journal 5.



Marianne Maeckelbergh,Leiden University, The Netherlands

This entry explores the history and recent rise to popularity of the term ‘prefiguration’ within social movement theory and practice. It traces the history of contemporary forms of prefiguration back to a shift in social movement praxis in the 1960s away from linear, programmatic, unitary theories of social change, as embodied in the modernist paradigms of communism and developmental progressivism, towards more experimental and open practices of social change.

The entry follows the emergence of prefiguration from practices of ‘participatory democracy’ within the 1960s and 1970s movements to the emphasis on ‘horizontal politics’ within the alterglobalization movement of the 2000s and finally the Occupy movements of the 2010s to explore the close relationship between prefigurative politics and the radical shifts in democratic theory and practice that occur within movements when large groups of unaffiliated citizens come together in public space(s) to effect social change. The various definitions, approaches and interpretations of the strategic value of prefiguration as a practice of social change will be discussed through an exploration of both the growing body of literature dedicated to this concept as well as concrete examples of how prefiguration works in practice across multiple contexts and decades of movement organising.

The entry ends with a survey of recent literature that places prefiguration in relation to practices of representation, capitalism, the state and the success/failure approach to understanding social movement practices.


Dinerstein, A. C. (2015) The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: The Art of Organising Hope, Basingstoke: Palsgrave Macmillan.

Franks, B. (2003) ‘The Direct Action Ethic from 59 Upwards’, Anarchist Studies 11(1): 13-41.

Graeber, D. (2002) ‘The New Anarchists’, New Left Review 13: 61-73.

Maeckelbergh, M. (2009) The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement is Changing the Face of Democracy, London: Pluto Press.

Polletta, F. (2002) ‘Freedom Is an Endless Meeting’, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Yates, L. (2015) ‘Rethinking Prefiguration: Alternatives, micropolitics and goals in social movements’, Social Movement Studies 14(1): 1-21.


Process (vs Event)

Carlie D. Trott, Colorado State University, USA

Despite their interdependence, the concepts of ‘process’ and ‘event’ are often distinguished from one another in social movement studies. Where events are conceptualized as discrete, temporally-bound, externally-directed products of collective struggle, processes refer to their continuous, ever-shifting practices and democratic potentialities. Events, as unitary entities, may consist of particular projects or products in citizen media, whereas processes, as fluid arrangements, encompass a diverse range of methods and practices surrounding—and making possible—the production and circulation of content. In citizen media, as in other forms of resistance, disproportionate scholarly attention has been paid to tangible, visible ‘outputs’ (or events), rather than to the more abstract, less visible ‘inputs’ (or processes) that facilitate or constrain the former. In recent years, the everyday, temporally-extended social practices and tensions within social movements have garnered increasing attention. As a result, citizen media events are increasingly understood as physical and digital extensions—or public expressions—of ongoing, deliberative processes, rather than as spontaneous eruptions of creative resistance. Moreover, events are recognized as points along a continuum: not only as products of preceding activities, but as sites of process-oriented (re)generation. Beyond their practical inseparability, distinguishing process from event is further complicated in citizen media initiatives guided by the prefigurative ethos, whereby the medium itself embodies the empancipatory message of movement actors. Drawing on theoretical and empirical works, this entry will examine the nature and meaning of ‘process vs. event’ in citizen media, and discuss the theoretical and practical significance of the distinction.


Baker, M. and B.B. Blaagaard (eds) (2016) Citizen Media and Public Spaces: Diverse expressions of citizenship and dissent, New York: Routledge.

Haiven, M. and A. Khasnabish (2014) The Radical Imagination: Social movement research in the age of austerity, London: Zed Books.

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

Rodriguez, C. (2001) Fissures in the Mediascape: An international study of citizens’ media, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Steward, H. (1997) The Ontology of Mind: Events, processes, and states, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


Public (& Private) Sphere

Petros Iosifidis, City, University of London, UK

The concept of the public sphere is a central analytical tool that helps us to make sense of the relationship between the media and democracy (civic engagement). Political theorist Habermas explained that in the late eighteenth century a new political class (the bourgeoisie) came to the fore in Britain in particular and formed a public body which, in sharp contrast to the old authorities, notably the state and the church, provided the conditions for reason-based, public opinion. The creation of a network of institutions by the bourgeoisie within the civil society and, more specifically, the launch of a number of newspapers provided the means through which private thoughts could become public. However, Habermas pointed out that this space for rational and universalistic politics created by the capitalist market was historically damaged by both the extension of the state and the evolution of monopoly capitalism. The role of the media was central to the replacement of the ideal speech situation by conditions of ‘distorted communication’. Whereas the independent press at the turn of the nineteenth century had led to the formation of rational public debate and public decision-making on political and judicial matters, it later functioned as a manipulative agency controlling public opinion.

Although often dubbed idealistic and criticised on its ‘rationality’ principle, Habermas’ theory offered a good starting point for understanding the media’s role in public communication. But in today’s global multi-cultural society it is argued that the public sphere should take a universalising angle and consider the cultural ‘difference’. Therefore, the debates surrounding the idea of the public sphere have taken a renewed interest with the emergence of the Internet and other new online and citizen media which can provide new communication spaces where debate can be conducted. This entry discusses the role of the traditional public sphere in terms of citizens’ political actions and engages critically with up to date scholarship in the field by debating whether new electronic media act as a public sphere where critical discourse can emerge and influence political action. To illustrate this, the entry provides concrete examples and makes reference to a number of cases, including the way the Brexiteers and Trump used citizen media, and Twitter in particular, to win the 2016 UK Referendum and the 2016 US Presidential election, respectively.


Castells, M. (2007) ‘Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society’, International Journal of Communication 8 February: 238-266.

Coleman, S. and J. G. Blumer (2008) The Internet and Democratic Citizenship: Theory, practice and policy, Cambridge University Press.

Dahlgren, P. (2009) Media and Political Engagement: Citizens, communication and democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Habermas, J. (1962/1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a category of bourgeois society, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hague, B. N. and B. D. Loader (eds.) (1999) Digital Democracy: Discourse and decision-making in the information age, London: Routledge.

Papacharassi, Z. (2009) A Private Sphere: Democracy in a digital age, Cambridge: Polity Press.



Elaine Yuan, University of Illinois at Chicago, US

This entry provides an overview of the notion of ‘the public’, the tensions inherent in the multiplicity of publics, the idea of public good, as well as the process of public formation in relation to the changing media landscape. The discussion begins with the Habermasian notion of ‘public sphere’, understood as an institutionalised arena of discursive interaction. Based on a historical depiction of a rising bourgeois class, Habermas (1991) developed this concept to postulate the existence of a public whose ‘public opinion’ served as ‘the abstract counterpart of public authority’. This historically specific bourgeois public sphere, however, was both exclusive and transient. A post-bourgeois modern public sphere is necessarily defined by multiple publics in changing relations and conjuncture alliances instead of one of any singular, foundational form (Calhoun 1998).

Such publics are self-creating and self-organised through discourses, therefore both powerful and elusive. The modern sense of the public as the social totality only exists on the basis of partial publics of discourse (Warner 2002). In this sense, the publics are emergent. They are formed in ‘open-ended flows of communication that enable socially distant interlocutors to bridge social-network positions, formulate collective orientations, and generate psychical ‘working alliances,’ in pursuit of influence over issues of common concern’ (Emirbayer and Sheller 1999: 156). During this process, differences are articulated and notions of the public good constituted (Calhoun 1998: 22).


Calhoun, C. (1998) ‘The Public Good as a Social and Cultural Project’, in W. Powell and E. S. Clemens (eds) Private Action and the Public Good, Yale University Press, 20-35.

Emirbayer, M. and M. Sheller (1999) ‘Publics in History’, Theory and Society 28(1):143-197.

Fraser, N. (1990) ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy’, Social Text (25/26): 56-80.

Habermas, J. (1991) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An inquiry into

a category of bourgeois society, MIT press.

Warner, M. (2002) ‘Publics and Counterpublics’, Public Culture 14(1): 49-90.