write:As social media penetrate deeply into day-to-day personal communication in ways alternative media have never been able to do activists can reach categories of people who would oth

and virality are part of social mediaÕs DNA. The technological architectures and business models of these media are geared towards the viral dissemination of affective messages through personal networks. For activists this is both a blessing and a curse. As social media penetrate deeply into day-to-day personal communication in ways alternative media have never been able to do
activists can reach categories of people who would otherwise not be reached by activist communication. At the same time
the interactions and interests that tie dispersed social media users together to form protest movements
generating instant moments of togetherness
inevitably dissolve when social platforms algorithmically connect users to the next wave of trending topics. Whereas alternative media are technologically and intellectually designed to sustain interest in particular social and political issues and to build communities around such issues
social media are focused on connecting users only momentarily. To sustain their structural commercial appetite for online engagement
social platforms continuously introduce the next set of topics that satisfy user interests
whatever these interests might be. Indeed
social platforms are both technologically and commercially antithetical to community formation. In their pursuit of profiling and targeting users
commercial social platforms have no real interest in community formation except for rhetorical purposes. Hence
there is no natural progression from ÔtogethernessÕ to ÔcommunityÕ (as Castells suggests)
but rather the reverse appears to be true: in social media-dominated online environments
processes of togetherness are always ephemeral
always already on the point of giving way to the next set of trending topics and related sentiments. Reconsidering media power Examining the ways in which social platforms shape personalization and the instantaneous viral circulation of content forces us to revisit the question of media power. While the rise of social media has made activists much less dependent on television and mainstream newspapers
this certainly does not mean that activists have more control over the media environments in which they operate. Media power has neither been transferred to the public
nor to activists for that matter; instead
power has partly shifted to the technological mechanisms and algorithmic selections operated by large social media corporations (Facebook
Google). Through such technological shaping
social media greatly enhance the news-oriented character of activist communication
shifting the focus away from protest issues towards the spectacular
and ÔconflictualÕ aspects of protest. Simultaneously
social platforms not only allow users to engage in personal networks but also steer them towards such connections. While personal networks and viral processes of content dissemination can generate strong sentiments of togetherness
they are antithetical to community formation. In sum
the ways in which social media shape and steer activism trigger critical questions regarding the long-term efficacy of social media protest communication.


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