Skip to main content Skip to navigation

IM933 Media Activism

15/20/30 CATS (7.5/10/15 ECTS)
Term 2
MODULE CONVENOR - Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith


Week 1: Media activism in a time of pandemic (lecture and workshop)

To kick off this module, we will begin by examining the kinds of activism that have taken place all around the globe during the Coranavirus pandemic when public health measures constrained the right to assemble initially diverting people from the streets to mass Zoom calls and then witnessing the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We shall situate this moment in the history of digital media activism.

Week 2: Theoretical perspectives on activism under neoliberalism (lecture and seminar)

To lay the groundwork for this module, we will be looking at various theories of political economy, governmentality, society, and subjectivation and agency that explain the conditions and constraints of political activism under neoliberalism, as well as the possibilities and limitations of digital platforms for organising.

This week’s theoretical perspectives are largely drawn from European philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st century who have devoted considerable attention to the ways in which power and subjectivity are articulated together across all aspects of our lives and have reflected on how the changing conditions of work and social reproduction intersect with technological innovations to change how politics takes places today.

Week 3: Tactical media, performance, design (lecture and workshop)

This week we will look at at the earliest phase of digital media activism, which was chiefly characterized by variety of critical-aesthetic interventions, including electronic civil disobedience, DOS attacks, cybersquatting, Floodnet applications, tactical cartography and visualization, and so forth. We will investigate media activism as a performance and aesthetic practice and the role of art and design in critical media interventions.

Week 4: Media squares (lecture and seminar)

This week we shall explore the deployment of digital technologies of communication and participation in the Arab Spring, and the Occupy, 15-M and Nuit Debout movements, examining the relation between digital and real-world organising, as well the possibilities and limits of digital platforms.

Week 5: Networked liberation struggles (lecture and seminar)

This week turns to the use of digital platforms as organising tools in a variety of of liberation struggles from feminist twitter campaigns to decolonising and indigenous movement-building. We will look at the way activists in the global South have developed innovative uses for social media platforms to provide connective tissue among networks from Africa to Latin America. The struggles of indigenous people are often entangled with environmental struggles, while queer activism contends with categories of identity, virtual and embodied.

Week 7: Designing media activism (workshop)

In-class crits with pecha kucha presentations of group design projects

Week 8: Digital populisms and far-right co-options (lecture and seminar)

This week we look at the use of digital strategies by populist movements today and at the advantage that the right appears to have in terms of online campaigning, including via the appropriation of critical and tactical-media approaches. We shall evaluate the political ramifications of these developments for the theory and practice of media activism.

Week 9: Digital parties and democratic reformations (lecture and seminar)

We now turn to the ways in which digital technologies are transforming democratic forms and institutions, with a focus on the potential for social media to reconfigure representation and the relation between leader and base. We will also touch on how big data is changing campaigning.

Week 10: Digital media futures (workshop)

Activism does not only fight against existing conditions. One of its chief tasks is also to propose alternative worlds and futures. In this final session, we will come together as an entire group for a hands-on exploration of online interventions, micropractices, and design fictions that speculate about or advocate for digital futures. We will create our own design fictions in groups as a way to imagine the possibilities of socio-political collective existence in the future.


Boltanski, Luc, and Eve Chiapello. The New Spirit of Capitalism. New expanded edition. Translated by Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 2017.

Critical Art Ensemble, The Electronic Disturbance (New York: Autonomedia, 1994).

______. Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media (New York: Autonomedia, 2001).

Chadwick, Andrew. The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Chandler, David and Christian Fuchs, eds. Digital Objects, Digital Subjects: Inter­disciplinary Perspectives on Capitalism, Labour and Politics in the Age of Big Data. London: University of Westminster Press, 2019.

Custódio, Leonardo: Favela Media Activism: Counterpublics for Human Rights in Brazil. London: Lexington Books, 2017.

Dardot, Christian and Pierre Laval. The New Way of The World: On Neoliberal Society. Translated by Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 2014.

Dean, Jodi. “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics,” Cultural Politics, 1, no, 1 (2005): 51–74.

______. Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).

Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on Societies of Control,” October 59 (1992), 3–7.

Dieter, Michael. “The Becoming Environmental of Power: Tactical Media After Control,” Fibreculture Journal 18 (2011): 177–205.

Dunne, Anthony and Fiona Raby. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).

Gerbaudo, Paolo. Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism(New York: Pluto Press, 2012).

_____. The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy (London: Pluto Press, 2019).

Han, Byung-Chul. Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power. Translated by Erik Butler. London: Verso, 2017.

Harcourt, Bernard E. Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Hardt, Michael and Toni Negri. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004).

Hindman, Matthew. The Myth of Digital Democracy. Princeton, NJ: OPrinceton University Press, 2009.

Jordan, Tim. Activism! Direct Action, Hacktivism, and the Future of Society (London: Reaktion Books, 2002).

Martens, Cheryl, Etsa Franklin Salvio Sharupi Tapuy, and Christina Venegas, eds. Digital Activism, Community Media, and Sustainable Communication in Latin America. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

Meikle, Graham. Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2002).

Garcia, David and Geert Lovink. “The GHI of Tactical Media’, in Do It Yourself! Art and Digital Media: Software, Participation, Distribution, ed. Andreas Broeckmann and Susanne Jaschko, 12–17 (Berlin: transmediale.01 catalogue, 2001).

Karatzogianni, Athina. Firebrand Waves of Digital Activism 1994–2014. The Rise and Spread of Hacktivism and Cyberconflict. London: Palgrave, 2015.

Kluitenberg, Eric. Legacies of Tactical Media: The Tactics of Occupation from Tompkins Square to Tahir (Network Notebooks: Amsterdam, 2011).

Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

Lazzarato, Maurizio. “Immaterial Labor,” in Marxism beyond Marxism, ed. Saree Makdisi, Cesare Casarino, and Rebecca E. Karl for the Polygraph collective (London: Routledge, 1996).

Lovink, Geert. Dark Fiber: Tracking Internet Culture (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2002).

Lovink, Geert and Ned Rossiter. Organization After Social Media (New York: Minor Compositions, 2018).

McIlwain, Charlton D. Black Software: The Internet and Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Mendes, Kaitlynn, Jessica Ringrose, and Jessalynn Keller, eds. Digital Feminist Activism: Girls and Women Fight Back Against Rape Culture, 100–124. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Mitchell, J. W. T., Bernard E. Harcourt, and Michael Taussig, Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

O’Shea, Lizzie. Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Can Teach Us about Digital Technology. London: Verso, 2019.

Pickard, Victor and Guobin Yang. Media Activism in the Digital Age (London: Routledge, 2017).

Raley, Rita. Tactical Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

Rheingold, Howard. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (Cambridge: Perseus, 2002).

Seymour, Richard. The Twittering Machine (London: Indigo Press, 2019).

Shantz, Jeff and Jordan Tomblin. Cyber Disobedience: Re://Presenting Online Anarchy. Alresford, Hants: Zero Books, 2014.

Stiegler, Bernard. Automatic Society: The Future of Work, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity, 2016).

Terranova, Tiziana. “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy,” Social Text18, no. 2 (2000): 33–58.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva, Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Wark, Mackenzie. A Hacker Manifesto (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).


1 x 2,000-word essay (summative)
1 x set of 20 Pecha Kucha slides on a design proposal developed in
small groups for a media activist campaign, performance, or other
intervention (summative)
1 x Pecha Kucha presentation (formative)

1 x 3,000-word essay (summative)
1 x set of 20 Pecha Kucha slides on a design proposal developed in
small groups for a media activist campaign, performance, or other
intervention (summative)
1 x Pecha Kucha presentation (formative)
1 x 5,000-word essay (summative)
1 x set of 20 Pecha Kucha slides on a design proposal developed in
small groups for a media activist campaign, performance, or other
intervention (summative)
1 x Pecha Kucha presentation (formative)


By the end of the module, students should be able to:

Subject knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a rigorous understanding of the objectives, stakes, and tactics of media activism in digital and networked culture;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of digital and networked media activism and of the impact of technological change on approaches to organising;
  • Offer a detailed comparative analysis of specific interventions and practices of hackers, artists, collectives, and autonomous spaces;
  • Demonstrate a strong theoretical grasp of the political-economic and social contexts into which media activism intervenes and their relation to activist practices;
  • Articulate what is understood by praxis in contemporary contexts;
  • Evaluate rigorously the configurations in which media activism intersects with art, design, and performance and their institutional infrastructure;
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of media activism as an object of multi-disciplinary inquiry and an ability to select appropriately and draw critically upon up a variety of methodologies to study its conditions and effects;
  • Reflect critically on how media activism challenges and extends notions of inter- and trans-disciplinarity.

Important Registration Information:

CIM Students

  • You will need to make your optional module choices using the degree specific CIM module webform available in the CIM welcome page. All further instructions will be available to you on the webform.

  • The webform opens on Monday 12th September at 12:00 noon BST and closes on Monday 19th September at 12:00 noon BST

  • Gheerdhardhini (CIM PG Coordinator) will register you for your chosen modules, confirming your place in the module by 30th September, Friday.

  • If there are any queries, please get in touch with Gheerdhardhini via 

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department - 

  • Psychology - Your PG Administrator will be in touch before Term 1 about registering interest for CIM modules

  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice at the latest by Week 1 : Wednesday, 5th October, 17.00 BST.


  • Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.

  • Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers and places are allocated according to availability and inter-departmental arrangements.

  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.

  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.

  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.

  • For external students - Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ or their home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned registration deadline also applies to the CIM optional modules running in Term 2. We will consider registrations again in the first week of Term 2, but only in relation to modules where there is availability.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join/leave the module after the second week of it commencing.