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IM933 Media Activism

15/20/30 CATS (7.5/10/15 ECTS)
Term 2

Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith

Part I: Theories and Politics of Networked Activism

Week 1: Art, media, and activism—how we got to today (lecture and seminar)

Sets the scene through a brief history of art- and media-activist practices leading up to today, examining the impact of social and technological change; also looks at the impact of networks on art’s autonomy, and the relation between theory and practice, as well as the specificity of the digital as a medium

Week 2: Capital, labour, and value in a digital age (lecture and seminar)

Looks at the ways contemporary political economy has been theorized, together with the possibilities and difficulties that communicative capital poses for organising, popular resistance, and subversive artistic praxis

Week 3: Institutions, knowledges, and organising in globalized networked societies (lecture and seminar)

Looks at how institutions and knowledges, including disciplinarity, are produced under networked capital and how networks may be appropriated for forming alternative collectives, autonomous spaces, and transdisciplinary practices.

Part II: Tactical media

Week 4: Hacktivism, commodity activism, clicktivism, slacktivism (lecture and seminar)

Looks at a variety of critical and aesthetic interventions, including electronic civil disobedience, DOS attacks, cybersquatting, Floodnet applications, tactical cartography and visualization, as well as popular political engagement through social media in the form of signing petitions, purchasing, and so forth, and the commodification and branding of activism online.

Week 5: Performance, art, design, fiction (lecture and seminar)

Looks at the media activism as performance and aesthetic practice, tactical media, and also the role of art and design in critical media interventions, especially the role of speculative design fiction.

Week 7: Designing media activism (workshop)

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

Part III: Social media and global activism

Week 8: Media squares (lecture and seminar)

Looks at the role of digital activism in the Arab spring and Occupy movements, examining the relation between twitter and the streets, between smart mobs and DIY artistic production, and so on.

Week 9: Far-right co-options (lecture and seminar)

Looks at the appropriation of critical and tactical-media approaches by the far right and the political ramifications of this development for the theory and practice of media activism.

Week 10: Whither media activism? (workshop)

A hands-on exploration of online interventions, micropractices, and design fictions that speculate about or advocate for digital futures.


Chun, Wendy. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006).

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

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

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

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

McCaughey, Martha and Michael D. Ayers. Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice (New York: Routledge, 2003).

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

Galloway, Alexander and Eugene Thacker. The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

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).

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).

Mukherjee, Roopali and Sarah Banet-Weiser (eds). Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times (New York: New York University Press, 2012).

Osborne, Peter. “Contemporary Art is Post-Conceptual Art,” Public Lecture, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Villa Sucota, Como, 9 July 2010.

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

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

Stiegler, Bernard. Automatic Society: The Future of Work

Terranova, Tiziana. “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy,” Social Text 18, no. 2 (2000): 33–58.

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.