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IM933 Media Activism

15/20/30 CATS (7.5/10/15 ECTS)
Term 1
MODULE CONVENOR - Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith


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: Tactical media, performance, design (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, and so forth; also looks at the media activism as performance and aesthetic practice the role of art and design in critical media interventions, especially the role of speculative design fiction

Week 4: The Twitter Revolution (lecture and seminar)

Looks at the role of social media activism in protests and unrest in Moldova, Iran, and the Arab spring examining the relation between twitter and the streets, and the limits and possibilities of digital participation

Week 5: Media squares (lecture and seminar)

Looks at technologies of communication and participation in the Occupy, 15-M and Nuit Debout movements, examining the relation between digital and real-world organising, as well as connections between smart mobs and DIY artistic production

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)—with visiting speaker Dr Paolo Gerbaudo (KCL)

Looks at the use of digital strategies by populist movements today, such as the gilets jaunes, and at the appropriation of critical and tactical-media approaches by the far right, evaluating the political ramifications of these developments for the theory and practice of media activism

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

Looks at how 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, and on how big data is changing campaigning

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).

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

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).

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).

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).

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.


CIM Students – Please complete the optional module choice forms distributed during the induction programme and get approval from your personal tutors during the Personal Tutor Meeting. Please then submit your approved form to Gheerdhardhini (CIM PG Coordinator) in room B0.04 by Week 0: Wednesday, 25th September by 17.00 GMT.

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department – Ms Sharon Hayes – by Week 1: Wednesday, 2rd October, 17.00 GMT.
  • Life Sciences – Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice by Week 1 : Thursday, 3rd October, 17.00 GMT.
  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice by Week 1 : Wednesday, 2nd October, 17.00 GMT.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • CIM PG Coordinator will get back confirming your place in the module by 27th September 2019 (For CIM students), or 4th October 2019 (For all other students).
  • Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ 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.