Book: OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism. By Christian Fuchs. Zero Books, 2014
The Occupy movement has emerged in a historical crisis of global capitalism. It struggles for the reappropriation of the commodified commons. Communications are part of the commons of society. Yet contemporary social media are ridden by an antagonism between private corporate control (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and self-managed, commons-based activist media. In this work, Christian Fuchs analyses the contradictory dialectic of social media in the Occupy movement. Drawing on a political economy framework and interpretation of the results of the OccupyMedia! Survey, in which more than 400 Occupy activists reported on their social media use, OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism shows how activists confront the contradictions of capitalism and communication in the age of crisis and social media. The book discusses the contradiction between commercial and alternative social media and argues that the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex expressed in the PRISM system shows the urgent necessity to create social media beyond Facebook and Google.
“provides the results of the OccupyMedia! Survey carried out at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. Fuchs makes use of the results of the survey elsewhere (in Social Media: A Critical Introduction) but this is the first time they have been presented and analysed in full. Based on online questionnaires, the survey aims to answer research questions such as ‘What do activists perceive as the role of social media in Occupy?’ and ‘How often to activists use certain media and communications forms for trying to mobilize people for protests and occupations?’. (38-9) It deals directly, therefore, with the claims that have been made about movements like Occupy, but also the Arab Spring, the Indignados and others, that social media are central to how these uprisings and protests were organised.
Crucially, and this is one of the many strengths of OccupyMedia! and what makes it essential reading for those interested in contemporary social movements, Fuchs argues that social media were less key than authors like Manuel Castells and Paul Mason make out. While they do play a role, Fuchs’ research is able to show, importantly going beyond anecdotal evidence, that traditional, face-to-face contact and physical space played a more central role in Occupy than did online communications and virtual platforms (this is reflected in other recent studies of Occupy including Mark Bray’s Translating Anarchy (2013) which doesn’t mention social media at all in its account of Occupy Wall Street and my own research on more established activist groups which similarly highlights a reliance on face-to-face, offline communication (Swann 2014a)). OccupyMedia!, however, goes beyond this conclusion to highlight the ways in which social media were used and how activists relate to them as protest tools.
At the outset, Fuchs states the aims of the OccupyMedia! project as to analyse ‘how corporate and alternative, non-commercial digital media enable and or/limit the movement’s communication and protest capacities.’ (4) Rather than discussing how the study sheds light on the use of corporate platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I want to here focus on what it shows in relation to alternative media, social media in particular, and how these are defined by activists and can be defined in relation to the goals of contemporary social movements. ” (http://www.heathwoodpress.com/demanding-defining-alternative-media/)