Book of the Day: DIY Citizenship

Book: DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. by Matt Ratto


“Today, DIY—do-it-yourself—describes more than self-taught carpentry. Social media enables DIY citizens to organize and protest in new ways (as in Egypt’s “Twitter revolution” of 2011) and to repurpose corporate content (or create new user-generated content) in order to offer political counternarratives. This book examines the usefulness and limits of DIY citizenship, exploring the diverse forms of political participation and “critical making” that have emerged in recent years. The authors and artists in this collection describe DIY citizens whose activities range from activist fan blogging and video production to knitting and the creation of community gardens.

Contributors examine DIY activism, describing new modes of civic engagement that include Harry Potter fan activism and the activities of the Yes Men. They consider DIY making in learning, culture, hacking, and the arts, including do-it-yourself media production and collaborative documentary making. They discuss DIY and design and how citizens can unlock the black box of technological infrastructures to engage and innovate open and participatory critical making. And they explore DIY and media, describing activists’ efforts to remake and reimagine media and the public sphere. As these chapters make clear, DIY is characterized by its emphasis on “doing” and making rather than passive consumption. DIY citizens assume active roles as interventionists, makers, hackers, modders, and tinkerers, in pursuit of new forms of engaged and participatory democracy.”



Thomas Swann:

“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. ” (

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