Digital Media Activism

Academic Program: 

Sahana Udupa
Course Description: 

Elective course, Media Specialization/Concentration, Gateway  course for MPA students

This course will offer a critical introduction to digital media activism expanding across the world. There is today widespread enthusiasm about the potential of digital media to empower citizens and enable democratic participation. But recent events of manipulation and control by governments and market have also shown the limits of digital media activism. This course will offer students the opportunity to analyze the highly contested terrain of digital activism, and recognize that digital activism is not a uniform movement but a plurality of tactics and agendas. Rather than celebrating digital technologies as tools for activism applicable anywhere and anytime, the course will challenge the students to interrogate the various conditions that shape contention and claims to social justice. The students will also become familiar with higher order social theories as they illuminate the ways digital media intersect with political cultures.

The course will combine theoretical readings with analysis of signature episodes such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street but also less known Internet activism in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Indonesia and other countries.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course students will

  • demonstrate knowledge of varieties of digital activism and the larger contexts that define claims to social justice
  • grasp different theoretical positions to appraise the role of social/online media in political contestations
  • assess the role of market and the state in shaping digital spaces of participation
  • develop a critical-comparative understanding of digital activism covering a range of political-cultural landscapes in the global North and global South, and thereby complicate categories of investigation rooted in the experiences of the West
  • apply theoretical insights to develop a social media campaign for political advocacy.
  • Class Participation and Questions: 15%
  • Facebook participation: 10%

Each week, designated students will post two guiding questions for discussion based on the week’s readings at least three days before the class meeting on a closed Facebook group created for the course. These questions should be open-ended and provocative, which can enhance classroom discussions. Other students will post comments up to one day before the class meeting.

  • Book review 15% (5 to ­7 pages)
  • Final presentation on social media campaign: 15%
  • Final paper with theoretical discussion on social media campaign: 45% (20­ to 25 pages)