From Arab Spring to Zuccotti Park
Creech, Brian Mac-Ray
MetadataShow full item record
Recent protest movements and projects of dissent have drawn attention to the ways that digital technologies and media practices create popular perceptions of political projects. This dissertation investigates the way that media practices, digital technologies, and strategies of self-representation overlap and form a “politics of visibility,” or the means by which events, issues, individuals, and phenomena are made broadly sensible. Traditional studies of media and journalism often focus on the level of professional practice, subsuming human agency to the workings of technology or relegating technology solely to the realm of inert practice. This projects attempts to keep both technological and human agency relevant by using the work of Michel Foucault, Bruno Latour, and Félix Guattarri as a theoretical foundation to argue that technologies, communication practices, and social action overlap in a way that makes events intelligible at moments of representation. By understanding visibility as something that is produced, this dissertation argues that observers can understand the shifting power relations embedded in that visibility. Furthermore, new forms of visibility may have consequences on the production of politics and the relations of power. After an initial chapter that introduces the study and offers the rationale and theoretical genealogy of the “politics of visibility,” the subsequent chapters deal with key moments in the production of the politics of visibility. Following chapters analyze the cell phone camera as a device implicated in the production of visibility, and posit both the Occupy Wall Street protests and the “Arab Spring” as key events made intelligible through shifting technological relations and communication practices. This dissertation concludes positing that visibility is a site of broadly conceived contestation, where informal rules of discourse may circulate, but the strategic apprehension of those rules and shifting technologies allows certain groups to articulate their own politics with strategic regard to their own political and historical moment.