Monday, March 4, 2013

Spotlight on Research: Activism, Deliberation, and Networked Public Screens

The first part of the article creates “rhetorical scenes,” or dramatic vignettes which utilize a combination of fictional and non-fictional dialogue, protest observation, and auto-ethnographic reflection to highlight tensions between activism and deliberation in real-life scenes of rhetorical activity. The dramatization features three main characters: Anda (an advocate of militant, direct action activism), John (an advocate of discussion, debate, and consensus), and Dajuan (an undergraduate Occupy organizer who attempts to balance the competing perspectives of Anda and John). The play includes five scenes, including snapshots of the protests, the Occupy camp site, and even a heated discussion on Facebook.

Part 2 is a “footnote essay,” a more traditional academic contribution to rhetorical and media scholarship. First, we introduce the concept of “networked public screens” as a way of thinking through the contemporary interconnectedness of screens – from mobile phones, to laptops, pads, etc. – and how they interplay with the production and circulation of activist images. Second, we suggest that, while Occupy opened a moment for rethinking movement politics, the participants in the movement – perhaps constrained by terminology unable to attend to the uniqueness of the moment – tended to reposition it within traditional movement oppositions (e.g., material vs. online place, activism vs. deliberation, old vs. new social movements, and so on). Last, but not least, we outline the process of “constructing rhetorical scenes” as a novel methodology for rhetorical scholarship.

--Josh Ewalt with Damien Pfister

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