Imagination/Action: Making Sense of Future in Online Public Expression By Local Activist Groups
The data come from a study based on a multi-sited ethnographic approach, in three communication spaces of activists —Internet, the streets, and the media—, with digital ethnography, semi-structured interviews with activists, participative observation in the groups’ activities, and an analysis of local media coverage. This study was conducted in Aguascalientes, Mexico, with two local activist groups.
The main results show that imagination is a key element in online public expression by activists. Their messages usually follow three paths: 1) a critique of the contemporary world, with its inequalities; 2) a better world under construction, that is, the actions that activists do in the present in the pursuit of a better world; 3) the imagined better world, the futures they hope. In sum, there is a point of departure, a problem in the present; there is a hope, an imagined better world in the future; and there is a way between them, the actions in the present.
In online public expression, activists raise questions in three main areas: economics, politics, and culture. In an economic sense, they question the commodification of everything, and propose a different way of measuring the value of things, nature and people. In a political sense, they question the traditional representative democracy logics, and propose a more active citizen participation. In a cultural sense, they question the idea of only one possible future, and propose an ideal of social change, another world is possible.
Imagining the future is the core of online public expression of these local activist groups. Internet plays a key role, as a communication tool, but also as a space of struggle for recognition of alternative ideas about the future.