Affective Visuals in Online Spaces: Studying Social Movements in the Digital Era

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
M. Ragip ZIK, Free University of Berlin, Germany
Social movement scholars, whose work is at the intersection of affect, spatiality, social media, and social movements, studied mostly written texts produced and circulated online, often regarding visuals background elements and supporting materials. As the current mobile technologies introduces us to a greater number of visuals everyday, we come to interact affectively with visuals in different ways in our lives, as well as within social movements.

Depicting injustice and elevating the power of the individual to stand against it, visuals construct a central narrative through framing a socio-political message, help build collective identity and pave the way for affective social spaces where multiple actors can interact within a movement context. While going beyond their representational qualities, visuals become actants (as in Latourian terms) and the ubiquitous exposure to these images creates a simulacrum (as in Deleuzian terms) among social movement participants, as today's social media algorithms and artificial intelligence have a direct impact on what we "see" in our visual echo-chambers. Given that the Internet has grown into an important part of contemporary movements, this study suggests an experimental approach to understand how the affective potentialities of visual materials contribute to the ephemeral emergence of social spaces online within the context of social movements.

This paper looks at a selection of protest-related visuals that emerged in Turkey over the span of a decade, starting from 2007, when movement participants started using intensively social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as smartphones with more visual content. Following an experimental vein, visual frame analysis combined with affect-oriented visual methodologies and non-representational theory are the main methodological guidelines of this research.