• Performances of Power - the site of public debate

    Katrina Grant (see profile)
    Mass media--Social aspects, Public spaces
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    In 2009 the protests against election result in Iran began to play out not just on the streets of the capital (check) but online. Shortly after the protests Time magazine described Twitter (at that point the platform was only three years old) as 'ideal for a mass protest movement, both very easy for the average citizen to use and very hard for any central authority to control.’ Over ten years later the latter seems true, but the idea that it is serving the ‘average citizen’ is now less convincing. The potential for online social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc to be subject to manipulation and used for the spread of misinformation and abuse has been in the spotlight in recent years. The examples for this chapter are drawn from several key moments that continue to have resonance for us in the twenty-first century when we think about changing power structures and the physical places that house them. The first are the public fora of ancient Greece and Rome, spaces for the voicing of public opinion existed in both societies and continue to be closely linked with our modern ideas of democracy, governance and the ideals of civil society. Taking ideas and decisions to the people was regarded as a cornerstone of these democratic societies, yet we also know that these gatherings of the crowd were exploited and manipulated for power by politicians and generals. The second example is to look at the shift in the use of public space in 16th and 17th century Europe. As many cities and states in Europe transitioned from republics to dukedoms and absolutist monarchies, public and semi-public spaces were used as stages to perform newly imposed social hierarchies. The crowd was invited to participate but was also carefully controlled; a reflection of their changing status. These events exploited new technologies and culture as tools to refashion society in a new image and resonates strongly with our contemporary moment where new digital technologies are also doing this. 
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    1 year ago
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