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Radical Online Video : YouTube, video activism and social movement media practices


  • Tina Askanius

Summary, in English

This thesis explores contemporary modes of video activism for a radical politics of the Left. It offers an analytical contribution to media and communication that promotes an understanding of radical online video as modes of political engagement in contemporary online environments.

By focusing on YouTube as one of the most prevalent spaces in which radical video is screened and experienced today, the platform is considered emblematic of an ongoing reorganisation of political space and mediated modes of political engagement in contemporary liberal democracies. As an empirical entry point, YouTube provides a window onto examining the radical video practices emerging in relation to three

recent political mobilisations in Europe:

1. The European Social Forum in Malmoe in 2008

2. The alternative COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009

3. The G20 counter-summit in London in 2009

As three distinct, yet related protest events, these cases provide significant examples of the broad social movement mobilisations that over the past decade have sought to render the consequences of neoliberal politics and governance a visible social problem, and put Left alternatives on the political and public agenda. Through six articles based on the three case studies, this compilation thesis examines the dualities and tensions that characterise video activism on this political vector today. It describes and highlights the texts and contexts of video activism, in a time when the longstanding tradition of working with the power of the image in political portrayal and argument is increasingly reallocated to the mechanisms of social networking and corporate control in contemporary online environments.

Part I of this thesis sets the scene by establishing the terrain of the research. As an initial analytical effort, this chapter proposes a typology for understanding radical online video as ‘political mash-up genres’, emerging in the context of an increasingly complex set of media practices and circuits across intertwined and hybrid communication networks. This chapter further extends the terms of analysis by offering an account of the history of video activism and suggests how an analysis of historical modes of video activism may help contextualise and understand social movement media practices today.

The six empirical articles account for Part II of the thesis. Each on its own terms, the articles offer empirical contributions that promote an understanding of the various ways ‘the political’ is on display and radical politics are being forged on YouTube. In a dual vein of analytical enquiry, the articles examine radical online video as a range of media forms for political argument and portrayal and interrogate the possibilities and constraints offered by the ‘architecture of participation’ on YouTube to the specific groups and struggles represented in the three case studies. In doing so, the articles identify and analyse a set of tensions and dualities that characterise the ways in which individual and collective actors engage in radical video practice, through media forms that straddle the discursive registers of fact and fiction, art and document, information and entertainment, politics and popular culture. Together, the articles give shape to a range of social movement media practices across a historical, technological, political and aesthetic-discursive range.

In the concluding considerations of Part III, I return to the issue of historical contexts to illustrate how close comparative attention to historical modes of video activism can help us understand the complexities and contingencies of online video recruited for radical politics today. The analysis exhibits how contemporary modes of video activism are characterised by practices in which the old and the new, the past and the present, clearly overlap. While we may recognise the incentives and dynamics behind contemporary video activism as well known to the trajectory of Left thinking and action, these insights are suggestive of how such media practices are re-organised and refocused in keeping with the emergence of new means of, and arenas for, political engagement.

Publishing year





Lund Studies in Media and Communcation



Document type



Lund University


  • Media and Communications


  • video activism
  • YouTube
  • social movement media practices
  • political engagement
  • radical politics





  • ISSN: 1104-4330
  • ISBN: 978-91-7473-393-8

Defence date

23 November 2012

Defence time


Defence place

Språk- och litteraturcentrums (SOL) hörsal, Helgonabacken 12, Lund


  • Natalie Fenton