Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
P31: Memory and Activism
Thursday, 19/Oct/2023:
10:30am - 12:00pm

Session Chair: Brooklyne Jewel Gipson
Location: Whistler A

Sonesta Hotel

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When Is the Party Over?: An Oral History of Cryptoparties in New York City

Samuel DiBella

University of Maryland, College Park, United States of America

Hackers, activists, and journalists have been throwing cryptoparties—crowdsourced skillshares for anti-surveillance and digital privacy tools—for over a decade. But the dream of cryptoparties creating "encryption for the masses" has passed, as surveillance capitalism becomes entrenched. Encrypted messaging apps like Whatsapp and Signal have done more to popularize end-to-end encryption than classical tools like Pretty Good Privacy, which require technical skill to use and a community to make them useful. How did a term like "crypto," which was a center of political organizing for privacy and free speech in the United States for decades, become so quickly hollowed out and exploited to sell blockchain products? I conducted an oral history of the cryptoparty movement, in New York City, and analyzed the recollections and perceptions of its organizers to unpick how existing activist spaces, open source culture, and information institutions like libraries were bound together and exhibited through cryptoparties. Existing media-studies literature has criticized cryptoparties as "reactive data activism," but this history shows how complicated a politics of populist encryption was, in practice. While open-source encryption tools met the privacy needs of the (mostly male) programmers that created them, cryptoparty organizers recognized the mismatch between the design of their tools and the diverse publics of their events (e.g., their limited options to prevent online harassment). Rather than providing "weapons of the weak," cryptoparties were a space of community infrastructure and discussion as people grappled with the uncomfortable idea that the Internet is a place of vulnerability rather than security.

«I need you to...»: visibility and social protest in TikTok

Giovanni Boccia Artieri, Elisabetta Zurovac, Valeria Donato

University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy

During the Black Lives Matter protests, the Breonna Taylor case was another moment in which police brutality gained attention. Despite minimal coverage by mainstream media, activists utilized social media to raise awareness and engage with people worldwide.

TikTok, despite its perception as a platform for entertainment, was utilized as a means of political participation, allowing users to interact and perform new forms of activism (Medina Serrano et al., 2020).

The aim of this work is to explore how sound can influence political expression on TikTok, as well as the creators and the audience involved in. The research adopts the theoretical framework of networked participation (Boccia Artieri, 2021) and analyzes the relationship between music, politics, and TikTok, with a focus on sound's role in searchability, one of the platform's primary affordances. The study qualitatively evaluated 1644 videos produced between July 2020 and May 2022, collecting the top five comments for each.

The results indicate that TikTok's affordances, structure, and visibility logic can shape the political narrative and enhance participation.


Alisa Hardy

University of Maryland, United States of America

The idea of the “metaverse” or virtual reality has recently exploded in national conversations about immersive technology. This project explores how Breonna’s Garden, a virtual reality experience, functions technologically as both a domestic and public space for communities to process grief, rage, and trauma privately. My research suggests that virtual reality spaces can allow Black counterpublics to transform private and collective grief into political activism through public remembrance. I draw upon Black feminist scholar bell hooks’ “homeplace” and Black digital theorist Catherine Squires’ “counterpupublic” to consider the messiness of virtual reality spaces as both private and public space for large groups to register and process collective grief. I argue for Breonna’s Garden as a liminal homeplace that reflects the revolutionary vision of the Say Her Name campaign by drawing upon past legacies of Black resistive strategies, oral stories, and discursive traditions. The framework of the liminal homeplace theorizes Breonna’s Garden as a personalized experience of witnessing who Taylor was, validating the audiences’ emotions of grief and outrage; calling for justice; dismantling oppression; and creating a counternarrative that celebrates Taylor’s full humanity.


Silas Udenze

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain

On 3 October 2020, a 22 years young man, Joshua Ambrose, was shot dead by a team of the Nigerian Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Delta State, Nigeria, on the allegation that he was an Internet fraudster (Dambo et al., 2021). The SARS was established in 1992 to curb crimes. However, the SARS has been accused of gross humanrights violations (Wada, 2021). Joshua's shooting was captured in a video. The audio in the video states that the Police just shot and killed the owner of a Lexus SUV and zoomed off with his car (Agbo, 2021). In a few days, the viral video generated outrage that transformed into vast decentralised street protests in major cities in Nigeria, mainly organised through social media. EndSARS Movement continues to construct memories across time, an area dominated by Western studies (Daphi & Zamponi, 2019). Researchers (Nwakanma, 2022; Dambo et al., 2021; Nwabunnia, 2021; Ajaegbu et al., 2022) have explored the EndSARS Movement from diverse perspectives. Nonetheless, the literature is devoid of studies from the memory study perspective, a critical area in social movement studies (Smit, 2020; Merill & Lindgren, 2020). Besides, considering the online feature of the Movement, the current literature on EndSARS needs to include the novelty and methodological rigour of virtual ethnography. Consequently, this study attempts to understand how protesters use Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram Stories (Ephemeral; 24 hours Story) to construct a memory of the EndSARS Movement in Nigeria from 2020 until its Anniversaries in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

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