Activating Attention: Political Videos on Social Media
Online Conference on January 20–21, 2022
The conference aims to stimulate discussions about the roles that political videos can play in current and future political discourses.
Videos on social media have become powerful and creative means of influencing public discourses. They are particularly significant for political activists from civil society and their attempts to gain attention for human rights, climate change, social justice, and many other issues. Moving images spread across digital networks, reach the public and evoke emotions, motivate political action, and inspire social movements. What started in the 2010s with pro-democracy movements in the MENA region and transnational anti-capitalist protests has developed into an indispensable form of media practice for all politically involved interventions, from Black Lives Matter to Fridays for Future and resistance movements in authoritarian countries like Belarus or Myanmar.
However, the power of political videos is also challenged by the conditions of the attention ecology of social networks. Video activists are subjected to the algorithms and business models of powerful platform corporations. They compete with professional PR machines, orchestrated disinformation, mass media, and, not least, with each other. At the same time, they are confronted with far-right attacks, online harassment, and government surveillance.
In this discursive context, the notion of activating attention refers to the widespread attempts, beliefs, and hopes of activists not only to attract, but strategically activate public attention. What aesthetic forms, what production and distribution strategies, but also what kind of ethical problems and trade-offs evolve under these media conditions? The conference aims to stimulate discussions among scholars, artists, and activists about the roles that political videos and particularly video activism can play in current and future political discourses.
Organized by the research project “Attention Strategies of Video Activism on the Social Web,” Germany, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation: Jens Eder (Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF), Tobias Gralke (University of Bonn), Britta Hartmann (University of Bonn), and Chris Tedjasukmana (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz).
Project website: https://videoactivism.net