Lightning Talk Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Digital Affordances and the Trans-nationalisation of a movement: A look at #BlackLivesMatter in Australia (118)

Omar OB Bensaidi 1
  1. Western Sydney University, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

The 21st century has witnessed a diversity of socio-political movements utilise the popular spread of social media as an opportunity to articulate their own political concerns. The intersection between activism and digital technology provides a valuable space to understand how the in-built designs of new media platforms afford users certain capacities that effectively shapes their political practices. In this paper I examine the role of social media in connecting political movements through a study of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and its emergence on Australian streets and online spaces in 2016. How did the hashtag #BLM transform itself into a tangible and trans-national movement, which has been appropriated, and at times misappropriated, into the Australian scene? To answer such questions, I turn to the notion of a "Platform Vernacular" to investigate what the #BLM has come to represent since its inception over six year ago and look at how this representation shifts in accordance to the demands of the Australian context. This study draws on an analysis of Twitter and Facebook data gathered by Gephi and TAGS, public Facebook event pages used to publicise and coordinate Indigenous rallies and events, and news media articles which reported on the BLM protests during this period in 2016.