The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
Chapter Two: From #RaceFail to #Ferguson: The Digital Intimacies of Race-Activist Hashtag Publics
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From #RaceFail to #Ferguson: The Digital Intimacies of Race-Activist Hashtag Publics1
One can argue the merits of Habermas’s public sphere—that is, one where rational critical discourse on matters of societal importance (such as, most critically, the actions of the state) can take place; populated by citizens stepping out of their private roles as interested individuals and into a public space where they become participants in disinterested discussion and debate (Habermas, 1962/1989). But what of the other kinds of discussion and debate that are facilitated by networked technology? Taking its cue from critical public sphere theorists such as Nancy Fraser (1992) and Michael Warner (2002), this paper explores those other publics: more or less subaltern, more or less rational, more or less critical, and almost certainly partial, affective, interested, and loud. It’s interested in angry publics. It’s interested in fringe publics. It’s interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly, and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres. These are the publics born of frictions, in Anna Tsing’s sense, “the awkward, unequal, unstable and creative qualities of interconnection across difference” (2005, p. 4).
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