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Welfare reform, news media and computer-mediated practices of dissent

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Abstractpeer-review

Publication date29/09/2013
<mark>Original language</mark>English
Event5th International Language in the Media Conference - Queen Mary, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 28/09/201330/09/2013


Conference5th International Language in the Media Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Against the background of the global financial crisis, the current Coalition government has introduced and extended various reforms to welfare in the United Kingdom. While certain institutions within the fields of politics and media attempt to justify such reform by stressing the need for reduced spending, others would suggest that such reforms are built upon the stigmatisation of particular groups of people and reconfigure a structural crisis of neo-capitalism as a moral crisis (Bennett 2013; Tyler 2013). Aside from academic responses, however, many people have utilised the affordances of social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) as well as 'older' new media (Websites, weblogs and newspaper comment forums) in order to contest welfare reform and the discourses that such reforms draw upon.

Researchers working with a critical discourse analysis (CDA) approach have started to turn their attention to social media (Unger 2013; KhosraviNik 2013). However, this has predominantly focussed upon the methodological issues brought about by computer-mediated data. A further
challenge is that CDA researchers have given relatively little attention to practices of protest, resistance and dissent, arguably emphasising structure over agency (see Pennycook 2001).

This paper presents a twofold analysis of computer-mediated practices of dissent and their recontextualisation in news media texts. Firstly, I argue that a practice-based approach to media (see Couldry 2004) complements CDA's relative emphasis upon structure. Secondly, I argue that when reporting dissent the news media stresses emotionality over critique, frames social media as a medium colonised by extremist opinion and an instrument employed by individual activists in order to mobilise their followers, and represents activists' use of social media in dualistic terms (Jurgenson 2012), where a separation between online and offline is strategically employed to discredit activists.