Disruptive humour: The juxtaposition of mass protest and everyday activities in social media images

Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningfagfællebedømt

A humorous photograph of a man holding up a sign and walking through the protests against the G20 summit in Hamburg is one of the most shared tweets posted during the anti-capitalist Welcome to Hell demonstration taking place on 6 July 2017. Instead of a protest slogan, however, the handwritten sign says: “I am a local resident, and I am just going to Edeka [German supermarket chain]”. Various photographs of the man taken in different places are shared prominently in social media feeding into the narrative of the G20 protests. This is only one of the various images and videos from the protests that humorously juxtapose everyday activities with protest scenes such as burning barricades as well as police in full gear. While previous research has shown that activists, police and institutional media alike share their perspectives from political protests in social media (Neumayer, Rossi & Karlsson 2016; Neumayer & Rossi 2018), these seemingly neutral perspectives on the actual conflict have received relatively little attention (e.g., Jensen, Neumayer & Rossi 2018). In this research we ask which role such images play for the representation of political protest in social media. To do so, we collected tweets (n=678946) based on protest hashtags from the G20 demonstrations in Hamburg in the time period 6-8 July 2017. With a social network analysis to detect communities in the data, we find that while we can detect communities around user accounts of activist collectives, media institutions, and authorities (such as the Hamburg police), we cannot observe a network centred around user accounts of residents of Hamburg. As seemingly neutral humorous perspectives which do neither take the side of the activists or the authorities, these images seem to be shared across various communities in the network. Yet, these are among the most frequently shared tweets based on number of retweets and mentions. Through a narrative analysis of the most frequently shared tweets with a particular focus on such humorous juxtapositions of the protests and everyday activities of residents, we argue that these seemingly apolitical images and videos shared across communities, still play a disruptive role in the narrative about political protest. The privileging of humorous content (that users are perhaps more inclined to share in social media than political messages) over political action or violent imagery, might (while not actively taking sides) push activists’ grievances in the background and make their actions appear as disruptive. With these findings, this research contributes to our understanding of how the logics of social media might influence narratives of contemporary protests.
StatusUdgivet - 2021
BegivenhedECREA 2021: 8th European Communication Conference - Braga, Portugal
Varighed: 6 sep. 20219 sep. 2021


KonferenceECREA 2021

ID: 278298472