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‘I Predict a Riot’ – mediation and political contention: Dissent!’s media practices at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit

McCurdy, Patrick (2009) ‘I Predict a Riot’ – mediation and political contention: Dissent!’s media practices at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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International meetings such as the G8 Summit have evolved from the sequestered gatherings of the economic elite to full-scale political media events. Using the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit as a case study, and focusing on one specific ‘autonomous’ activist network – Dissent! – this thesis investigates how the process of mediation is articulated in activists’ practices in preparing and enacting acts of contention. Dominant approaches to such events in the field of media and communications are often text-centred, focussing on the media’s framing of protest, overlooking the actions against and interactions with the media at such sites. This oversight is significant given that contemporary political struggle occurs on the ground, as well as with and through the media. The theoretical framework applies past media/movement scholarship to emerging discourses on mediation which view media – its content, producers, users, technologies, culture and rituals – as an ongoing and reflexive process, actualised through analysing activists’ media-oriented practices (Couldry, 2004, Silverstone, 2005). The methodological approach follows Burawoy’s (1998) “extended method” drawing on a year of participant observation and 32 in-depth interviews. Analysis is undertaken on an activist, group and network level; before and at the Summit. The findings show that activists demonstrate a reflexive awareness of media, including lay theories of media which inform their actions. On a networklevel, Dissent! established a policy abstaining from media interaction. Yet, despite this, on a group-level, the CounterSpin Collective formed within Dissent! to manage media interest. The Collective’s media practices are shown to be characterised by a strategy of dual adaptation; adapting to both Dissent!’s political limitations and the media’s demands. The analysis of the site of protest in Scotland – Hori-Zone eco-village – and the protest actions undertaken from it, further demonstrates the way in which media orients and permeates activists practices. The concept of spectacular action is developed to analyse a shift in the type of protest activities conducted at a media event from direct action to the simulation of direct action, valuing symbolic over physical disruption. This thesis contributes to a growing interest in the concept of mediation through the emerging field of media practice, offering both empirical evidence and revised theory. Moreover it addresses the largely neglected role of the media in social movement literature. Research undertaken also demonstrates how the logic of media now permeates the practice of activism, marking the rise of spectacular action as a cause for concern for both activists and academics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Patrick McCurdy
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses

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