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CMST 4P03 Social Activism And The Media

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Sara Bannerman


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 302

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23722

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 3- 4PM

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course examines the role of print, electronic and digital media in the relationship between social movements, the state and corporate interests.  From traditional media to social media and hactivism, this course examines the changing uses of media by social activists.  It examines the power and strategic use of traditional and social media in social activism; the role of framing and filters in portrayal of social activism in the media; the relationship between art, culture, and activism; activist use of alternative media; changing modes of democratic engagement; the transnationalization of movements and activist networks; and challenges to state power brought via new media, including hactivism and cyberterrorism.  The course aims to form a basis of understanding media and social activism on both practical and theoretical levels.

Course Objectives

Students who have taken this course should be able to:

  • Describe, discuss and evaluate activist media strategies
  • Debate the benefits and drawbacks of specific activist media strategies
  • Describe, discuss and evaluate the potentials of new media for activist groups
  • Synthesize and evaluate a range of arguments and theories about social activists’ media use and portrayal; analyze and explain the portrayal of social activism in traditional media
  • Discuss the social activists’ use of media to challenge symbolic/cultural forms
  • Discuss the relationship between new trends in social activism and state power

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Materials are available via Avenue to Learn.  Some readings will require that you log on through the library system in order to have access to the journal; others may be accessed directly through the link provided.

Method of Assessment:

Assignments, Weight, and Due Dates

Attendance and Participation


Due Dates

Attendance and Participation


April 5th: last day for optional submission of online comments toward participation

Curriculum Vitae

Marked as part of participation mark


Initial draft due Jan. 11 at 11:59PM

Revised CV due Mar. 14 at 11:59PM

Presentations, Proposals, and Campaign Work





Weekly in class; schedule TBD in class



Due at the start of class the day of the presentation

Execution of Campaign Role


Report due Mar. 14 at 11:59PM




Weekly Journals and Proposals


Due weekly at the start of class

Final Paper


Submission of final written project: Apr 5 (last day of class) at 11:59PM. 

Attendance and Participation

A student who notifies the instructor in advance that he or she will be required to miss a class or a part of a class for an acceptable reason, or, in the case of an unforeseeable emergency, who notifies the instructor after the fact of the reasons for missing class, may make alternate arrangements to hand in assignments.  Under such circumstances, the participation mark will be based on the remaining classes.

Students will be evaluated on their in-class participation.  Students are expected to attend each class, to come prepared having completed the assigned readings and preparation, and to come ready discuss them in the seminar.

An important part of in-class participation is attentive listening.  It is important to attend to, and appear to attend to, class presentations and discussions.  Students who appear to be engrossed in their electronic devices during class, or who use their electronic devices for personal communication during class, will not receive full marks for participation.  Students should plan to use electronic devices responsibly in class by closing laptops when not taking notes, by keeping cell phones put away, and by refraining from communicating or viewing material unrelated to course material on electronic devices.  Personal communications should be saved for the break or for after class.  Students who are expecting an important message, or who are appropriately using devices during class in a way that could be mistaken for inappropriate use, such as surfing or other personal communications, should notify the instructor before class.

To supplement and extend their in-class participation, students may respond in writing with questions/observations relating to the readings and class discussion using the discussion board on McMaster’s online course management system, Avenue to Learn (  Students may, in their written comments, choose to relate the class readings and discussion to a specific social movement/group, to post news items with commentary, and to participate in student-led discussion of the topics covered in the course.  To be considered as a part of the participation mark, these written questions/observations must be submitted via Avenue to Learn by the deadline.

Evaluation will be based on both students’ written questions/observations and students’ contributions to class discussions.

Curriculum Vitaes

Students will be required to prepare a personal curriculum vitae for class, and to revise it, based on techniques and skills learned, at the end of the course.


Each student will make one presentation focussing on a course reading.  Students will also be required to present proposals, options, recommendations, and updates as a part of their role in the class advocacy campaign.  


Each presenter is required to submit a written elaboration of the key concepts, observations, recommendations and proposals made in their class presentation.  

Execution of Campaign Role

Each student will be given a role in the preparation and execution of the class advocacy campaign.  Students will be required to report on their role in this campaign.  Students will be marked on the quality of their work on the campaign and on their report of their work.

Seminar Discussion on the Readings

Each student will be responsible to act as a discussant for a seminar presentation of assigned readings during one week of class.  Students will be evaluated on the depth and clarity of their thought about the reading, as well as on their efforts to move forward the discussion on the topic of their presentation.

Students acting as a discussant must post a written commentary about the reading on Avenue to Learn in the discussion forum a full 24 hours before class.  Other students are then invited to post replies and additional commentary, which will count towards their participation mark.

Weekly Journals and Proposals

Students will submit brief (approx. 500 words) journal entries each week, posting these in Avenue to Learn.  Journal entries will include responses to the weekly readings, answers to designated questions, and proposals for the class’s advocacy campaign.

Responses should contain:

  • references to the readings of the week, sufficient to demonstrate that you have read and thought about the readings;
  • answers to any questions assigned in class;
  • proposals for the class’s advocacy campaign;
  • questions or topics of discussion that you would like the class to address;
  • attempts to tie key themes from the course together,
  • ongoing thoughts about your own end-of-term paper, including:
    • topic ideas;
    • thoughts about how the readings of the week relate to your topic;
    • arguments you may use in your final paper;
    • questions or topics that you would like to discuss with the class relating to your final paper.

Always maintain electronic or other back-up copies of whatever you submit.  

Students may skip contributing for one week during the semester.  In addition, students are not required to make the 500 word weekly entry in weeks they are presenting.

Final Paper

Final papers will be presented at the end of the term.  Evaluation will be based on both the written essay and the research presentation.  Projects will be evaluated for spelling and grammar, presentation, organization, clarity, and depth.

See Avenue to Learn for instructions.

Submission Process

All work must be submitted hard copy in class by the day it is due, or via the Avenue to Learn ( drop box by the day it is dueAssignments due after the last day of class must be submitted via the Avenue to Learn drop box unless other arrangements have been made with the instructor.  Assignments handed in to a different location will not be accepted unless prior arrangements have been made.  Do not drop off assignments in the CMST office.  Emailed assignments will not be accepted.  Always maintain electronic or other back-up copies of whatever you submit.  

Research Ethics

The research activity involving human participants outlined in this course syllabus CMST 4P03 Social Activism and the Media taught by Dr. Sara Bannerman has been cleared by the Humanities Student Research Ethics Committee (protocol 2012-31).  Ethics clearance is valid until 2017. If you have any concerns or questions about the way this research activity is conducted, please contact:
McMaster Research Ethics Secretariat
Telephone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 23142
c/o Research Office for Administrative Development and Support

Research involving human participants is premised on a fundamental moral commitment to advancing human welfare, knowledge and understanding. As a research intensive institution, McMaster University shares this commitment in its promotion of responsible research. The fundamental imperative of research involving human participation is respect for human dignity and well-being. To this end, the University endorses the ethical principles cited in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans:

McMaster University has mandated its Research Ethics Boards to ensure that all research investigations involving human participants are in compliance with the Tri-Council Policy Statement. The University is committed, through its Research Ethics Boards, to assisting the research community in identifying and addressing ethical issues inherent in research, recognizing that all members of the University share a commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards in research involving humans.

If you are conducting original research, it is vital that you behave in an ethical manner. For example, everyone you speak to must be made aware of your reasons for eliciting their responses and consent to providing information. Furthermore, you must ensure everyone understands that participation is entirely voluntary. Please refer to the following website for more information about McMaster University’s research ethics guidelines:

Class assignments will include some small-scale research projects. As we will discuss in full during class, conducting ethical research is of utmost importance. Any research participant must give their informed consent, indicating by their signature on a consent form (which will be distributed in class). No deception in our class projects will be permitted. Interview questions must not include topics that are invasive, that would embarrass the person being interviewed, or that regard criminal behaviour. No one may be pressured or coerced into participating. Further information on McMaster University's policy on ethics in sociology research can be found at:

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Weekly journals are due at the start of each class.  They may not be submitted late.

Other late assignments will be penalized at the rate of 5% per day (including weekends and holidays) unless alternate arrangements have been made in advance.  

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Integrity

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  • plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  • improper collaboration in group work.
  • copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Authenticity / Plagiarism Detection

Some courses may use a web-based service ( to reveal authenticity and ownership of student submitted work. For courses using such software, students will be expected to submit their work electronically either directly to or via Avenue to Learn (A2L) plagiarism detection (a service supported by so it can be checked for academic dishonesty.

Students who do not wish to submit their work through A2L and/or must still submit an electronic and/or hardcopy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to or A2L. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, other software, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

Courses with an On-Line Element

Some courses use on-line elements (e.g. e-mail, Avenue to Learn (A2L), LearnLink, web pages, capa, Moodle, ThinkingCap, etc.). Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of a course using these elements, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in a course that uses on-line elements will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

Online Proctoring

Some courses may use online proctoring software for tests and exams. This software may require students to turn on their video camera, present identification, monitor and record their computer activities, and/or lockdown their browser during tests or exams. This software may be required to be installed before the exam begins.

Conduct Expectations

As a McMaster student, you have the right to experience, and the responsibility to demonstrate, respectful and dignified interactions within all of our living, learning and working communities. These expectations are described in the Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities (the "Code"). All students share the responsibility of maintaining a positive environment for the academic and personal growth of all McMaster community members, whether in person or online.

It is essential that students be mindful of their interactions online, as the Code remains in effect in virtual learning environments. The Code applies to any interactions that adversely affect, disrupt, or interfere with reasonable participation in University activities. Student disruptions or behaviours that interfere with university functions on online platforms (e.g. use of Avenue 2 Learn, WebEx or Zoom for delivery), will be taken very seriously and will be investigated. Outcomes may include restriction or removal of the involved students' access to these platforms.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. For further information, consult McMaster University’s Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

Request for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work
McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar "Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work".

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances (RISO)

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religious, indigenous or spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the RISO policy. Students should submit their request to their Faculty Office normally within 10 working days of the beginning of term in which they anticipate a need for accommodation or to the Registrar's Office prior to their examinations. Students should also contact their instructors as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for classes, assignments, and tests.

Copyright and Recording

Students are advised that lectures, demonstrations, performances, and any other course material provided by an instructor include copyright protected works. The Copyright Act and copyright law protect every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including lectures by University instructors.

The recording of lectures, tutorials, or other methods of instruction may occur during a course. Recording may be done by either the instructor for the purpose of authorized distribution, or by a student for the purpose of personal study. Students should be aware that their voice and/or image may be recorded by others during the class. Please speak with the instructor if this is a concern for you.

Extreme Circumstances

The University reserves the right to change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances (e.g., severe weather, labour disruptions, etc.). Changes will be communicated through regular McMaster communication channels, such as McMaster Daily News, A2L and/or McMaster email.

Topics and Readings:

Reading List

The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term.  The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances.  If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes.  It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.




Required / Recommended




Jan 5





Jan 12


Orientation / Media and Social Activism





Tarrow, Sidney G. “Print and Association.” Chapter 3 in Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics. London: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 43-53.  PDF available here (You must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).

Recent social movements and political revolutions have inspired questions about how social media contributes to social and political movements.  What about the printing press?

This classic book, now in its 3rd (2011) edition, surveys the history of social movements, examines the power of social movements, and asks where that power comes from. 

In this chapter, Tarrow outlines the importance of the press and the rise of popular culture to the rise of social movements in the 17th century.

N.B. This particular copy happens to have been taken from the 2nd (1998) edition of the book.




Carroll, William K., and R. S. Ratner. “Media strategies and political projects: A comparative study of social movements.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 24 no. 1 (1999): 1–34. Available here.

Different types of social movements can have very different relationships with the media. 

In this classic article, Carroll and Ratner examine three different social movement organizations based in Vancouver.  The politics of these organizations is quite different and, as a result, each has a very different relationship to the media.  Whereas Greenpeace focuses its energies almost entirely on the media, the Gay-Lesbian Centre is focused on supporting its members and educating the public in a fight against homophobia, and End Legislated Poverty relies on small-scale media to facilitate outreach.



(Recommended extra reading)

Gitlin, Todd. The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. London: University of California Press, 1980. The full text of the book is available online here.

This book is foundational in the literature about media and social movements.  While it discusses the role of the mass media in relation to the New Left movement in particular, its observations are applicable to many movements. 

Good places to start would be the Introduction (pp. 1-18), or Chapter 10 “Media Routines and Political Crises.” 

Gitlin also recently wrote a book called Occupy Nation on the Occupy movement.  See his web site



(Recommended extra reading)

Sarah Sobieraj, “What if the Whole World Isn’t Watching?” Chapter 1 in Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (New York: New York University Press, 2011), pp. 1-22.  Available in hard copy at Mills Library.

In this chapter Sobieraj replies to Todd Gitlin’s book above (The Whole World is Watching) to argue that sometimes activists focus too much on attempting to gain media coverage.  These attempts alter the nature of their activism and are often unsuccessful anyway.



(Recommended extra reading)

Thrall, Trevor A. “The myth of the outside strategy: Mass media news coverage of interest groups.” Political Communication 23 no. 4 (2006): 407–420.  Available here.

In a democracy, we take it as given that legitimate groups can use the media to get their voices heard.  Is this the case? What does it take to get media coverage?   In this article, Thrall argues that money and resources get groups coverage.  “Making news takes significant organizational resources,” he says, “and most groups simply do not have enough of them.”



(Recommended extra reading)

Joss Hands, “Introduction”, in @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture (New York: Pluto Press, 2011), pp. 1-22. Unfortunately, McMaster’s library does not have a copy.  Ask to borrow the instructor’s copy, or the book can be ordered through Inter Library Loan.

This book takes a more theoretical angle, starting off with some interesting questions such as “What is activism”?  What makes activism legitimate and representative?  It includes an interesting discussion of what scholars have said, over the years, about the role of technology in movements that challenge the status quo.  If technology arises out of the status quo, how can it be used to alter it?

Hands’ web site: 



(Recommended extra reading)

William Gamson. The Strategy of Social Protest. 2nd ed. Belmont, Calif. : Wadsworth Pub., 1990. Available in hard copy at Mills Library.

We’ll encounter William Gamson, another giant in the field of mass media and social movements, later in the course.  This book looks at social protest generally and Chapter 10 deals with media and media strategies. 





Jan 19


New Media and Social Activism





Malcolm Gladwell, “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted,” New Yorker (4 October 2010) (6 pages). Available here.

In this piece for the New Yorker, Gladwell takes issue with Shirky’s optimistic view of the power of social media to foster social change.




Evgeny Morozov, “Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism,” Chapter 7 in The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (Philadelphia, PA: Public Affairs, 2011), pp. 179-203.  PDF available here (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).  Book available in hard copy at Mills Library.

Morozov, always the pessimist, looks at the dark side of internet freedom in this recent book.



(Recommended extra reading)

Clay Shirky. Here Comes Everybody (New York: Penguin, 2008).  Available in hard copy at Mills Library.

Shirky’s optimistic argument in longer form.  Interested students might start with Chapter 1: “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” pp. 1-24.



(Recommended extra reading)

Clay Shirky, “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality,” Chapter 3 in Extreme Democracy, Lulu, 2005, pp. 46-52. Available from the publisher here.

Shirky also recognizes that not everything on the Internet is created equal…



(Recommended extra reading)

Bruce Bimber, Andrew J. Flanigan, and Cynthia Stohl. “Reconceptualizing Collective Action in the Contemporary Media Environment.” Communication Theory 15 no. 4 (2005): 365-388.  Available here.

A more advanced look at media and new media and their impact on social movements and collective action.  This piece builds on Mancur Olson’s classic book The Logic of Collective Action (1971).



(Recommended extra reading)

Meikle, Graham. "Social Media, Visibility, and Activism: The Kony 2012 Campaign." Chapter 27 in DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. Matt Ratto and Megan Boler, eds. Cambridge, mA: MIT Press, 2014: 373-384.  Unfortunately, McMaster’s library does not have a copy, but the book can be ordered through Inter Library Loan.

In this piece, Meikle asks what went right—and wrong—in the Kony 2012 campaign.


Jan 26







Gamson, William A. 1995. “Constructing social protest.” Chapter 5 in Social movements and culture. Edited by Hank Johnston and Bert Klandermans. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1995, pp. 85-106. PDF available here (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).

How does the media frame activist groups and social movements?  What type of framing is best?  How does mass media motivate people to get involved – or not?  William Gamson, a giant in the field of mass media and social movements, explores these questions.




Johnson-Cartee, Karen S. “Framing Prescriptions for Marginalized Groups” in Chapter 7 in News Narratives and News Framing: Constructing Political Reality. Lanham, MD: Rowland and Littllefield, 2005, pp. 243-253. PDF available here (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work.

Johnson-Cartee discusses the ways that new frames tend to become standardized.


Feb 2







Boykoff, Jules. “Mass Media Manipulation.” Chapter 11 in The Suppression of Dissent: How the State and Mass Media Squelch USAmerican Social Movements. New York: Routledge, 2013: 193-210. PDF available here (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).  Also available in hard copy at Mills Library.

This week we examine both overt and subtle forms of mass media manipulation in their treatment of social movements. This article examines the purposeful manipulation of media by the state and police to disrupt social movements.





Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, “A Propaganda Model”, Chapter 1 in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon books, 1988) pp. 1-­35. PDF available here  (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).  .

Some students may have encountered Herman and Chomsky’s ideas before.  In the classic book Manufacturing Consent, which was also made into a film, Herman and Chomsky argue that there are systemic filters that ensure some news never sees the light of day.  Today, we’ll discuss these filters and how they affect social activism and social movements in particular. 



(Recommended extra reading)

Edward S. Herman. “The Propaganda Model: A Retrospective.” Against All Reason 1 (December 2003):1-14. Available here.

Herman reflects, 15 years later, on the propaganda model outlined in Manufacturing Consent.


(Recommended extra reading)

Boykoff, Jules. “Dissident Citizenship and the Global Media: The Dialectic of Resistance and Restriction.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 9 no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2008): 23-31. Available here.

This book explores the history of state and police disruption of American protest movements in the 20th Century.  This chapter looks specifically at purposeful manipulation of media by the state and police to disrupt social movements.



(Recommended extra reading)

Gabriel Rossman, “Elites, Masses, and Media Blacklists: The Dixie Chicks Controversy,” Social Forces Vol. 83 no. 1 (September 2004): 61-78. Available here.

This article discusses a particular example of media filtering – the media-imposed blackout of the Dixie Chicks after their criticisms of George W. Bush.


Feb 9


Alternative Media and Wars of Position





Costanza-Chock, Sasha. “Mic Check! Media Cultures and the Occupy Movement.” Social Movement Studies 11 no. 3-4 (2012): 375-385. Available here.

Costanza-Chock discusses the use of alternative media practices by movements like Occupy and those that have gone before it, highlighting ways that media practices shape the character of movements.




Kidd, Dorothy. “The Value of Alternative Media.” Peace Review 11 no. 1 (1999): 113-119.  Available here.

Given the problems with mass media that we discussed last week, what forms of media can social movements and activists rely on?  Dorothy Kidd, in this piece, discusses the value of alternative media.



(Recommended extra reading)

Atton, Chris. “Reshaping Social Movement Media for a New Millennium.” Social Movement Studies 2 no. 1(April 2003): 3-15. Available here.

Chris Atton, the guru of alternative media, discusses Indymedia – the backbone media system of many activist groups.



(Recommended extra reading)

Chris Atton. Alternative Media. London: Sage, 2002.  Available in hard copy at Mills Library.

Atton’s definitive book on alternative media.



(Recommended extra reading)

Kidd, Dorothy. “ A New Communications Commons.” In Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers. (eds) Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2003.  Available in hard  copy at Mills Library.

Kidd discusses Indymedia and ‘the commons’ as an important resource for activists.



(Recommended extra reading)

Downing, John.  “Nanomedia: Community' Media, 'Network' Media, 'Social Movement' Media: Why Do They Matter? And What's in a Name?” Text prepared for the conference Mitjans comunitaris, moviments socials i xarxes, Barcelona, Spain, 2010. Available here.

Senior scholar of alternative media John Downing gets back to basics.  What is alternative media?


Feb 16





Feb 23


Mainstream Media and Celebrity Activism





David S. Meyer “The Challenge of Cultural Elites - Celebrities and Social Movements.” Sociological Inquiry 65 no. 2 (April 1995): 181–206. Available here.

How do celebrities affect the movements in which they participate?




Dorothy Njoroge “Calling a New Tune for Africa? Analysing a Celebrity-led Campaign to Redefine the Debate on Africa” Chapter 12 in Transnational Celebrity Activism in Global Politics: Changing the World? Chicago: intellect, 2011, pp. 231-259.  PDF available here  (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work). 

An analysis of the celebrity activism of Bob Geldof and Bono in their Make Poverty History campaign.



(Recommended extra reading)

Driessens, Olivier, Stijn Joye and Daniel Biltereyst. “The X-factor of charity: a critical analysis of celebrities’ involvement in the 2010 Flemish and Dutch Haiti relief shows.” Media, Culture and Society 34 no. 6: 709-725. Available here.

These authors criticize the role of charitainment in 2010 Haitian earthquake relief telethon fundraising.


Mar 1


Changing Repertoires of Contention





Pippa Norris, “New Social Movements, Protest Politics, and the Internet,” Chapter 10 in Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 188-214. PDF available here  (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).  .

What’s different about today’s social movements from those that came before?  Harvard’s Pippa Norris asks this question in her classic book Democratic Pheonix.




Jacquelien van Stekelenburg. “The Occupy Movement - Product of this Time.” Development 55 no. 2(2012): 224–231.  Available here.

And how is the Occupy Movement different from – or the same as – the new social movements that emerged in the 1960s?  How does the availability of social media play in to the formation of movements today?



Waldner, Lisa K. and Betty A. Dobratz. “Graffiti as a Form of Contentious Political Participation.” Sociology Compass 7 no. 5 (2013):377-389. Available here.

Waldner and Dobratz, in this article, argue that graffiti is often a form of contentious politics and political participation.



(Recommended extra reading)

Nixon, Paul G. et al., eds. Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements. London: Routledge, 2004. Available as an ebook here.

This edited collection provides a nice overview of the impact of new technologies on social movements.  In Chapter 2 “The Quadruple ‘A’: Media Strategies of Protest Movements since the 1960s” Dieter Rucht argues that social movements have four strategies for dealing with problems they experience with mainstream media: abstention, attack, adaptation, and alternatives.


Mar 8


Surveillance and Privacy





Boykoff, Jules. “Surveillance and Break-ins” Chapter 6 in The Suppression of Dissent: How the State and Mass Media Squelch USAmerican Social Movements. New York: Routledge, 2013: 109-126.  PDF available here  (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work).  .  Also available in hard copy through Mills Library.

This book explores the history of state and police disruption of American protest movements in the 20th Century.  This chapter looks specifically at the use of surveillance. 




Huey, Laura. “A Social Movement for Privacy Against Surveillance.” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 42 (2010): 699-709. Available here.

Why, given the expansion of surveillance powers, is there no anti-surveillance movement?  Huey poses some answers to this question.



(Recommended extra reading)

Fernandez, Luis A. ““Here Come the Anarchists”: The Psychological Control of Space.” Chapter 6 in Policing Dissent: Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008: 138-164. Unfortunately, McMaster’s library does not have a copy, but the book can be ordered through Inter Library Loan.

This book examines police repression of the alter-globalization protests of the early 2000s.  In this chapter, Fernandez examines law enforcement use of public relations campaigns and media messages to generate fear and make it difficult for protestors to mobilize.



(Recommended extra reading)

Ron Diebert “Transnational Social Movements in the Hypermedia Environment,” in Parchment, Printing and Hypermedia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), pp. 157-164.  PDF available here  (you must be logged in to Avenue to Learn for link to work). 

University of Toronto’s Ron Diebert, Director of the Citizen Lab and often-cited in the newspaper on internet security issues, discusses how the hypermedia environment changes activism and threatens the nation state system.


Mar 15


Culture Jamming





Christine Harold “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘Culture Jamming’ as Media Activism,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 21 no. 3 (2004): 189-211. Available here.

Christine Harold asks what culture jamming contributes to activism, drawing on a number of examples of culture jamming.




Gilman-Opalsky, Richard. “Unjamming the Insurrectionary Imagination: the Liberal Complacencies of Culture Jamming.” Theory in Action 6 no. 3 (2013): 1-34. Available here.

Gilman-Opalsky critiques the state of culture jamming today and the celebrity activism associated with it, drawing on the long history of culture jamming and its roots in postmodern theory.



(Recommended extra reading)

Dery, Mark. “Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs.”  Westfield: Open Magazine Press. 1993.  Approx.. 15pp Available here.

The article that defined culture jamming.


Mar 22







Van Laer, Jeroen and Peter Van Aelst. “Cyber-Protest and Civil Society-The Internet and Action Repertoires in Social Movements. Chapter 12 in Handbook of Internet Crime Yvonne Jewkes and Majid Yar, eds. New York: Routledge, 2011. Available here.

The Internet has changed the repertoires used by social movements, adding hactkvism and other forms of online action.




Coleman, Gabriella. "Hacker politics and publics." Public Culture 23, no. 3 65 (2011): 511-516. Available here.

What is a hacker? What is a geek?  What are their politics?




Coleman, Gabriella. "Anonymous and the Politics of Leaking." Chapter 12 in Beyond WikiLeaks: Implications for the Future of Communications Benedetta Brevini, Arne Hintz, and Patrick McCurdy, eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Available as an ebook through McMaster library here.

Coleman contrasts two movements: Anonymous and Wikileaks to investigate the politics of leaking.



(Recommended extra reading)

Mark Manion and Abby Goodrum. “Terrorism or Civil Disobedience - Toward a Hactivist Ethic.” ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society 30 no. 2 (June 2000): 14-19. Available here.

What are hactivist ethics?



(Recommended extra reading)

Graham Meikle, “Electronic Civil Disobedience and Symbolic Power” in Cyber Conflict and Global Politics Athina Karatzogianni, ed. (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 177-187.  Available from the author (University of Stirling) here.

What is electronic civil disobedience?  Meikle argues that electronic civil disobedience builds on the history of civil disobedience.



(Recommended extra reading)

Dorothy Denning, “Activism, Hacktivism, and Cyberterrorism: The Internet as a Tool for Influencing Foreign Policy,” Chapter 8 in Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2001), pp. 239-288. Available from the publisher here.

American information security researcher Dorothy Denning asks how activists, hacktivists, and cyberterrorists use the Internet, and what influence they have been abl to exert on policymakers.

This long article can be skimmed in parts.



(Recommended extra reading)

John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, “The Advent of Netwar (Revisited),” Chapter 1 in Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2001), pp. 1-25. Available from the publisher here.

What is netwar?



(Recommended extra reading)

Yochai Benkler. “Hacks of Valour: Why Anonymous Is Not a Threat to National Security.” Foreign Affairs 4 April 2012. Available here (login may be required).

In this short piece for Foreign Affairs (login may be required), Harvard scholar Yochai Benkler argues that the movement Anonymous should not be demonized, as it has been in the press, but rather that it plays an important role as provocateur. 


Mar 29










Apr 5










Other Course Information:

Online Component

In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn and a course Wiki.  Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course and publicly online, in the case of the Wiki. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.  Alternatives can be arranged.