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Thursday, June 8 • 2:30pm - 2:50pm
What’s the #realdeal with #boycottism?: A critical analysis of online activism to study social movement on digital platforms

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The societal structures of ‘new media’ artifacts are diversely perceived by people as per social understanding and positionalities. With a curiosity to find the provenance, meaning, and patterns of existing ‘digital’ cultures, I want to look at existing narratives and trends of social media. Using a critical lens, this project explores online activism leading to cancel culture and woke culture in and on digital spaces to highlight the existing power dimensions of networked societies. In the age of digitalization, the institutionalized social realities have found their way into the existing technohabitus (a word coined by me, inspired by Bourdieu to understand how dispositions in technological/networked societies are constructed/shaped and evolved), and so forth, governing critical digital sociology. Media consumption and popular culture play a significant role in the narrative formation and monitoring of societal norms and values. Technological determinism and its contestational dialectic with social-cultural realms have reified that technologies are not passive apolitical (Winner 1980) tools but radical interactive systems modifying human cognition (Dascal 2006).

With the ‘digital’ being the new 'normal' and popular culture rising, it is rather interesting to trace the pattern of ‘#’ (hashtag) trends that get viral on social media platforms. Be it companies like Tanishq, Manyavaar, Sabyasachi or Fab-India with new advertisement campaigns or some socio-political discussion, the slightest deviation from patterned norms leads to what can be called as ‘cancel culture’. Picking on the theme of social positionality with aspects of religion, gender, and caste — this project is a critical take on the debated and controversial ads of the aforementioned companies in the year 2020 that led to multiple ‘#boycott’ online movements. This digital hate culture has a deep sense of ethnocentrism giving allegiance to a particular way of life. It exists and thrives for power and control of human agency rather than justice. This project offers a critical review through an intersectional lens toward the idea of ‘what makes mainstream media mainstream’, so that the patterns in popular culture may uncover the intermingling or intertwining of cancel and woke culture through internet activism.

To conduct above stated research, I would be passively engaging myself in conversations around #boycott trends across platforms to understand the politics of internet activism. While the methodology is yet to be explored I attempt to unpack the humanistic inquiries on digital platforms using some computational tools and techniques. Using methodologies from digital humanities this project examines the conversations of cultures (Kirschenbaum, 2007) in internet activism.


Lavanya Dahiya

MSc in Digital Humanities, Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur

Thursday June 8, 2023 2:30pm - 2:50pm EDT
ARC E-13