[iDC] introduction

Simon Lindgren simon.lindgren at umu.se
Sun Jun 15 22:45:54 UTC 2014

Hi. I am Simon Lindgren. I am a Professor of Sociology at Umeå University, Sweden. I research issues relating to Internet and society, and social media. I have been doing work on (h)ac(k)tivism, visual culture and mobilization. I am the author of “New Noise: A cultural sociology of digital disruption” and the editor of “Hybrid Media Culture: Sensing place in a world of flows”. I am particularly interested in research method, and in adapting network analysis and content analysis to work in critical studies.

At #dl14, I will present two papers. The first one is co-authored with Ragnar Lundström:

*Social Media and the Future of the Mobilization of Workers*

This paper analyzes a set of worker's rights initiatives with the aim of investigating and evaluating the role of social media as a potential source of radical transformation in large- scale mobilization of workers. Drawing on the case of labor activism, the project will provide an empirical understanding of the transformative power of social media: What can be achieved, and under what circumstances? And importantly, what role is played by the fact that social media, in themselves, lead to the emergence of a new digital working class?

First, we will make an inventory and assessment:
• Which prominent social media initiatives have been taken from within established
trade union organizations between 2003 and 2013, and to what effect?
• What non-institutionalized, tactics and campaigns relevant to labor issues can be identified in a sample of social media ranging from 2003-2013? What effects have they had?

Second, we will use the selected examples to identify success factors, as well as pitfalls, for effectively using social media for revitalizing labor activism.
• What strategies (content, form, communication model) have been employed, and which of these have opened possibilities for forming new coalitions and addressing new groups?
• What part is played by specific characteristics and affordances of the individual social media platforms used?

The overarching question is: How can tactics developed by grassroots activists through social media be successfully integrated in traditional union structures to promote revitalization, and to speak to emerging groups of digital workers?
Methods include feature analysis, discourse analysis and social network analysis.

The second paper is:

*#SASLove: Emotion Work and Free Labor in a Brand Crisis*

This article is based on a case analysis of social media activity relating to SAS’s (Scandinavian Airlines System) Twitter account (@SAS) and Facebook page (http:// www.facebook.com/SAS) during a period of crisis in November of 2012 when the continued existence of the company was threatened.

It will be illustrated how corporate social media operators, as well as the social media audience, contributed with free labour in maintaining the image of a good brand. This free labour can be partly understood as a form of 'emotion work' where the feelings that were created and managed where also commoditized. This means that emotion (as a commodity) enters the market to be bought and sold as an aspect of labour power. Furthermore, emotion jobs are often filled by subordinated individuals getting relatively low financial rewards and having little authority.

As companies now exert lesser control over their brands, some researchers argue that they must now instead support prosumer interaction around the brand. Those brands that succeed in creating a lively conversation, building relations and creating interactivity, will be the most successful (i.e. profitable) in the future. This is because structures like these will create a stronger bond between the brand and its consumers, as well as among consumers. It is however important to keep in mind, that in spite of all talk of co-creating and consumer power, the new branding paradigm still relates to a capitalistic monetization strategy. From the perspective of digital labour, prosumers do work that is “translated into productive activities that are pleasurably embraced and at the same time often shamelessly exploited” (Terranova, 2000, p. 37). Indeed, those contributing to SAS discourse on Twitter and Facebook are in several respects freely contributing to a form of value creation for the brand.

Looking forward to seeing you all at the conference!

Simon Lindgren
Professor of Sociology
Umeå University

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