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Social Media as an Urban Question

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Venue: Online

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Social media clearly reshape how people experience, communicate across and represent cities. In recent decades, they have become communication platforms mediating everything from: the localised struggles of subaltern groups, to often exclusionary suburban politics; and from social movements in the public square, to the place-branding of gentrifying neighbourhoods. Varied experiences of social distancing, during the current global pandemic, have only deepened a sense that social media matter for understanding urban life today. In short, cities are increasingly social media cities.

This event critically considers what might be at stake in conceptualising and studying social media as a specifically ‘urban question’ – as something intrinsically interconnected with urban life. It features an opening talk by Germaine Halegoua (University of Kansas). Drawing on her recent book The Digital City, Halegoua will discuss social media as bound up in everyday practices of ‘re-placeing’, through which people re-embed themselves within urban environments. The talk will be followed by responses from Wendy Willems (London School of Economics) and Scott Rodgers (Birkbeck, University of London), and an open discussion involving attendees.

We aim for this event to broach deeper conceptual questions, around how social media platforms might encourage us to see cities in new ways, and whether an urban framing shines new light on how we think about social media. But also, along the way, we might consider more modest and pragmatic questions, for example around how social media can be a useful means for gaining insights into urban communities, issues and research topics.

This event is co-sponsored by Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture and the new BISR Urban Intersections Experimental Collective.

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