Subprojects | Project Area B | Spaces of Digital Mediatisation

Translocal Networks II: Contested Spaces and Climate Justice on Social Media

During the first funding period, our project investigated the spatial arrangements of public spheres, focusing on Twitter communication in the cities of Berlin and Jerusalem. Results revealed that actual places remain critically important in digital communication and are regularly integrated into novel, translocal arrangements of public communication. Thus, we were able to empirically characterize translocality as a central feature of refiguration, especially apparent in situations of spatial contestation where conflictual meanings of places are negotiated.

Expanding on these foci in the second funding period, we will investigate discourses on conflicts around space and natural resources to show how they are negotiated in social media communication. Our aim is to map out communication in contested spaces by conducting four case studies, each representing a locally rooted spatial conflict which simultaneously links to the global issue of climate justice. The cases vary with regard to actor constellations and power relations, and are located in four different countries, each carrying varying political and social relevance in relation to climate change. We will study social media discourses on protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (#NoDAPL) in the United States; movement action against deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest; protests against forest destruction for coal mining in Germany; and protests against the construction of Israel’s largest private natural gas power plant, which is located in close proximity to both Israeli and Palestinian cities. The project team cooperates with Prof. Dr. Annie Waldherr (University of Vienna) as Mercator Fellow as well as with Prof. Dr. Neta Kligler-Vilenchik (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Prof. Dr. Brooke Foucault Welles (Northeastern University) and Prof. Dr. Diógenes Lycarião (Universidade Federal do Ceará).

On the level of (1) interaction networks, we ask how different communities are involved in climate justice discourses, and how they are rooted in space and locality. With regard to (2) issue spaces, we ask how actors connect local conflicts to similar issues in other places: which places are named and made relevant in the discourse, and how are they connected to translocal meta-narratives of climate justice and environmentalism? Finally, we also investigate the (3) spatial imaginations that social media users share in their textual and visual communication, examining how these are related to conflicting spatial figures and mobilized through political action.

For each case, we plan to collect data from the social media platform on which the respective public discourse is most salient (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram). The project combines network analyses, automated content analyses, image analyses, mapping, and qualitative, interpretative methods.


Phase 1 (2018-2021)

Translocal Networks: Public Sphere in the Social Web

The project, led by Prof. Dr. Annie Waldherr (University of Vienna) and Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch (FU Berlin), investigates digital urban public spheres, focusing on the Twitterspheres of Berlin and Jerusalem. The research is conducted in cooperation with Dr. Neta Kligler-Vilenchik and Dr. Maya de Vries Kedem (Hebrew University of Jerusalem).

Asking how virtual urban spaces are constituted through networked communication, the team investigates communicative relations among Twitter users, their spatial locations, and the topics they talk about. Daniela Stoltenberg and Alexa Keinert (FU Berlin) conduct research for the Translocal Networks project. In it, the team investigates the urban public spheres forming on Twitter in the cities of Berlin and Jerusalem: With whom, in what locations, and about what topics do Twitter users communicate? How do virtual urban public spheres emerge from this usage? How do users synthesise global and local, virtual and material, as well as public and private spatial reference points into individual figurations of space? What subjective spatial knowledge do they relate to this?

To approach these questions, the researchers collected Twitter data, which they investigate using network analysis, geo-coding, and automated content analysis procedures. To tie in this evidence on the societal level with subjective experiences, ego-networks and survey data were be collected for a group of particularly active users.

Project results reveal that places and spatial proximity remain critically important, even in digital networks with potentially global reach. At the same time, places become integrated into novel, translocal arrangements of public communication. Moreover, material conflicts and structures of spatial marginalization often become visible and are reproduced in digital communication.