Between attention and mobilisation: Proletariat political activation in a mediated Aotearoa/New Zealand
Stagnant pay, increased work hours and other increasingly precarious working conditions are restricting the capacity of the working class to meaningfully participate in political processes, worsening its economic disenfranchisement and further widening the inequality gap. At the same time, political struggles have expanded beyond the economic. “New Social Movements” have for the last half century transformed politics by expanding the definition of “political struggle” to include environmental, cultural and social concerns. Information and communication technologies have also advanced considerably, to the extent that information and its transmission are no longer scarce. Instead, in an “attention economy” that operates under capitalist logics, it is the human capacity to process information that has the most limited availability. Together, these developments have fundamentally changed the ways in which people participate in politics today, with no clear consensus regarding the overall merit of these emergent means of participation for the class-based social movements looking to reverse growing economic inequality. In this thesis, I examine the role of media in class-based social movements today. Specifically, I ask how organisers for these movements use media to facilitate political activation, or the process by which individuals disengaged from political processes come to participate in them. Using interviews with organisers from social movement organisations seeking to activate working-class audiences, I conduct a thematic analysis of those organisations’ media use and communications strategies. The findings reveal a complex imbrication of mediated and non-mediated activities designed to enable successful navigation of the attention economy. Through these findings, I propose new ways of connecting the individual to the collective in class-based movements through media.