Rethinking digital activism

The deconstruction, inclusion, and expansion of the activist body


  • Bolette Blaagaard
  • Mette Marie Roslyng Aalborg University Copenhagen


digital activism, connectivity, affectivity, embodiedness, discourse


This article explores the following research question: How is political activism expressed in connective, affective, and embodied ways, and how do these modes result in a rearticulation of the body and central activist signifiers? While connective and affective dimensions of digital activism offer invaluable insights into the new forms of activist organisation, it remains underexplored how the activist body and the concepts of “human” and “rights” are discursively produced through digital expressions of activism. Therefore, drawing on a purposive selection of digital content, we produce a discursive analysis of three illustrative cases of digital activism relating to three major political contemporary issues: Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and Extinction Rebellion. We argue that they each present different modes of embodied and discursively constructed signifiers of “human” and “rights”, which allows for a range of political aims and outcomes to be expressed through different degrees of antagonism calling, respectively, for deconstruction, inclusion, and expansion of the signifiers.


Ahmed, S. (2004). The cultural politics of emotion. Routledge.

Askanius, T., & Møller Hartley, J. (2019). Framing gender justice: A comparative analysis of the media coverage of #metoo in Denmark and Sweden. Nordicom Review, 40(2), 19-36. https://

Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2012). The logic of connective action. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 739-768.

Braidotti, R. (2011). Nomadic theory: The portable Rosi Braidotti. Columbia University Press. Braidotti, R. (2013). The posthuman. Polity Press.

Blaagaard, B.B. (forthcoming). Embodied protests on social media: An analysis of the political discourses of vulnerability and endurance in the cases of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and #IRunWithMaud. In M. Mortensen, & A. McCrow-Young (Eds.), Social media images and conflict. Routledge.

Black Lives Matter. (n.d.). About. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from

Bowean, L. (2016, July 21). Protesters chain themselves together in front of Chicago police station. Chicago Tribune.

Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex. New York & London: Routledge.

Butler, J. (2006). Precarious life. Verso Books.

Clark-Parsons, R. (2019). I see you, I believe you, I stand with you: #metoo and the performance of networked feminist visibility. Feminist Media Studies, 21(3), 362-380.

Dean, J. (2010). Affective networks. Media Tropes eJournal, 2(2), 19-44.

Extinction Rebellion. (n.d.-a). About us. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from

Extinction Rebellion. (n.d.-b). Our Demands. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from

Extinction Rebellion Danmark [@ExtinctionRDK]. (n.d.). Tweets. [Twitter profile]. Twitter. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from

Extinction Rebellion Global. (n.d.). Posts [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from

Extinction Rebellion UK. (n.d.-a). Posts [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved August 20, 2021,from

Extinction Rebellion UK [@XRebellionUK]. (n.d.-b). Tweets [Twitter profile]. Twitter.

Fabian, A. (2010). Seeing Katrina’s dead. In R. Anglin (Ed.), Katrina’s imprint: Race and vulnerability in America (pp. 59-68). Rutgers University Press.

Fenton, N. (2012a). The internet and social networking. In J. Curran, N. Fenton, & D. Freedman (Eds.), Misunderstanding the internet (pp. 123-148). Routledge.

Fenton, N. (2012b). The internet as radical politics. In J. Curran, N. Fenton, & D. Freedman (Eds.), Misunderstanding the internet (pp. 149-176). Routledge.

Fotaki, M., & Foroughi, H. (2021). Extinction rebellion: Green activism and the fantasy of leaderlessness in a decentralized movement. Leadership. OnlineFirst.

Fraser, N. (1991). Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 56-80). MIT Press.

Gitlin, T. (2013). Occupy’s predicament: The moment and the prospects for the movement. The British Journal of Sociology, 64(1), 3-25.

Gunningham, N. (2019). Averting climate catastrophe: Environmental activism, Extinction Rebellion and coalitions of influence. King’s Law Journal, 30(2), 194-202.

Hoyt, K.D. (2016). The affect of the hashtag: #Handsupdontshoot and the body in peril. Explorations in Media Ecology, 15(1), 29-50.

Kavada, A., & Poell, T. (2021). From counterpublics to contentious publicness: Tracing the temporal, spatial, and material articulations of popular protest through social media. Communication Theory, 31(2), 190- 208.

Knudsen, B.T., & Stage, C. (2015). Introduction. In B.T. Knudsen, & C. Stage (Eds.). Global media, biopolitics, and affect: Politicizing bodily vulnerability (pp. 1-27). Routledge.

Koivunen, A., Kyrölä, K., & Ryberg, I. (2018). Vulnerability as a political language. In A. Koivunen, K. Kyrölä, & I. Ryberg (Eds.), The power of vulnerability: Mobilising affect in feminist, queer and anti-racist media cultures (pp. 1-26). Manchester University Press.

Laclau, E. (1990). New reflections on the revolution of our time. Verso.

Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (1985). Hegemony and socialist strategy. Verso.

Mendes, K., Ringrose, J., & Keller, J. (2018). #MeToo and the promise and the pitfalls of challenging rape culture through digital feminist activism. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 25(2), 236-246.

me too. (n.d.). You are not alone. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from

Milan, S. (2015). Mobilizing in times of social media: From a politics of identity to a politics of visibility. In L. Dencik, & O. Leister (Eds.). Critical perspectives on social media and protest (pp. 53-70). Rowman & Littlefield.

Milano, A. [@Alyssa_Milano]. (2017, October 15). If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet [Tweet]. Twitter.

Mouffe, C. (2005). On the political. Routledge.

Papacharissi, Z. (2014). Affective publics: Sentiment, technology, and politics. Oxford University Press.

Papacharissi, Z. (2016). Affective publics and structures of storytelling: Sentiment, events and mediality. Information, Communication & Society, 19(3), 307-324. (n.d.). Get involved. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from

Reestorff, C.M. (2014). Mediatised affective activism: The activist imaginary and the topless body in the Femen movement. Convergence, 20(4), 478-495.

Richardson, A.V. (2018). The movement and its mobile journalism: A phenomenology of Black Lives Matter journalist-activists. In S. Eldridge II, & B. Franklin (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of developments in digital journalism studies (pp. 387-400). Routledge.

Richardson, A.V. (2020). Bearing witness while black: African Americans, smartphones, and the new protest #journalism. Oxford University Press.

Roslyng, M. M., & Blaagaard, B.B. (2018). Networking the political: On the dynamics interrelations that create publics in the digital age. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 21(2), 124-138.

Taylor, M. (2020, August 4). The evolution of Extinction Rebellion. The Guardian.

van Dijk, J. (2013). Culture of connectivity: A critical history of social media. Oxford University Press WCED [World Commission on Environment and Development]. (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford University Press.

Westwell, E., & Bunting, J. (2020). The regenerative culture of Extinction Rebellion: Self care, people care, planet care. Environmental Politics, 29(3), 546-551.




How to Cite

Blaagaard, B., & Roslyng, M. M. (2022). Rethinking digital activism: The deconstruction, inclusion, and expansion of the activist body. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 38(72), 045–064. Retrieved from