Online Antiracism: Assessing the Impact of #BlackLivesMatter in Australian Digital Communication Networks
This undergraduate summer research project awarded by Western Sydney University to Politics and Law student Omar Bensaidi will run from November 2016 to February 2017.
This project builds on work carried out by Alana Lentin and Justine Humphry in their comparative cross-cultural study of five antiracism apps in Australia, France and the UK. It will examine the role played by social media in the discussion and spread of antiracist initiatives globally. One of the most significant examples of how digital technology and social media has been used to organise antiracist resistance is the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has spurred action in opposition to the problem of unjust racialised policing practices. As the movement has grown, and largely as a consequence of its spread through social media, it has garnered international attention and support. In the UK, for example, a Black Lives Matter UK movement (#BLMUK) was launched and similar movements such as the ‘Anti-Negrophobia Brigade’ are in existence in France, while Black Lives Matter protesters have put racism against Ethiopian Jews on the agenda in Israel. There is a growing recognition that anti-blackness is both a distinct form of racism and a global phenomenon.
Recently, Black Lives Matter protests were organised in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and activists made connections between events in the USA and elsewhere and issues such as Aboriginal deaths in custody, racialised policing and disproportionate incarceration of Black people in Australia. Social media was used to inform participants about the protests, disseminate images and videos of them, discuss their outcomes and plan for next steps, as well as air conflict about the role of different political representatives within the movement.
The project will analyse the social media data available on the impact of #BlackLivesMatter in Australia. Guided by the supervisors, and using data analytics tools, the student researcher will evaluate the impact of #BLM social media activity from a variety of perspectives including impact on discussions of antiracism strategies, transnational connections, cross-fertilisation with mainstream and alternative/community media, impact on debates on the nature of race and racism in Australia, etc.
Project outcomes will be published in a series of data visualisations on this website, a co-authored journal article, as well as an article in The Conversation or similar.