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Articulative Labor to Stitch a Campaign in the Disjointed WeChatsphere

Mon, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 412


A newly dominant model, connective action, advocates that digital media platforms are inherently connective and, thus, may perform organizing functions in birthing social movements in lieu of formal organizations. This model’s one-sided emphasis on automated connectivity engineered by digital technologies neglects the disconnective effects of these digital platforms and the barriers to activism organizing. WeChat, a China-based digital platform, exemplifies such a closed system that separates users in isolated, small circles. Using a case study of a campaign organized by recent Chinese American immigrants, I propose to use articulative labor to account for how organizers assembled the protest network against WeChat’s closed, disconnective design features that posed barriers to collective organizing. Specifically, three types of articulative labor were performed to suture the activist community, bracketing differences to obviate polarizing views, bridging gaps to aggregate scattered people, information, and resources, and funneling resources outside the platform to the protest space. Therefore, this study not only challenges the connective action model’s assumption of digital technology-enabled automated connectivity but also offers a novel framework, articulative labor, to specify how individual activists leverage organizational resources to stitch activist communities by countering platform-engineered divisions and disjunctures.