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Live democracy and its tensions: making sense of livestreaming in the 15M and Occupy

A Research Paper by Anastasia Kavada and Emiliano Treré, published by Information, Communication & Society

Drawing on one hundred interviews with activists, this article examines the relationship between livestreaming and the democratic cultures of the 15M and Occupy movements. The article investigates how the technical affordances of livestreaming – immediacy, rawness, liveness and embedded/embodied perspective – connect with the movements’ understandings of how democracy should be practiced, specifically in terms of political equality, participation and transparency. Our findings identify four sources of tension in the relationship between livestreaming and democratic cultures. Firstly, the use of livestreaming was associated with a radical interpretation of transparency as near-total visibility, which gave rise to tensions around self-surveillance. Secondly, the information overload created through the practice of radical transparency was in tension with the movement’s accountability processes. Thirdly, live streamers attempted to offer an unvarnished access to truth by providing unedited and raw video from the streets. Yet their embodied and subjective first-person perspective was associated with tensions around their power to shape the broadcast. Finally, while livestreaming was used to facilitate equal participation in the movement, participation through the livestream took the meaning of equal access to the experience of the squares, rather than equal power in the decision-making process. Our research reveals that despite the national particularities of the contexts in which they arose, Occupy and the 15M were extremely similar in their interpretations and practices of livestreaming and democracy.

KEYWORDS: Social movementsdigital medialivestreamingdemocracyOccupyIndignados15Mpolitical culture

To cite this article:

Anastasia Kavada & Emiliano Treré (2019) Live democracy and its tensions: making sense of livestreaming in the 15M and Occupy, Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2019.1637448

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

Anastasia Kavada


Anastasia Kavada is a Reader in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Westminster. She is Co-Leader of the Arts, Communication and Culture Research Community (ACC), and Co-leader of the MA in Media, Campaigning and Social Change. Her research focuses on the links between online tools and decentralized organising practices, democratic decision-making, and the development of solidarity among participants in collective action. Her work has appeared in a variety of edited books and academic journals, including Media, Culture & Society and Information, Communication & Society. She is currently working on a monograph with the provisional title ‘Experiments in Democracy: Digital Communication and Social Movements’.


15 July 2019
Published By
Information, Communication & Society
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