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Social media and Brexit

DanielMiller28 June 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 14.22.03One of the common claims made about social media is that it has facilitated a new form of political intervention aligned with the practices and inclinations of the young. Last week I attended the launch of an extremely good book by Henry Jenkins and his colleagues called By Any Media Necessary which documents how young people use social and other media to become politically involved, demonstrating that this is real politics not merely ‘slacktivism’, a mere substitute for such political involvement.

And yet, currently I am seeing social media buzzing with young people advocating a petition to revoke the Brexit vote, which only highlights the absence of a similar ‘buzz’ prior to the vote. I await more scholarly studies in confirmation, but my impression is that we did not see the kind of massive activist campaign by young people to prevent Brexit that we saw with campaigns behind Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

The failure to create an attractive activist-led mass social media campaign to get young people to vote for Remain is reflected in the figures; although 18-24 year-olds were the most favourable segment towards Remain, only 36% of this group actually voted at all. As such, Brexit represents a catastrophic failure in young people’s social media, from which we need to learn. Being based in ethnography, our Why We Post project argued that we need to study the absence of politics in ordinary people’s social media as much as focusing on when it does appear. But the key lesson is surely that just because social media can facilitate young people’s involvement in politics doesn’t mean it will, even when that politics impacts upon the young.

One possibility is that social media favours a more radical idealistic agenda. By contrast, even though the impact of Brexit might be greater and more tangible, the remain campaign was led by a conservative prime minister, backing a Europe associate with bureaucracy and corporate interest, and was a messy grouping of people with different ideological perspectives, that made it perhaps less susceptible to the social media mechanisms of aggregated sharing.

At the same time I would claim that our work can help us to understand the result. My own book Social Media in an English Village is centred on the way English people re-purposed social media as a mechanism for keeping ‘others’, and above all one’s neighbours, at a distance. I cannot demonstrate this but I would argue that by supporting Brexit the English were doing in politics at a much larger scale exactly what my book claims they were doing to their neighbours at a local level: expressing a sense that ‘others’ were getting too close and too intrusive and needed to be pushed back to some more appropriate distance. And it is this rationale which may now have devastated the prospects for young people in England.

About the author

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL and author of 37 books including Social Media in an English VillageThe Comfort of Things, Stuff, Tales from Facebook and A Theory of Shopping.  Find out more about the Why We Post series at  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/why-we-post.

This post originally appeared on the Global Social Media Impact Study blog, using the title ‘Social Media and Brexit’. It has been re-posted with permission.

Why one Early Career Researcher decided to publish in open access

NickPiercey15 June 2016

I’m delighted to be working with UCL Press on the publication of Four Histories about Early Dutch Football 1910–1920: Constructing Discourses. This work will use some of the research I conducted for my doctoral studies, combined with new research and approaches, to provide four new histories about football in Dutch life in the early part of the twentieth century. The work interweaves concerns about the role and purpose of history today, with questions about the nature of modern sport and its interaction with culture, politics, and society. A central aim of the book Piercey 800pxis to promote a new form of history that acknowledges that the subjectivity of the author (and reader) is not only inevitable, but also useful in the development of history as a democratic tool for the future.

I was particularly keen to work with UCL Press because of their commitment to Open Access publication, which I see as a revolutionary development in academic publishing. Free online publication means that my work and ideas will be available to as many people as possible, without the barriers often in palace in traditional academic publishing models. I’m pleased to be taking part at an early stage in this change in academic publishing. In addition, Open Access publishing has given me the opportunity to provide additional data and content online which will encourage other individuals to create their own histories about the past – which is a central theme of my work.

As a young academic, and first time author, I have loved the encouragement given by everyone at UCL Press in this project, from the initial proposal to the final stages of publication. At every stage the team has always been ready to listen to suggestions and to guide me through the difficulties and surprises involved in bringing my ideas to a wider audience. While the staff are UCL Press are ambitious in developing an ever increasing number of titles, I have always felt that the team has taken a hands on approach to the process and both understand and value the deeply personal nature of their authors’ contributions. Happy Birthday!

About the author

Nicholas Piercey is Honorary Research Associate in UCL’s Department of Dutch in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society. His first book, Four Histories of Early Dutch Football, 1910-1920: Constructing Discourses (UCL Press) will be published on October 2016. Find out more at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/four-histories-about-early-dutch-football.

‘We needed a Press with vision and ambition’

DanielMiller14 June 2016

How the world changed social mediaFor our particular project, Why We Post, the creation of UCL Press was simply the perfect answer to a key question. We had already committed to open access. This is something I am personally very committed to and had previously published a paper advocating open access in an anthropology journal. I was very disappointed with the current models of Green and Gold and wanted what I think of as genuine open access, which inevitably means publication being taken back into the university system and thereby saving huge sums for libraries. I feel this strongly as anthropologist since we need to make our findings accessible to low-income people in low-income countries which are the populations that we typically study.

The additional headache was that we were committed to publishing 11 books. Having carried out nine different 15-month ethnographies we knew we had a vast amount of important new material about the use and consequences of social media, a topic of huge public interest. For us open access also means writing in an open and accessible style. But taking on 11 volumes is quite a commitment. So we needed a press with vision and ambition.

At this point we could not be happier with the result. We launched the first three books at the end of February and within a month we had over 10,000 downloads, which is almost unimaginable in traditional publishing. As people who work on digital technologies it’s great to see online books with hyperlinked chapters and endnotes that we can link to directly from our freeSocial Media in an English Village FutureLearn e-learning course and our Why We Post website. In addition, a topic such as social media is about the rise of visual communication and it was essential for us to have many colour images included.

We feel we have been supported throughout this adventure by UCL Press, especially with regard to advertising and marketing. I have published 37 volumes and was particularly impressed by the fast turnaround from submission of final manuscripts. We are happy that there are also relatively inexpensive offline paperbacks for those who prefer physical books. But if I was to pick out one particular achievement which matters to an anthropologist it is that our books are being read in 132 countries with over 100 downloads recorded for countries as diverse as Turkey, Russia, Poland, Japan and Mexico.

About the author

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL and author of 37 books including Social Media in an English VillageThe Comfort of Things, Stuff, Tales from Facebook and A Theory of Shopping.  Find out more about the Why We Post series at  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/why-we-post.