My research was guided by the questions: how are local people engaging in resistance against gentrification in their neighbourhood over social media? And how are organisers contextualizing the practices and technologies of digital organising to navigate their wider social, material and technological worlds?
My multi-sited digital ethnography focused on the interactions of @save_nour on Instagram and Twitter. This social media activity is also co-implicated with Brixton’s ‘offline’ resistance, although limited due to the pandemic, which is addressed in the interviews I did with four members of the Save Nour Save Brixton team (see the observations and interviews heading). The structures of the platforms are complex, fluid and fragmented spaces and due to the nature of this campaign, there was no rigidly defined online community as the site. The people who engaged with Save Nour are not only concentrated in the neighbourhood of Brixton as the campaign was made international through media coverage (see the map heading for links to these articles). My first method was to observe the online publics and the shifting associations among people that were bound by a common focus, rather than necessarily knowing each other personally, and their interactions mediated by the platform’s affordances. My experience mirrored that of Mare’s (2017) experience where algorithmically ‘occurring’ data gathered through social media ethnography provides rich insight into how people appropriate these sites to leverage their political participation and organising.
Instead of travelling physically to a field site (although, I live within walking distance of Central Brixton, so I was physically in and around the neighbourhood sometimes) I ‘followed’ these pages and observed what Mare calls ‘internet events.' This observation was done through monitoring the Save Nour Save Brixton profiles, the hashtag #FightTheTower and trending topics and discussions around Brixton and gentrification at large through my Google alerts: ‘Taylor McWilliams Brixton,’ ‘Hondo Enterprises London,’ ‘Brixton Gentrification,’ ‘Fight the tower Brixton’ and ‘Sadiq Khan Brixton.’ I was able to observe and note self-reported activity from real-time data on the various platforms but this was limited to what is accessible on the front-end interface. I traced reoccurring themes in the posts, but due to the co-implication with the ‘offline’ resistance and developments, the themes were less about the choices behind the posts and more about following the ‘IRL’ developments about the cause. I worked with my interviewees to better understand how these online and offline practices are constructed alongside each other. Finally, like physical spaces, Instagram and Twitter have their own linguistic capital and etiquette around interaction and they both enable and restrict certain modes of interaction. People must express themselves within the limits of the platform’s design and community guidelines, much like how my observations and participation were structured around these limits as well.
This site was coded with HTML and CSS via Brackets and then uploaded to Neocities. Quick thank you to Youtube for the many tutorials. The map was created with Mapme and then embedded into the site.
Mare, A. 2017. Tracing and archiving ‘constructed’ data on Facebook pages and groups: reflections on fieldwork among young activists in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Qualitative Research 17, 645-663.