Online Vitriol: Advocacy, Violence, and the Transforming Power of Social Media

Social media have become inescapable, and they have an overwhelming impact on sociality and public life. Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram give rise to a diverse range of discourses and communication styles. This conference wants to understand the power of social media, not only – as it has often been perceived – as democratizing, but also as powerful vehicles for politically driven bullying and violence. Relevant to people, organizations, and other agents across twenty-first-century society, this topic is increasingly studied from a range of disciplines and perspectives. Virtually everyone has to deal with social media and the discourses it enables and produces. But while the technology exists and seems at first sight intuitively accessible, the agency, dynamics and ethics of social media platforms are not yet well-understood.

‘Trolls for Trump’, online virus ‘scares’, fake news – social media discourse has become a formidable, yet elusive, political force. This conference wants to begin to address some of the issues around the power of online vitriol, by studying discourses, metaphors, media dynamics, and framing on social media. What is it? How does it work? What does it do? And how can it be addressed or countered?

To fruitfully question the political impact of contemporary communication structures and discourses, the conference goes beyond the traditional presenter/audience dichotomy. Instead, it works towards producing a book for academics and professionals confronted with social media violence, provisionally titled “A Rough Guide to Online Vitriol: Dealing with Violence and Advocacy on Social Media in Theory and Practice”. The conference combines academic theorizing with perspectives from professionals active in media, communication, the public sector and journalism, so as to arrive at conceptually rigorous and useful conclusions to guide our own and our organizations’ use of social media.

For whom:

  • Researchers in the fields of culture and (digital) media, and related fields
  • Professionals dealing with online advocacy and social media presence of their organization
  • Journalists and others dealing with social media and (violent) online discourse
  • PhD and MA students in culture and media studies

Conference aim:

  • To employ our collective knowledge, experience, research and intelligence to arrive at a conceptual and practical understanding of the medial and cultural dynamics of online vitriol.
  • To work towards “A Rough Guide to Online Vitriol: Dealing with Violence and Activism on Social Media in Theory and Practice” (working title). To be published later.