Our brains on misinformation

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

The unprecedented response to George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed provided a fertile ground for misinformation. As the protests spiralled into riots and looting, multiple alternative narratives spread across the internet, tapping into the fear and anxiety during an uncertain time (NATO, 2017; Wardle, 2018)

“On Twitter and Facebook, hundreds of posts are circulating saying that George Floyd is not actually dead…Conspiracy theorists are baselessly arguing that George Soros, the billionaire investor and Democratic donor, is funding the spreading protests against police brutality…And conservative commentators are asserting with little evidence that antifa, the far-left antifascism activist movement, coordinated…


“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” Socrates

Before theorizing ‘digitally mediated spaces’ and ‘social movements’, we need to unpack the terms ‘digital media’, ‘mediated’ and ‘spaces’ and how they are used in this research. After countless hours of reading academic literature, I find a hairy mess of ambiguous terminology and usage. In order to bring clarity and consistency for the purpose of this research, I start with unpacking the term ‘media’ with a focus on digital media. …


Remembering Rodney King

Photo by Kellie Churchman from Pexels

Minneapolis is getting ready for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-police officer who pinned George Floyd to the ground, scheduled to start March 8, 2021.

“This is the most famous police brutality prosecution in the history of the United States.” Paul Butler, former prosecutor and authority on police brutality quoted in The New York Times referring to Mr. Chauvin’s upcoming trial. February 10, 2021.

As the city prepares for the trial, workers have been told to avoid coming to work during the trial, the national guard is preparing to deploy in the city center and $4.2 …


Sourced from Pixabay

The death of George Floyd in police custody, captured on video that went viral exhibited unprecedented online and offline engagement. Within hours of the video going online; social, economic and political grievances activated an oppositional culture on the communication and media platforms of the internet.

Much like the outpouring of protests in physical public squares during a crisis, this research explicates the outpouring of protests in digitally mediated spaces that enable social movements on the internet.

Pursuant to LeFebvre (1991), this research draws a distinction between abstract spaces and the socially constructed spaces.

Abstract Digital Public Spaces constitute the data…


Contribution to theory, methodology and practice

This research makes multiple contributions to theory, methodology and practice. Specific contributions are articulated as the research progresses.

Theoretical Contribution

This research expands our understanding of digitally mediated spaces that emerge during a crisis and enable activism and social movements.

Leveraging theories in information systems, media and social studies, and social movements, this research explicates the nature of digitally mediated spaces that foster activism and social movements by inquiring into: when and why do these spaces emerge, what happens when they fade away, how are they co-constituted and constructed and what is their underlying technological, sociomaterial and socio-political scaffolding?

Methodological Contribution

This research introduces…


The entanglement of digitally mediated spaces and social movements.

The 8 minutes and 46 seconds of George Floyd’s death in police custody captured on video that went viral ruptured the social fabric as thousands mobilized in protests and called for social justice. Online and offline response has been unprecedented, resulting in demonstrations in cities and rural communities, rapid changes in policing policies and removal of symbols of white supremacy across the United States.

During a social rupture, when trust in the balance of power is low and motivation to affect change is high, digital media plays a significant role in socio-political activism, identity formation and sense making; as people…


“The answers are always inside the problem, not outside.” Marshall McLuhan

Researchers often aspire to develop new and interesting theories that may also prove to be influential. For a theory to be exceptionally noteworthy, it should provide unexpected insights and surprises, while also remain connected to established research (Davis, 1986). It cannot be so wildly speculative that nobody will believe in it, nor can it be so diminished that it provokes a “so what” response. Problematization as a research methodology, provides a balance. It achieves this by “identifying and challenging the assumptions underlying existing theories” (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2011: 247)

What is a theory?


Political, social and economic impact

The death of George Floyd in police custody, was a flash point that triggered frustration and anger against persistent social and economic inequities in the United States, giving rise to an oppositional culture.

In Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements, John Downing (2001) argues that oppositional culture does not simply “emerge from the bowels of society” (p. 10), and while it may be more emergent than organized, it reflects the underbelly of a political, economic and social power imbalance. …


Mass, popular and oppositional cultures

Media studies are increasingly concerned with how media represents and shapes culture (Couldry, 2012), whether it be mass culture, popular culture or oppositional culture.

Mass culture, represents the hegemony of institutionalized power and includes media that is a product of commercialized interests (broadcast TV, mainstream movies, major newspapers, commercial advertising). Popular culture, represents the authentic expression of a people’s aspirations, hopes, desires and interests and includes media that thrives within a community (memes, music, art, dance, tik-tok videos). Oppositional culture emerges from popular culture in opposition to the agenda of power and gives rise to radical media (George Floyd video…


Mind mapping the “George Floyd Digital Universe”

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Plunged into a ‘once in a century’ global pandemic that required nationwide lockdowns to stem a fast spreading deadly virus (Covid-19), the year 2020 will prove to be a defining year for generations to come. In the midst of this pandemic, another event occurred that shocked the world. The death of George Floyd on May 26th while in police custody, that was caught on video that went viral on the internet.

Response to the killing reverberated around the world as millions poured into the streets in protest, demanding change. There was unprecedented engagement and activism, as people tried to make…

Shama Patel

I’m passionate about exploring the entanglement of social and digital, and its implications for our collective future.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store