The Public Spheres of Contemporary Movements: An analysis of the relationship between the media culture and protest practices of the Ultras in Egypt and Spain


Virtual and spatial relationships have become the defining factors of recent popular movements throughout the world as new communication technologies become widely embraced. The relationship of these two dimensions of ‘public space’ has been highly debated. Theories range from ideologies of networked, unstructured digital movements capable of sparking spontaneous social unrest, to theories of choreographed popular uprisings (Castells, 2009; Gerbaudo, 2012). This semester’s term project will compare the media cultures of two youth groups: the Cairo al-Ahly Ultras and the Catalan Barcelona FC Ultras as they mobilize for local popular movements. The aim of this project will be to understand the relationship between their strategic use of social media and the occupation of physical public space as they fight for deep socio-political structural changes.

Although soccer fans have traditionally been viewed by academics and politicians as ‘hooligans’ who physically act upon ‘social anxieties’, a rising number of clubs have undoubtedly become influential social actors in the most pressing political issues despite state oppression (Guilianotti, 2013). These bottom-up youth subcultures will be analyzed based on their online media-making practices and their strategic use of urban space for socio-political issues that extend beyond the stadium. Ultimately this analysis seeks to explain how social media and physical protest are being utilized as mechanisms within the larger process of social movements in two strikingly different contexts. Specific interest will be played to cultural differences, values, identities, and narratives of the movements at hand.

Through the use of Gerbaudo’s theoretical framework, known as the Choreography of Assembly, I expect to find implications of emotional priming or ‘scripting’ through popular social media outlets in order to mobilize their followers. A strong attempt will be made to identify the media creators in hopes of providing insights to these horizontal yet highly organized clubs.


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