New Media and Immigration Activism
The project focuses on the intersection between New Media and activism by exploring the way new media collectives are using different forms of technology as a tool to raise awareness on the subject of immigration.
produced by: Catarina Rodrigues
Since the 1960s, computers have been recognised as “communication devices” (Licklider & Taylor, 1968, p.22). The digitization of cultural forms opened up doors to new possibilities of creative expression and interaction to challenge social norms and, the Internet, for instance, has allowed artists and collectives to use it as a medium to organise social movements (Tribe and Jana, 2007, p.17). Although it was not created with the intent of activism, the Internet has become one of the most relevant gateways into digital activism, according to a Digital Activism Survey in 2009. The scholar Chris Atton defines alternative internet as a “range of media projects, interventions and networks that work against, or seek to develop different forms of, the dominant, expected and broadly accepted ways of ‘doing media’" (2004, p.ix). In her book Alternative and Activist New Media, the author Leah Lievrouw argues that alternative computing projects aim to change not only opinions and behaviours of individuals, but also to modify the basis of contemporary communication itself (2011, p.19). She states that in addition to using digital systems as channels of activist expression and interaction, alternative computing is also used to treat data, digital devices and algorithms as material forms of cultural, social and political power and participation (2011, p.65).
Since the migrant crisis in 2015, national borders and immigration politics have been the central theme on many political debates and artistic approaches. To show how collectives have been addressing the migrant crisis with new media, I have chosen the project Forensic Oceanography, by the researcher Lorenzo Pezzani and filmmaker Charles Heller, which explores the dangerous maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2011, FO has been using different forms of digital technologies to not only document the violence that migrants have to face at sea, but also to use them as a way to support migrants and their families in legal cases and human rights investigations. From their in-depth reports, Forensic Oceanography have produced videos which have been displayed in galleries and have also created the online mapping tool www.watchthemed.net to monitor deaths and incidents with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Their work has opened up a discussion on the “policy of image production in the age of surveillance and what it means to produce images, videos, and sounds that become evidence and documentation of human rights violations” (Visible Project, 2015).
The artefact produced How Many More Can We Take is a short experimental video piece, which takes inspiration from glitch art and explores the representation of immigrants on newspapers in the UK, of which some promote a highly anti-immigration discourse. I used the recognisable female voice from Google Translate to verbalise the anti-immigration headlines and placed them in conjunction with images on the theme of immigration which were manipulated using databending techniques to produce distorted visuals. This artefact aims to serve as a critique, or almost a satire, to the anti-immigration discourse in the UK.
Arte Útil, 2014, Transborder Immigrant Tool, Arte Útil, viewed 2 December 2019,
Atton, Chris. The Alternative Internet: Radical Media, Politics and Creativity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004
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Brodock, K., Joyce, M., & Zaeck, T. Digital Activism Survey Report 2009, viewed 29 November 2019, https://katebrodock.com/digital-activism-survey-results-ae2a5b16d944
Cárdenas, M., Blas, Z., Schirmacher, W. The Transreal Political Aesthetics Of Crossing Realities. New York: Atropos Press, 2012
Costanza-Chock, Sasha. (2017). ‘Transformative Media Organising’, in Meikle, G. The Routledge Companion to Media and Activism. New York: Routledge. pp.77-85
Digicult, 2014, No Borders Struggles: The Electronic Disturbance Theatre 2.0. Digicult, viewed 3 December 2019,
Downing, John. Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements. California: Sage, 2001
Forensic Architecture, Forensic Oceanography, Forensic Architecture, viewed 1 December 2019, https://forensic-architecture.org/category/forensic-oceanography
Licklider, J.C.R, and Taylor, R.W. The Computer as Communication Device. Science & Technology, vol.76, pp 21-41, 1968
Lievrouw, Leah A. Alternative and Activist New Media. Cambridge: Polity, 2011
Meikle, Graham., The Routledge Companion to Media and Activism. New York: Routledge, 2018
Rancière, Jacques. The Politics of Aesthetics. Bloomsbury Academic, 2003
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Tribe, Mark and Reena Jana. New Media Art. Taschen, 2007