Media, Activism and Social Change

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Welcome to examine the complex relationships between the media, activism and social change. We will look into three distinct approaches:

- Theories and cases of media in the service of activism for social change.
- Theories and cases of social activism pertaining to media and communication technologies themselves.
- Strategies and tactics of the above.

The course draws from some classic texts but focuses especially on digital activism.


The core idea of this course is to mix theory and praxis, and enjoy discovery of “doing things differently”, that is, combining academic work with artistic/strategic/journalistic efforts. Social movements consist of people who are passionate about social change. In this course, you are invited to explore an issue YOU care about: research it and contribute, with your ideas for a activist action, advocacy campaign, policy statements, research needed to strengthen the movement, and so on.


The course is a hybrid.

We will meet in person in Helsinki as follows:

Friday 15.3.2019 10:15 - 11:45: Introduction to the course and us (will also be streamed live)
Päärakennus, Aud XI, Fabianinkatu 33

Monday 29.4.2019 16:15 - 17:45: Guest Speaker
Outi Puukko, University of Helsinki and Open Knowledge Finland on the intersection of media reform, digital rights and human rights.
Päärakennus, Aud III, Fabianinkatu 33

Thursday 2.5.2019 16:15 - 17:45: Final project presentations
Päärakennus, Aud XI, Fabianinkatu 33

We will "meet" online as follows:

22.3., 29.3., 5.4., 12.4., and 26.4. (the last date includes also an option to meet me in person for individual final project consultation).

There will be two live video lectures. However, you will not need to attend any of these online sessions at any specific time, but can explore then and complete the related assignment within a week.

14.2.2019 at 09:00 - 7.3.2019 at 12:27


Here is the course’s teaching schedule. Check the description for possible other schedules.

Fri 15.3.2019
10:15 - 11:45
Mon 29.4.2019
16:15 - 17:45
Thu 2.5.2019
16:15 - 17:45


The course is open for the Media and Democracy -track students of the GPC programme (they
have priority), Swedish School of Social Science's Journalistik och kommunikation and statskunskap med förvaltining -track students in the Magisterprogrammet i samhällsvetenskaper -programme and other GPC students. If there are places left, the course is also open for other master's level students and exchange students.

Upon completion of this course you will be able to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the history and different strands of media democratization and digital rights movements. You will understand the distinction, and intersections, between media reform and media activism. You will be able to apply communication and democracy theories as well as scholarly work on social movements to cases of media activism and discuss the most important media reform and Internet rights issues and cases. You can also assess the policy strategies as well as outreach tactics of selected movements or organizations.

Period 4

Ranging from local and virtual community activism to national and international advocacy organizations, more and more individuals and groups are fighting for a more diverse and egalitarian media landscape. This course examines national, regional, international, and global challenges in media ecosystems - and battles over the future of quality journalism, media ownership, digital rights and internet privacy, among other issues. We will study cases of media democratization both from theoretical as well as practical perspectives and assess strategies and tactics of movement building.

Online lectures, discussions, and assignments, literature review, research project (theoretical or applied), final essay (either written or video).

- Freedman, Obar, Martens, McChesney (eds. 2016). Strategies for Media Reform. International Perspectives. New York: Fordham University Press.
- Hind A (2012). The Return of the Public. Democracy, Power, and the Case for Media Reform. Verso Books.
- Napoli & Aslama (2011). Communications Research in Action. Fordham University Press.
- Berry, D. (2014). Critical Theory and the Digital. New York: Bloomsbury.
- Scott, M. (2014). Media Development. London: Zen Books.
- Ziccardi, G. (2013). Resistance, Liberation Technology and Human Rights in the Digital Age. Heidelberg, New York, London: Springer.

A selection of scholarly articles will be distributed in the course

Grading scale 0-5 (0=fail, 1=passable, 2=satisfactory, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=excellent)

The first introductory lecture (15.3.,10-12hrs) as well as the two last sessions (29.4. and 2.5., 6-18hrs) will take place in-person. The first lecture will also be simulcasted and recorded. The online sessions will be available every Friday to be accessed at any time thereafter, and the related assignment will be due the following Friday night.