In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Activist Media

  • Introduction
  • Journals

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Communication Activist Media
Rosemary Clark-Parsons, Jasmine Erdener, Elisabetta Ferrari, Guobin Yang
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0182


Activist media refer to media forms that serve activist purposes. Activism can be radical or moderate; media have multiple forms, encompassing television, photography, cartoons, radio, newspapers, zines, the Internet, and even the body. We use both concepts in a broad rather than narrow sense in order to be more inclusive in selecting our entries. Many studies of alternative media, radical media, citizen media, underground press, and social movement media fall under our broad definition of activist media. Mainstream media do not, even though sometimes they help to stir or deter contention and sometimes are appropriated by activists. Activist media are not a new phenomenon. In fact, the rise of modern social movements and nationalism in the 18th century coincided with the development of print capitalism. In the early days of the Internet, many independent web sites, discussion lists, and personal websites were activist media. Dominant digital media platforms of the 21st century, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Weibo in China, are commercial enterprises; they resemble mainstream media more than activist media. Yet some of their spaces are used so deliberately and persistently by citizens or civil society groups to voice dissent or make political claims that they take on functions of activist media. Examples are hashtag activism such as #WhyIStayed and #Ferguson.


Several journals in the field of media studies and social movement studies publish articles on or related to activist media, although articles also appear in general journals in both humanities and the social sciences. Based respectively in the United States and in Europe, Mobilization: An International Quarterly and Social Movement Studies are English-language academic journals specializing in publishing research on social movements and popular protest. A comprehensive journal in the area of new media and digital media research, New Media & Society contains articles on digital activist media. Information, Communication & Society often publishes special issues of social science research on digital activism. Feminist Media Studies specializes in publishing research related to feminist media, including feminist activist media, but should be of general interest to researchers in the area of activist media. Communication and the Public is a general journal with special emphasis on publics and public communication, of which activist media are an important component. Finally, a new journal, Journal of Alternative and Community Media edited by Chris Atton and launched in 2016, promises to be an important new outlet for works on activist media.

  • Communication and the Public.

    Launched in 2016, this quarterly journal is published by SAGE and sponsored by the College of Media and International Culture of Zhejiang University, China. With a focus on publics and public spheres, the journal especially encourages submissions on activist media.

  • Feminist Media Studies.

    Covering a broad range of media and art forms, this bimonthly journal publishes both research articles and shorter commentaries taking feminist approaches to the study of media and communication. Articles on feminist activist media are a common feature.

  • Information, Communication & Society.

    Started in 1998 as a quarterly and now a monthly, this journal publishes social science research on new information and communication technologies, including the use of new technologies in activism and social movements.

  • Journal of Alternative and Community Media.

    Specializing in the study of alternative and community media, this new online journal is worth watching.

  • Mobilization: An International Quarterly.

    Probably the most important specialized journal in the sociological study of social movements and political protest, this US-based quarterly contains occasional articles on media and activism.

  • New Media & Society.

    Published in eleven issues annually, New Media & Society is a comprehensive journal of research on new media and communication technologies, with occasional articles related to activist media.

  • Social Movement Studies.

    This is a UK-based bimonthly journal of social movement research. Younger than Mobilization: An International Quarterly, it features more articles on new media technologies and social movements than Mobilization.

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