Battlefront Assemblages: Civic Participation in the Age of Mediatized Warfare
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
affordances, assemblages, digital activism, mediatization, Ukraine, warfare
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Digital war is an emerging field, in which scholars seek to comprehend the structural changes brought about by the advancement of digital media to the ways that contemporary wars are fought, represented, made sense of, and remembered. One of the most interesting changes in the conduct of mediatized warfare is the emergence of unprecedented participatory opportunities afforded by the online media platforms. As audiences and consumers have become the networked publics of the digital age, some of them found innovative ways to use digital media for nonviolent, yet productive resistance to the military conflict. Straddling sociology, media studies, and military studies, I shed light on affordances for civic participation in military conflicts. The ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which started in 2014 with the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, provides a rich empirical context to explore civic participation in mediatized warfare.
The dissertation consists of a theory chapter and three empirical chapters that were published as peer-reviewed journal articles. Each of the chapters answers one of the three research questions. How are digital media used to enable/foster/facilitate public participation in a military conflict? How do mediated narratives mobilize networked publics to resist impending occupation? Finally, what are the mechanisms of transnational participation in military campaigns in the digital age? To answer these questions, the dissertation triangulates ethnographic and computational methods. Specifically, I make use of infrastructure ethnography, which includes 28 semi- structured interviews, narrative analysis, social network analysis, and semantic mapping.
On the micro-level, I illuminate the specific features of digitally-mediated environments that enable public participation in military conflicts. On the meso-level, I analyze networked communities of people who use digital media to resist the Russian occupation by supporting the Ukrainian army. On the macro-level, I shed light on diasporas as transnational actors that challenge the status quo of the military conflict in Ukraine. Mediating a connection between personal and political, between local and global, and between symbolic and material, these objects of analysis – affordances, local communities of volunteers, and international humanitarian networks – can each be viewed as sociotechnical assemblages nested within a larger battlefront assemblage.
This project adds a unique dimension to an emerging body of literature that examines the phenomena of mediatization and platformization by theorizing on the role that battlefront assemblages play in the context of a mediatized military conflict. Summarizing the key contribution of this dissertation to the field of media studies in general, and digital war in particular, I demonstrate that mediatized warfare operates through surveillance assemblages, and power is reconfigured, reconstituted and negotiated within these assemblages.
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Boichak, Olga, "Battlefront Assemblages: Civic Participation in the Age of Mediatized Warfare" (2019). Dissertations - ALL. 1010.