Attention Strategies of Video Activism on the Social Web
Collaborative research group at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms-University of Bonn, and the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation

Videos on social media have become powerful means of political action and of influencing public discourses. Videos on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and numerous other platforms are clicked on billions of times every day, and hundreds of hours of additional moving images pour in every minute. They spread messages quickly and effectively, move their audiences emotionally, and motivate them to act, to donate, protest, or vote.

The fact that extremist and populist political actors use the power of moving images with great success is much discussed. Less well known, however, is the "video activism" of civil society actors who are concerned with issues such as human rights, democratic participation, social and climate justice. These include NGOs such as Greenpeace, social movements like Black Lives Matter and Fridays for Future, individual influencers like ContraPoints, video collectives such as Reel News, and tactical media groups like Peng! For them, to draw attention to their concerns and to form counterpublics, they must assert themselves against entertainment, propaganda, and PR in the competitive attention economy of the social web. To do this, they are developing novel strategies for producing and disseminating political videos, and especially for shaping them in novel and diverse forms that contribute to their proliferation online.

The research project "Attention Strategies of Video Activism on the Social Web" is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and is conducted by Chris Tedjasukmana (Mainz), Jens Eder (Babelsberg), Britta Hartmann (Bonn), and Tobias Gralke (Bonn). In the project, we investigate new video forms, distribution modes, and production alliances in the competition for public perception and political impact. One goal of the project is to educate about these developments and contribute to audiovisual media literacy.

We have documented our research findings in our book Bewegungsbilder. Politische Videos in Sozialen Medien (2020, in German). It summarizes the results to date in a concise and comprehensible manner; for the first time, it offers an overview of the field of political videos. In 2022, we will publish an extended book on Political Videos on Social Media in English. Current video analyses and information also appear regularly on our website