This project explores the ways in which "off-label" engagements with digital media enable marginalized communities to access resources and stage political interventions beyond the confines of geographic immobility.

From Oakland to Ferguson and Baltimore, activists in postindustrial Black communities are cultivating increasing global attention to the excessive state violence against them. In 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement amplified its message through the textures of emerging media forms: cell-phone videos, Twitter reportage, hashtags, vines and blogs. Through off-label uses of these media, the realities of violent policing and structural violence came to roost in the signals of mainstream media, powering the possibility of social change.                        

Mobility studies, concerned with the differential ability of global populations to access the resources necessary to survival, attends to the physical body as the medium by which subjects and populations move toward stores of resources, or are kept from them. In this study, we examine the critical communicative practices that allow young people to empower themselves beyond the confines of neighborhoods they often describe as the “trap”: cartographies of dispossession and abandonment. When migration is impossible, this mobilization of ideas and information both brings residents of systematically impoverished populations into new modes of solidarity with each other across space and time, and creates tactical, forced proximities with broader publics and governing agencies. We attend to the spatial dimensions of underground media production and distribution to locate the circulation of these fugitive modes of affect: ones which work beyond the confines of locale.

Mobile media have been historically central to the communicative practices of African American communities, from mobile soundsystem culture to community radio, the deliveries of Pullman porters, and the signified lyrics of the blues singer. Here, we attend to the ways in which digital practitioners mobilize the local sensations of immanent state violence to organize the political imaginations of those far beyond the borders of their impoverished neighborhoods.

Ali Colleen Neff, Ph.D., UNC-Chapel Hill Communication Studies/Cultural Studies, 2013

Sindhu Zagoren, Ph.D., UNC-Chapel Hill Communication Studies/Cultural Studies, 2014