Institute of Sociology
of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Rebellious Man, be Visible, or Perish! Visualization of the Semantics of Protest Communication in social Networks

Rebellious Man, be Visible, or Perish! Visualization of the Semantics of Protest Communication in social Networks. ΠΡΑΞΗMΑ. Journal of Visual Semiotics, 2019, Issue 4 (22), pp. 36-59.
ISSN 2312-7899
DOI 10.23951/2312-7899-2019-4-36-59

Posted on site: 20.01.20

Текст статьи на сайте журнала URL: (дата обращения 20.01.2020)


The modern era can rightly be called the era of criticism. All that can be done can be done better; therefore, almost any achievement or decision, primarily of politicians and entrepreneurs (but not least of all of scientists, designers, architects, writers and even people of art), is accompanied by protest or criticized. Achievements or decisions either affect personal rights, or threaten the environment, or damage cultural, gender, national or religious identities. At the same time, protest should be presented in a bright visual form. Any protest slogan should receive an additional symbolic refinement or extension. Symbols can be understandable or require few thinking efforts; and both these conditions should not harm the overall transparency of the protest function. These symbols of protest oppose metaphorically encoded video sequences to the complex party programs. The decoding of protest symbols is not difficult (“anything goes”) and provides a general understanding and unity of the protesters (or its illusion that, in general, does not change things). The symbolic visualization of the unifying values of protest (e.g., of the collective rejection of suffering or of the rights loss) and its decoding compensate the lack of a generalized symbolic means of communication, which is a guaranteed means of achieving communicative success. Such a symbolic visualization would ensure that any participant of protest communication has their contact request accepted, that is, addressed to other participants. Such communicatively generalizing symbols or media (power, truth, money, faith) belong to classical macro-systems (the ones of politics, science, economy, religion), which allows these systems to solve the main communicative problem, to provide collective actions, and to coordinate common interests and decisions. But protest communication, on the contrary, is dispersed into several heterogeneous key topics. The debate on these topics integrates communities and institutionalizes these communications into such social movements as feminism, environmentalism, anti-globalism, etc. However, unlike the clear communicative symbols of the political and economic systems, the absence of such a generalizing symbol in protest communication is not a competitive advantage. In the article, the authors consider the communicative and symbolic resources of protest communication that have been developed during the Internet network epoch as a functional compensation for its thematic fragmentation in the absence of a single unifying symbol.