Since the Arab Spring ignited global attention to Tunisia and Egypt, there has been much interest in the role of new media and its potential to mobilize social and political change. Current discussions of the relationship between media and politics focus primarily on the question of mass mobilization and collective action. A central question concerns how the new networks of mobile, social, and digital media alter capabilities of physical "amassment" and "amplification"—the spontaneous scaling up or conversion of individuals into collective, visible, and vocal public presences—and whether and how they can unsettle and even overturn established political orders. TVRI members seek to move beyond the mechanics of mediated social mobilization and strive instead to better understand the broader range of instances when media are politically productive and how everyday life is transformed into political action in these newly mediated environments. They are interested in examining comparatively how extant structures, agents, practices, and in fact the very horizons of politics have been transformed in the initial decades of the twenty-first century.
The TVRI focuses on the underlying historical and structural conditions that inform "mediated activism" in InterAsian contexts, avoiding approaches that focus narrowly on contemporary mechanisms of mobilization and technological determinism. Members began by locating their analysis within the specifics of historical and institutional transformations that have taken place in the Middle East and North Africa, China and India, playing out alongside significant geopolitical changes. Mediated activism in these regions have emerged in the context of rapid urbanization, new claims for citizenship, and growing inequality against the background of both the "rise of India and China" and the decade-long wars waged by US-led forces in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. In order to understand how media have changed what it means to "act politically" or how it relates to the increasingly fluid nature of politics today, we must take these broader, national as well as global transformations into account.
In its first phase (2012–2015) TVRI research activities were organized around three key working themes. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, and will evolve as the work of the TVRI continues.
- Spaces and Genealogies of Mediated Activism
- Symbolic Dimensions of Mediated Activism
- Mediated Activism and Infrastructures of Empire