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Cliff Lampe on Stateside: How social media helped shape the current widespread protests against police brutality

Monday, 06/15/2020

Why is it that so many white people have felt moved to join in the protests against racism and police brutality? One of the answers might be on that screen in your pocket, says Michigan Radio host April Baird.

On a recent episode of Stateside, Baird invited University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) professor Cliff Lampe to discuss how social media has helped shape the current widespread protest movement.

One of Lampe’s areas of research is how social media interfaces with social change. Baird asked him how social media has changed how we protest – and who protests.

“I think there are a couple of different ways where it’s been really important,” says Lampe. “Of course, like we’ve seen before in other social movements, social media has been very important for organizing the protests – a lot of the protests have been largely structured and advertised through social media channels.” 

The other way it has been important, Lampe says, is how many people have experienced the protests through some form of social media.

“A lot of the most viral images that we’ve seen and a lot of the stories that we’ve heard have been spread through social media,” says Lampe.

Because of this, stories that may not have been covered by the mainstream media are being spread very quickly through social media platforms. For some white Americans, this may be a first exposure to these kinds of stories and images. 

“Because everybody is carrying with them a camera and a video recorder, everybody is shooting this video and now we see more of the stories making it out there,” says Lampe.

The entire interview is available on MichiganRadio.org.

- Jessica Webster, UMSI PR Specialist