The Shape of Discourse in Urban Movements through the Lens of Social Media: A case study of the anti-redevelopment movement in South Korea
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This study explored the shape of discourse around the anti-redevelopment movement in Seoul, South Korea, and investigated the effects of social media in the urban movement. The site was an old manufacturing district in Euljiro street, where small manufacturing workshops have agglomerated for the last decades and are now being demolished under the city's redevelopment plan. While struggles around forced demolition and redevelopment have been perpetuated in the country’s urbanization process, the movement in Euljiro distinguished itself by mobilizing young activists and artists. They framed the struggle with the goals of preserving the industry ecosystem and promoting urban diversity. Social media has been part of the activism since they joined the movement. I used a mixed-method approach combining interviews and social media analysis to investigate the different standpoint of the tenants, the activists, and general citizens toward the redevelopment and how social media affected the shape of discourse. The analyses found that the activists’ new framing and social media activities gathered attention and external supports to the struggle. The attention was translated into participatory actions online. The social media analysis revealed that the ways people on social media related themselves to the place were varied, associated with the spectrum of stance toward the redevelopment. The analysis also found confusions, conflicts, and reflective discussions among the different standpoints, which led to a discussion of the limitation of social media activism and ways to overcome it. Based on the findings, I discussed questions regarding how different parties in urban space react and adjust to the changing media landscape and how to sustain localized activism in urban movements within the changes. There has been growing attention to urban movements and social media in urban governance as participatory practices become a crucial agenda in urban governance and development. Still, few studies have explored social media in bottom-up actions to impact urban development processes. As one of the few studies, this study contributes to the literature on both topics. It also adds to the discussion around how urban societies can work together within the changing media and technology landscape.