“Poetic” publics: Agency and rhetorics of “netroots” activism in post-earthquake L’Aquila
In this essay, I analyze the rise of post-earthquake activism in L’Aquila as an exemplification of counterpublics’ transformation into social movements endowed with “poetic” agency. Engendering “poetic agency,” for a counterpublic and for a social movement alike, denotes being able to bring forth change in the world and being able to generate change in a creative, “poetic” way. In this sense, poetic assumes a connotation that opposes the Habermasian perspective of a public sphere in which only a rational-critical discourse can be engendered as check on the State.
In the case of L’Aquila, I contend that the post-earthquake social movements’ capability of effecting change in public life through poiesis has been enhanced by the possibilities of the Web 2.0 and by the activists’ acknowledgement of new ways of political participation in a world of spectacularized politics. In this instance, strategies such as the exploitation of alternative “public screens” on the web and the use of “minor rhetorics” to contrast the mainstream media portrayal of the post-disaster situation worked together in a creative and spontaneous effort to improve the condition of the people living in the area affected by the quake.
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