David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Platform politics: sport events and the affordances of digital and social media

Over the least few years I’ve been exploring the growing role of digital and social media in the mediatisation of major sporting events. I’ve published a number of articles related to this thread of work, including The Olympic Torch Relay: Activating citizen-consumer discourses (2013) Digital cultures, acceleration and mega sporting event narratives (2013), and Young people, digital media making and critical digital citizenship (2015). In these articles I’ve been interested in exploring the opportunity for alternative narratives to be exposed before, during and after major (and mega) sporting events because of the affordances of digital and social media – what platforms like twitter, FB, Youtube and the like enable and make possible. In my new article Platform politics: sport events and the affordances of digital and social media, I extend this analysis, focusing on debates abut ‘platforms’, in terms of the mega sporting event itself and the specific digital and social media ‘products’ now available for oppositional groups to utilise.  In this article building on the work of Price (2008), Burchell (2015) and Gillespie & O’Loughlin (2015) I contend that digital and social media do not represent a panacea, enabling dominant event narratives to be contested successfully.  And yet,


there is growing evidence of a more participatory media landscape providing the conditions for the formation, and global linking of, productive, creative and sustainable networks formed to shine a light on, or as an outcome of, major event excesses

However, whilst that participatory media landscape provides more room for organised collectives to challenge powerful mainstream media interests, I conclude that it would be:

foolhardy to over-estimate the impact of digital and social media platforms in altering the power imbalances that accompany major sporting events. Intimations of digital disruption do not, unproblematically, equate to a panacea of protest (Jones & McGillivray, 2013)…influential journalist and media institutions remain the primary definers within the media event arc.

We have recently seen intimations of event bids being derailed by organised online campaigns (e.g. Boston 2024) and this space requires further empirical enquiry that I intend to pursue over the next few years.

citizenjournalismcitizenrelayCommonwealthgamescritical event studiesdigitalcommonwealthdigitalcultureeventsmegaeventsolympicssocialmedia

David McGillivray • September 19, 2016

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