In 2011, protests across the globe placed contentious politics at the heart of media attention. From the Arab Spring to the global Occupy movements, the world was caught in a rapid of rebellion. The role of new media in sparking, diffusing and connecting these protests did not go unnoticed.
But it’s not only the younger generations of protesters who increasingly have recourse to digital and mobile media in their activism. Old-timers are discovering new media technologies as well. This was exemplified in the recent publication of a series of photo albums on Facebook, containing hundreds of snapshots of Italian activists from a 1970s student movement, the so-called “Movement of ’77.” This was not the first attempt to reunite the 1977 generation, and yet, it has never been so successful. What makes Facebook different? Are we dealing with plain nostalgia here? I would rather argue that these digital photo albums, which open up a whole new perspective on the 1970s, as they turn attention away from dominant memories of terrorism and violence, have potentials in that they contribute to a more inclusive, alternative “history from below.”
In 2011, Time Magazine elected global activists “person of the year”. That same year, Italian student protests which had occurred 35 years ago revived on the web as photographer Enrico Scuro – class of ’77 – uploaded his photographic collection to Facebook. In doing so, he unchained enthusiastic reactions from former protesters, who tagged themselves into the photographs and left comments of all sorts. People also sent Scuro their own photographs, thus contributing to what has become something of an online family album, currently containing over 3,000 photographs. As they narrated personal anecdotes, complemented by other people’s recollections, the former protesters collectively reconstructed the (hi)story of a generation, a history not tainted by traumatic memories of terrorism and political violence – typical of the official and public version of the Italian 1970s. Furthermore, the Facebook rage led to a series of reunions outside the virtual world and, a few months ago, to the publication . . .