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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for the Study of Democratic Cultures and Politics Events & Colloquium

EPS Seminar Series - OFRA KLEIN: "The contestation of freedom on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic"

When:We 23-11-2022 16:00 - 17:00
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This event is part of the Seminar Series of the theme group European Politics and Society.

It is a hybrid event. If you would like to attend, please contact Martijn Schoonvelde (martijn.schoonvelde for the room number and/or the link.


In 2020 and 2021, whilst many European countries were under strict lockdowns, social media platforms formed a crucial outlet to express discontent about the interventions governments made to contain the virus. The value of freedom was central in discussions about these government interventions. People were limited in their freedom of movement, their ability to access places without a valid QR-code, or to make their own decision to take the vaccine. Online, some covid-sceptics were also confronted with limitations in freely expressing their views about the pandemic. With freedom having become a scarce good, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a historically remarkable re-evaluation of values, and a rise in support of freedom, equality and other progressive values. 1 The paper explores the role of freedom in discussions about government measures against COVID-19 in images on Instagram. The study, which consists of a manual content analysis of over a thousand Dutch, German and Polish images, emphasizes not only how salient the conflict over freedom was during the course of the pandemic, but also the visual and symbolic ways in which freedom was represented. The study provides a novel insight in how social media, particularly the understudied platform Instagram, formed an important channel for opposing an illiberal turn in European countries.