Ivana Stepanovic at the ASN World Convention at Columbia UniversityiASK Research Fellow, Ivana Stepanovic, participated at the ASN World Convention held at Columbia University from May 18th to 20th, 2023. Her research paper, supported by a grant from the American Institute for Southeast European Studies (AISEES), explores the narratives surrounding lithium mining protests in Serbia using the innovative method of digital ethnography of social media.
In her ground-breaking study, Ivana delves into the intricate web of connections between ecological, social, cultural, and economic issues, emphasizing their impact on the preservation of Serbian national and cultural identity. Focusing on the resistance against new forms of neo-colonialism, her research aims to shed light on the role of digital platforms in shaping public opinion and mobilizing activists. The core of her study revolves around the examination of protest slogans and the language employed in social media posts. She highlights the significant influence of algorithms in digital eco-activism, demonstrating how these narratives are constructed and disseminated by linking hashtags and keywords to achieve online visibility. By employing a digital ethnographic approach, she reveals the adaptable, rhizomatic, and puzzle-like nature of these narratives. The findings of her analysis expose the nuanced interpretations of social media narratives and their utilization as tools for mobilization by various political actors. Surprisingly, her research demonstrates that these narratives not only appeal to citizens with sympathies for extreme right-wing ideologies but also resonate with those aligned with left-wing ideologies. This indicates the complex nature of activists’ messages and highlights the inherent contradictions they face, as their narratives transform from patriotic to transnational frameworks.