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Helene Nguyen

Advisor: Mark Wasiuta

MS.CCCP 2013

The Visualization of the Politics of Engagement

Abstract:
In response to the advent of the Internet, social media, and the formation of a ‘digitalized democratic public sphere’ PR has recently shifted its rhetoric from Public Relations to Public Engagement (PE). This new world of public engagement is structured by a novel form of horizontality and populated with influencers, aggregators, and action metrics. A prominent PR CEO argues that PE is the way forward because “the new reality is that people are more actively engaged and can be activists at the touch of a button.”[1] This idea of activism through ‘public engagement’ as imagined by PR becomes particularly problematic in light of Occupy Wall Street’s bizarre status of success by mainstream PR (evidenced by the bestowment of three prominent PR awards on OWS within the last year).

What does it mean if within a political protest movement we can also find the blueprint for the perfect, and ideal, PR campaign? What set of complex cross-pollinations and trans-migrations have occurred? And to where can the recognition of these exchanges lead us? This uneasy juxtaposition of decidedly distinct formations is not meant conflate one with the other but instead to understand the complex distinctions that operate between the two and attempt to find somewhere in that space between, the complexconstruction and reconstruction of a political public. In my thesis I argue that inside the media formations of Occupy Wall Street, and its attempted co-option by PR, exists an important paradigm of political action.

[1] “Interview with Robert Philips, President and CEO Edelman EMEA,” YouTube video, 1:53, posted by “CorporateExcellence,” November 8, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ITwckCmxc0.