CIS 720 Seminar – The Visual Practices of Opponents to COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

Please join us Monday, 4/25 (4:30pm to 5:30pm), for a talk by CIS student Moshe Karabelnik in advance of his upcoming dissertation proposal, “The Visual Practices of Opponents to COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates.”

In recent years, digital images from smartphones and other networked cameras shared on social media have largely replaced video recording devices that were commonly used by social activists to document protest practices. Networked cameras’ ubiquity has fundamentally changed the practices of political protest, activism, and social movements. This research brings to light how practices of visual social media activism–such as documenting, bearing witness, and mobilizing–overlap and interact with practices of social movements, such as networking and organizing, building identity, and showing solidarity.
In this dissertation, I explore the visual practices of various social media accounts of opponents of the COVID-19 vaccination mandates, as well as the offline protest practices related to visual social media performed by these activists in Hawai‘i and Israel. Following the practice approach to cultural studies and the practice approach to media studies, I intend to reveal and unpack the ways in which practices of protest are bundled into the practices of visual social media activism used by vaccination mandate opponents. My research poses the question: What do COVID-19 vaccination mandate opponents do in relation to visual social media, and how do these practices contribute to the production of symbolic power and the battle for control over public discourse against state and media institutions? For this purpose, I will use a practice-oriented methodology in two ways: first, by using Visual Cross-Platform Analysis (Pearce, Özkula, Greene, Teeling, Bansard, Omena, & Rabello, 2018) of visual social media shared by vaccination mandate opponents across different social media platforms and, in parallel, observation of visual social media activism online, and offline followed by interviews with the creators and audiences of anti-vaccination visual social media. By combining these methods, I will show how visual social media practices function in the everyday making of the social discourse around COVID-19 and civil liberties.


Moshe is a CIS student interested in the practice of using digital images in social media. He wants to understand what people are doing with visual media in their everyday lives. He is currently working on understanding the use of visual media in the creation of group identities in political conflict.