#Activism: Tracking Twitter's Impact on Campaigns for Political Change

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2016-02-01

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Korstad, Robert R

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Abstract

Since the turn of the century, the global community has experienced a constant wave of popular uprisings and public protests. The “Arab Spring” triggered a chain reaction that spread not just to the Eastern world, but also to many stable Western democracies, including the indignados (indignant citizens) movement of Spain, the Portuguese Geração a Rasca (desperate generation), and the Occupy campaigns worldwide (Theocharis et al. 2014). Although these movements occurred in different places, addressed different issues, and featured different demands, one common underlying pattern unites them together: the use of social media to mobilize citizens and push for change.
Recent research on social movements has thus become increasingly devoted to understanding the role of social media in facilitating citizen communication, coordination, and organization. Scholars contend that the widespread popularity, expansive network reach, and unique “feedback” engagement characteristics of social media mark it as particularly well-suited for mobilizing systematic action (“Grassroots” 2012; Hampton et al. 2011; Nisbet et al. 2012). Among this research, the microblogging platform Twitter has received praise for its ability to simplify the complexities of mass protests and effectively organize community action (Theocharis et al. 2014). Various interest groups have thus increasingly begun to adopt social media – and Twitter in particular – as a means to achieve institutional goals. However, as social communication has moved to online networks, the scope and variety of information that citizens receive has begun to shrink. Understanding how different groups have utilized social media has become imperative to examining what messages people see, and as a result, how social media may change activism in the future. This study thus seeks to answer the following questions: How have interest groups utilized social media, and Twitter in particular, to facilitate political change? How does partisan affiliation affect and shape social media strategy?

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Brown, Erin (2016). #Activism: Tracking Twitter's Impact on Campaigns for Political Change. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11583.


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