The Evolution of Social Movements

Studenteropgave: Speciale (inkl. HD afgangsprojekt)

  • David Edward Allington
4. semester, Udviklingsstudier, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
In 2011 a wave of activism spread through the Middle East, with people making their voices heard and long-standing leaders being overthrown—a wave that became known collectively as the ‘Arab Spring’. While the people held rallies and protests against their oppressive regimes, they also used the Internet and social media to report on events, organise demonstrations, as well as discuss issues. Western media was quick to point to the significance of Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media as a driving force behind the events, with journalists keen to use phrases such as ‘Facebook revolution’ (Taylor, 2011; Naughton, 2011) and ‘Twitter revolution’ (Zuckerman, 2011). However, in spite of the widespread use of such terms, little research has been carried out on the role that social media plays in social movements. This project aims to contribute to filling this gap in research by analysing the use of Facebook during the Tunisian Revolution of 2010-2011. The project uses the cultural approach of framing and collective action frames, a theory commonly used in the study of social movements, to examine the role of social media. Specifically, the project analyses all posts (N=177) made on the Nawaat Facebook group between 18 December 2010 and 14 January 2011 for aspects of framing. The analysis finds that the primary uses of the group were for distributing information, with a large number of posts consisting of reports of events, and discursive processes, i.e. the discussion of issues and their causes. The research also indicates that the high number of posts including video content (21%) about events contributed significantly to the credibility of posts.
In addition to the analysis of the collected data, the project discusses four issues raised by the research regarding the use of social media. These issues comprise of the use of social media as a tool for movement organisation, the control of frames, social media and media censorship, as well as social media and the importance of what has been termed ‘bedroom activists’, i.e. adherents participating in a movement without actively participating in street protests.
Finally, in the conclusion the project answers the research question of whether the Tunisian revolution represents an evolution in social movements and also highlights avenues of future research. The project concludes that the use of social media in the Tunisian Revolution does represent an evolutionary step for social movements, however, it also warns that the use of social media is not without its risks. This danger comes primarily from the ability for governments to use the technology to monitor, track, and counter the efforts of online activists.
Udgivelsesdato19 dec. 2012
Antal sider52
ID: 71813229