'Twitter storms' in a teacup: digital activism and collective political agency

Thayne, Martyn (2015) 'Twitter storms' in a teacup: digital activism and collective political agency. In: ECREA Communication and Democracy Conference: Political Agency in the Digital Age. Media, Participation and Democracy, 9-10 October 2015, Copenhagen Business School.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper presents an analysis of innovative forms of digital activism and political engagement within online communities and mediated networks. It aims to demonstrate how the social media site Twitter functions as an organisational space for forms of digital citizenship that emerge at the intersection of traditional politics, public debate and social campaigning. It will examine, for instance, how ‘twitter storms’ can be viewed as expressions of collective political agency and mobilized resistance. Drawing on Tony D. Sampson’s (2012) social contagion theory, the paper will argue that virality within networked communications and the wider ecology of media, can be harnessed by political activists for projects of collective action. On the basis of analyses of three case studies related to issues in UK politics (#RoadToRuin, #StopSocialCleansing, #MiliFandom), the paper will evaluate the potential of twitter storms to 1) challenge traditional biases and forms of ‘gatekeeping’ in corporate media reportage; 2) build momentum and support for social movements; 3) hold government policy to account; and 4) potentially interact with and influence higher order, and otherwise hegemonic, powers of governance.

Keywords:Political Activism, Twitter, Virality, Social Contagion Theory
Subjects:L Social studies > L243 Politics of a specific country/region
L Social studies > L220 Political Systems
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P304 Electronic Media studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W280 Interactive and Electronic Design
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:17739
Deposited On:20 Jun 2015 19:12

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