HOW DIGITAL MEDIA RESHAPES POLITICAL ACTIVISM: MASS PROTESTS, SOCIAL MOBILIZATION, AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT.

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Author: Glyn Brennan
Date: Oct. 2018
Publisher: Addleton Academic Publishers
Document Type: Report
Length: 1,466 words
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1610L

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Abstract: 

Employing recent research results covering the relationship between mass protests, social mobilization, and civic engagement, and building my argument by drawing on data collected from Pew Research Center, I performed analyses and made estimates regarding the percentage of social media users who say their political discussions are more or less respectful/likely to come to a resolution/civil/focused on policy debates/politically correct/informative/angry compared with other places people might discuss politics; the percentage of social media users in each group (lower/higher political engagement) who follow candidates for office or other political figures/usually respond when someone posts something about politics that they disagree with/have blocked or unfriended someone because of politics/have changed settings to receive fewer posts from someone because of politics; the percentage of social media users who have changed views about a political or social issue/a particular political candidate; and the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have taken part in a group that shares an interest in an issue or cause/encouraged others to take action on issues important to them/looked up information on local protest or rallies/changed profile picture to show support for a cause/used hashtags related to a political or social issue. Social media sites help bring new voices into the political discussion and help people get involved with issues that matter to them. Empirical and secondary data are used to support the claim that information that is indispensable to the harmonization of protest operations is disseminated swiftly and adequately via social media channels that convey emotional and motivational content both backing and against campaign activity.

Keywords: digital media; political activism; mass protest; social mobilization

Full Text: 

1. Introduction

Citizens, after being exposed to online debates, collect a considerable quantity of factual content, and thus they may feel more influential. Dissimilarities in the affordances in social networking sites may shape the social underlying forces in a manner that affects individuals' commitment, making more noticeable their internal and shared performance. (Halpern, Valenzuela, and Katz, 2017) Network communities plausibly assess users' propensity to converge with ideological partners. (Freelon, Mcllwain, and Clark, 2018)

2. Literature Review

In the media-protest environment, established news outlets constitute still important sources of information and validity, but such process is gradually reinforced by a hybrid mutuality between mainstream reports and social media sources. (Bailo and Vromen, 2017) Information that is indispensable to the harmonization of protest operations is disseminated swiftly and adequately via social media channels that convey emotional and motivational content (Fabre, 2017; Grcic Fabic, Zekic, and Samarzija, 2016; Lazaroiu et al., 2017a, b; Mantalos, 2017; Pera, 2018; Syaglova, 2017; Vodak and Mikesova, 2016) both backing and against campaign activity. The architecture of online social networks has relevant consequences for information exposure and the accomplishment or nonperformance of protest movements. (Jost et al., 2018) In the framework of a protest campaign, distributing particular political information and messages may represent an indication of a citizen's engagement to a precise opinion, which may generate action. (Lee, Chen, and Chan, 2017)

3. Methodology

Building my argument by drawing on data collected from Pew Research Center, I performed analyses and made estimates regarding the percentage of social media users who say their political discussions are more or less respectful/likely to come to a resolution/civil/focused on policy debates/politically correct/informative/angry compared with other places people might discuss politics; the percentage of social media users in each group (lower/higher political engagement) who follow candidates for office or other political figures/usually respond when someone posts something about politics that they disagree with/have blocked or unfriended someone because of politics/have changed settings to receive fewer posts from someone because of politics; the percentage of social media users who have changed views about a political or social issue/a particular political candidate; and the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have taken part in a group that shares an interest in an issue or cause/encouraged others to take action on issues important to them/looked up information on local protest or rallies/changed profile picture to show support for a cause/used hashtags related to a political or social issue. Social media sites help bring new voices into the political discussion and help people get involved with issues that matter to them.

4. Results and Discussion

The ascent of a phatic online ethos in social media militancy has deteriorated the capacity for digital communications technologies to assist in furthering social change by establishing a casual setting contingent on confined types of eloquent consensus contrasted with a committed, content-driven, dialogic public realm. (Miller, 2017) Social media content is valuable for government surveillance of shared action protests. (Qin, Stromberg, and Wu, 2017) (Figures 1-5)

Figure 1 % of social media users who say their political discussions 
are more or less... compared with other places people might discuss 
politics

                           The discussions  The discussions
                           are less...      are more...

Respectful                 54%               4%
Likely to come to          52%               4%
a resolution
Civil                      50%               6%
Focused on policy debates  46%               9%
Politically correct        42%               7%
Informative                35%              13%
Angry                       7%              48%

                           The discussions
                           are the same

Respectful                 40%
Likely to come to          42%
a resolution
Civil                      42%
Focused on policy debates  45%
Politically correct        49%
Informative                51%
Angry                      45%

Sources: Pew Research Center; my survey among 2,800 individuals 
conducted December 2017.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2 % of U.S. adults who say they have done the following 
activities on social media in the past year

Taken part in a group that            36
shares an interest in an issue/cause
Encouraged others to take action on   34
issues important to them
Looked up information on              20
local protest/rallies
Changed profile picture to            19
show support for a cause
Used hashtags related to              15
a political/social issue
Any of the above activities           55

Sources: Pew Research Center; my survey among 2,800 individuals 
conducted December 2017.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 3 % of social media users in each group who...

Political discussions on social
media are_than discussions
ocurring elsewhere

                                 Those with lower political engagement

Less respectful                  53%
Less civil                       49%
More angry                       48%
Less likely to be resolved       51%
Less politically correct         40%
Less focused on important        45%
policy debates
Less informative                 34%

These statements describe
social media sites "very well"

They help bring new voices       21%
into the political disscusion
They help people get involved    22%
with issues that matter to them

Political discussions on social
media are_than discussions
ocurring elsewhere

                                 Those with higher political engagement

Less respectful                  63%
Less civil                       60%
More angry                       58%
Less likely to be resolved       57%
Less politically correct         56%
Less focused on important
policy debates                   53%
Less informative                 40%

These statements describe
social media sites "very well"

They help bring new voices       30%
into the political disscusion
They help people get involved    29%
with issues that matter to them

Sources: Pew Research Center; my survey among 2,800 individuals 
conducted December 2017.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 5 % of social media users in each group who...

                                 Lower political  Higher political
                                 engagement       engagement

Follow candidates for office or
other political figures          22%              55%
Usually respond when someone
posts something about politics
that they disagree with          14%              32%
Have blocked or unfriended
someone because of politics      25%              33%
Have changed settings to
receive fewer posts from
someone because of politics      29%              41%

Sources: Pew Research Center; my survey among 2,800 individuals 
conducted December 2017.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

5. Conclusions

Social media influences the manner that users are in contact on a regular basis, and IT literate regimes take an operational role in attempting to configure and become involved with debates online. (Munger et al., 2018) Dynamic employment of social media for protest-related issues is related to higher probability of citizens defending themselves from position-challenging perspectives. Against a setting of political instability and divergence, perceived menaces from out-groups may bring about attitudes of judicious nonparticipation on social media. (Zhu, Skoric, and Shen, 2017) Being a component of the societies they attempt to change, protesters and campaigns that are essential to the societal configuration are passing through a contested realm of confrontation and compliance. (Kaun, 2017) Media and interaction may mediate a portion of the effect of the social psychological aspects on protest engagement. (Lee, Chen, and Chan, 2017)

Acknowledgments

This paper was supported by Grant GE-1776814 from the Social Science Research Unit at CLI, Washington, DC.

Author Contributions

The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

REFERENCES

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Syaglova, V. Y. (2017). "Influence of the Marketing Paradigm's Cycles Patterns on the Global Entrepreneurship," Ekonomicko-manazerske spektrum 11(1): 48-61.

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Zhu, Q., M. Skoric, and F. Shen (2017). "I Shield Myself from Thee: Selective Avoidance on Social Media during Political Protests," Political Communication 34(1): 112-131.

GLYN BRENNAN

brennan@aa-er.org

Center for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at AAER, Ottawa

Received 22 March 2018 * Received in revised form 1 June 2018

Accepted 2 June 2018 * Available online 3 July 2018

doi:10.22381/GHIR102201810

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A563571783