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Open networks and secret Facebook groups: exploring cycle effects on activists’ social media use in the 2010/11 UK student protests

Hensby, Alexander (2017) Open networks and secret Facebook groups: exploring cycle effects on activists’ social media use in the 2010/11 UK student protests. Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest, 16 (4). pp. 466-478. ISSN 1474-2837. (doi:10.1080/14742837.2016.1201421)

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Abstract

Much has been written in recent years about the growing impact of social media on social movements. While authors have extolled the virtues of Facebook and Twitter as organisational and informational tools for a range of movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy, evidence remains patchy as to under what conditions social media is most effective at engaging and mobilising the wider public. Drawing on the work of Tarrow, this article considers the impact of cycle effects on the effectiveness of social media as a mobilising and organising tool for the 2010/11 U.K. student protests. Although preceding the broader ‘movement of the squares’ contention cycle, the protests made similar use of social media for generating mass participation. Yet, its mobilising power was dependent on a number of temporal factors, including amplification through mainstream media and the urgency of its initial campaign goal. Moreover, towards the end of the cycle, activists were found to be using social media – via ‘secret’ Facebook groups – in ways that reinforced emerging group hierarchies, arguably contradicting their initial commitment to open-access networks and participatory democracy.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/14742837.2016.1201421
Uncontrolled keywords: Social media, Facebook, Twitter, collective identity, mobilisation, protest cycle, student activism
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research > Sociology
Depositing User: Alexander Hensby
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2016 13:19 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 17:33 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/56196 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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