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Social Media and the Transnationalization of Mass Activism: Twitter and Trade Union Revitalization
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the labour movement organization LabourStart, a digital initiative that, by various means such as e-mail campaigns and social media use, seeks to promote workers’ rights and to strengthen the labour movement on a global scale. The main aim of this study is to analyse a) how LabourStart employs Twitter for communication and organisation and b) how the Twitter-sphere that LabourStart constitutes – and is constituted by – is geographically structured in order to determine if social media use has had a revitalising effect on the labour movement. Our dataset consisted of all tweets containing the word “labourstart“ and all tweets coming from or addressing any LabourStart-related account during the period 2008–2015. As theoretical points of departure, the notions of “connective action" and transnationalization/translocalism were used to conceptualise the research. In terms of methodology, network analysis was the main approach employed to obtain and visualise the findings. Our results indicate that LabourStart’s Twitter use does not seem to have had any effects in terms of creating a decentralised transnational movement with translocal traits, thus suggesting that LabourStart has failed to fully make use of the connective features of Twitter and to establish a decentralized union movement. This, we suggest, is to some extent caused by LabourStart’s centralized organizational – and thus communicational – structure. In the concluding section, we interpret our findings in broader terms relating to the context and history of labour movements, and we discuss LabourStart’s work in relation to local and global worker issues.

National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-114439OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-114439DiVA: diva2:895430
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-01-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Digital media and the transnationalization of protests
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Digital media and the transnationalization of protests
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Recent developments in communications technology have transformed how social movements might mobilize, and how they can organize their activities. This thesis explores some of the geographical consequences of the use of digital media for political activism. It does this by focusing on the transnationalization of protests. The aim is to analyse how movements with different organizational structures and political scopes are affected by their use of digital media. This is done with a specific focus on how digital media use influences or enables transnational modes of organization and activism. The thesis comprises four different case studies where each study examines a social movement with a specific organizational structure. There are, however, also important similarities between the movements. In each study, somewhat different perspectives and methodological approaches are used. Some of the methods used are semi-structured interviews, content analysis of written data (retrieved from Facebook as well as Twitter), and social network analysis.

The analysis indicates that digital media do have a role in the transnationalization of protest. This role, however, differs depending on what type of social movement one studies. The organizational structure of social movements, together with their specific forms of digital media use, influences how the transnationalization of protests and movements is articulated and formed. In cases where a social movement has a hierarchical organizational structure, there is less transnationalization, whereas in social movements with a more non-hierarchical organizational structure one sees more transnationalization. The thesis concludes that the transnationalization of protests is affected by social movements’ organizational structure. The more decentralized the social movement, the more vibrant the transnational public. In order to explain how transnational social movements, using digital media, can emerge in cases where geographical distances might make such coalitions unlikely, the thesis introduces the notion of affectual proximity. This concept helps us understand how transnational social movements, connecting actors from all over the world, can emerge through digital media. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2016. 57 p.
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 77
Keyword
Social movements, social media, digital media, digital activism, transnational activism, affectual proximity
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-114456 (URN)978-91-7601-405-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-02-12, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-01-22 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-01-22Bibliographically approved

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Dahlberg-Grundberg, MichaelLundström, RagnarLindgren, Simon
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Department of SociologyDepartment of Education
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

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