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Serial Activists: Political Twitter Beyond Influentials and the Twittertariat

New Media and Society, Forthcoming

30 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2015  

Marco T. Bastos

City University London - School of Social Sciences

Dan Mercea

City University London - School of Social Sciences

Date Written: April 11, 2015

Abstract

This paper introduces a group of politically-charged Twitter users that deviates from elite and ordinary users. After mining 20M tweets related to nearly 200 instances of political protest from 2009 to 2013, we identified a network of individuals tweeting across geographically distant protest hashtags and revisited the term serial activists. We contacted 191 individuals and conducted 21 in-depth, semi-structured interviews thematically-coded to provide a typology of serial activists and their struggles with institutionalized power. We found that these users have an ordinary following, but bridge disparate language communities and facilitate collective action by virtue of their dedication to multiple causes. Serial activists differ from influentials or traditional grassroots activists and their activity challenges Twitter scholarship foregrounding the two-step flow model of communication. The results add a much needed depth to the prevalent data-driven treatment of political Twitter by describing a class of extraordinarily prolific users beyond influentials and the twittertariat.

Keywords: Serial activists, Twitter, social networks, influentials, protest hashtags, civic participation

Suggested Citation

Bastos, Marco T. and Mercea, Dan, Serial Activists: Political Twitter Beyond Influentials and the Twittertariat (April 11, 2015). New Media and Society, Forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593245

Marco Toledo Bastos (Contact Author)

City University London - School of Social Sciences ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Dan Mercea

City University London - School of Social Sciences ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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