Title: The #OCCUPY network on Twitter and the challenges to social movements theory and research

Authors: Davide Beraldo; Juan Galan-Paez

Addresses: Graduate School in Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, via Pace 10, Milano 20122, Italy ' Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, University of Seville, Av. Reina Mercedes s/n, Sevilla, Sevilla 41012, Spain

Abstract: This work sketches out an exploration on some challenges that digital environments pose to social movements studies. While transformations in the technology available for communication among movement networks quite obviously reconfigure their organisational patterns, the current use of the notion of collective identity, less obviously, is also called into question. Drawing on a dataset of tweets collected during the early stage of the worldwide Occupy protest wave, the outcomes of different possibilities of analysis are presented. The discussion of the results challenges various aspects of recent trends in Social Movements Theory, including the persistent distinction between organisational and identitary elements. A socio-semiotic observation is then acknowledged: to a certain extent, in contemporary protests, signifiers have acquired distinctive importance with respect to signified, in mediating the assemblage of contentious networks. The notion of 'social movement brand' is consequently suggested as fitting these phenomenon's better than the classical one of collective identity.

Keywords: Occupy movement; social networks; Twitter; social movements; digital media; collective identity; floating signifiers; brands; digital methods; digital sociology; actor-network theory; ANT; socio-semiotic; spatial networks; semantic networks; social media; protest movements; social movement brand.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEG.2013.060646

International Journal of Electronic Governance, 2013 Vol.6 No.4, pp.319 - 341

Received: 09 Jul 2013
Accepted: 23 Jan 2014

Published online: 23 Apr 2014 *

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