ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Social Media Mobilisation as a Prompt for Offline Participation? Analysing Occupy Wall Street Twitterers’ Offline Engagement with the Movement

Yannis Theocharis
Universität Mannheim
Gema García Albacete
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
William Lowe
Universität Mannheim
Yannis Theocharis
Universität Mannheim
Jan van Deth
Universität Mannheim

Abstract

The paper discusses the use of social media networks to mobilize citizens politically. It places particular emphasis on the core question of whether online engagement with a movement actually leads to offline participation. The internet has radically transformed traditional political mobilisation and participation: participation costs have become extremely low; the need for co-presence evaporated; flexible, horizontal institutional structures replaced conventional organisations; and content can be produced and distributed by everybody easily. Social media content cannot only reveal users attitudes towards policy problems, politicians, elections, riots, protests and unrest, but also highlight people’s preferences, willingness to participate and mobilise others. We monitored the ‘indignant citizens’ of Spain and Greece, and the US-based ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movements since their origin and harvested more than one million tweets with a text-analysis tool. Building on previous comparative analysis of tweets, which has revealed both similarities and differences in the use of social media to organize protest activities and mobilize political action in the streets the paper explores whether online expression of encouragement with the movement and electronic alignment with its aims and activities implies that supporters would bear the higher costs of offline engagement. Is the exchange of content through microblogging platforms such as Twitter translated into offline participation? We present results from a content analysis of tweets sent during the period of mobilisations and complement them with data from an online survey directed to ascertain whether involvement in Twitter’s information exchange actually translated into offline engagement with the movement. By comparing the offline political participation of Twitterers who did and did not tweet about the movements, we can better understand social network sites’ potential to mobilize –or not, citizens offline.