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RT: @occupation, #ukuncut, #demo2010, #solidarity’ or How Students Used New Media to Organise Anti-cuts Protests

Yannis Theocharis
Universität Mannheim
Yannis Theocharis
Universität Mannheim
Open Panel

Abstract

Following the announcements from the UK government of higher education cuts and increase of the tuition fee cap, hundreds of students across the country took a symbolic act of opposition by mobilising peaceful protest at campuses. During the occupation of over thirty universities the students gained solidarity from fellow students and influential figures around the world and startling media attention from extensive and sophisticated use of new media tools readily available to them. Drawing on data gathered during the university occupations, the paper assesses the role of websites and social media as tools for collective mobilisation, their efficiency in assisting the organisation and coordination of protest activity, and the rapid building of student-activist networks. Adopting Van Aelst and Walgrave’s (2004) website analysis method and expanding it to accommodate Web 2.0 capabilities, the study reflects on the predominance of social media over websites for activism. Using social network analysis, the paper also discusses how the use of a variety of online tools by some occupation groups helped them become more influential within the activist network, and attract more media attention than others.