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Collective Action in the Age of Twitter

How are technological advances that allow for the rapid dissemination of information, such as Twitter, changing methods of protest and collective action movements across the world? Although there is no single or simple answer, psychologists, sociologists and other interdisciplinary scholars are engaging the question.

During the protests in Iran Twitter was hailed as a powerful medium that was able to engage supporters across the world as well as serve as one of the only news outlets that could permeate efforts of censorship. Months later, however, Twitter was again implicated in protest action in the United States. Although this time it was grounds for arresting an activist who was using Twitter to inform protesters about police location.

These two examples show both the ingenuity of protesters who make use of new technology and the subsequent need for those in positions of power to develop new ways of regulating or suppressing collective action. The most recent issue of Journal of Social Issues looks more closely at the social and psychological components of collective action and asks a number of questions about what motivates individuals to participate in movements and what steps are involved in engaging individuals to move from sympathizers to more active members of a movement. The authors also examine social movements formed around race, gender, class-status, and political opinion and note the things we can learn from seeing how these movements operate differently. At Queens College, in New York, scholars are also gathering to understand and theorize on the ways in which governments are changing their methods for dealing with protests and collective action.

In what ways do you think technology, globalization, and the economy have changed collective action and protesting? Does individual motivation to join a movement seem more or less likely in this era than in the past? How has the role of the “state” shifted in response to these changes?

square-eye Journal of Social Issues, The Social and Psychological Dynamics of Collective Action

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