Symbols of Mobilisation on Social Media

Editors: Raquel Tarullo (Centro de Investigaciones y Transferencia del Noroeste de la provincia de Buenos Aires) and Dra. Agnese Sampietro (Universitat Jaume I de Castelló).

Mobilisation and activism that are deployed on digital spaces have opened a spectrum of possibilities for people who are trying to find their participation place on social media. Whether social media promote political participation and mobilisation, creating new spaces of political expression and debate or, on the contrary, they have just motivated slacktivism, is still under discussion (Breuer & Farooq, 2012; Morozov, 2011). On one side, the ones with a technoptimistic view (Waisbord, 2015, p.76) consider that social media have facilitated the debate about political agenda issues to those who didn’t have access to these topics before (Howard et al., 2011; Shirky, 2011; Zuckerman, 2014). On the other side, there are authors who affirm that digital participation demands minimal effort compared to the one that mobilisation requires in the real world. Moreover, authors with a more pessimistic position argue that these digital practices are carried out in an easy and comfortable manner, and this panorama is congruent with the almost null effects and consequences that these practices bring to the offline world of politics (Fuchs, 2017; Gladwell, 2010). However, not all the political participation activities can be evaluated following the same scheme: thus, some of these behaviours can be observed as participation patterns that generate mobilisation and activism that can influence the political decisions that are made in the formal spaces of power, others just circulate outside of these spaces (Christensen, 2011).

Beyond these discussions, digital context allows a wide spectrum of different performances to the vehiculization of activism and mobilisation. On one hand, social media promote the visibilization of struggles that used to be tied to traditional media interests; then, they bring together the participation of global communities with similar identity interests; and last but not least they contribute to a sweeping and continually changing range of tools, resources and symbols that give activists new ways of telling their struggles. Thus, content is tailored according to the objective pursued, and this flows throughout digital spaces, creating new and innovative digital formats of struggles, that is alluded to as new forms of citizenship in an environment of constant and fluid interaction (Papacharissi, 2015). If in the urban space of streets and squares, poster, graffiti, banners, balloons, hypes, bonds, t-shirts, umbrellas, scarves and bandanas are the symbolic expressions of activist groups and communities, social media promote and collaborate with this scenario but not only with their reproduction (Martín Rojo, 2012, 2016), but also the digital architecture of these platforms support the creation of other and new symbols that, with traditional manifestations, are part of the storytelling of collective and organization struggles.

Thus, we ask: Which are the symbols of digital activism? How are symbols of mobilisation and participation expressed on social media? Which are the roles of these symbols? Are they new forms of political expressions of a digital citizen? How do these symbols interact with the offline symbolic representation? This special issue proposes to analyse the use of these and other symbols in digital activism and mobilisation through interdisciplinary perspectives: linguistics, communication, political science and sociology. The proposed approach is to study the symbols that are deployed on the digital scenario, its relationship with the symbolic resources that occur in the urban space and the role of these digital performances in the reproduction and resignification of these urban manifestations.

Besides, the dialogue and encounter of both these symbolic sets in the stories that circulate on digital platforms and their effects in the real world can be another approach to the topic of this issue. The cases of study can include research about offline reproduction symbols (banners, mobilisation symbols, slogan circulation, campaign posters) and online ones (hashtags, images, videos, memes) that are spread in any type of mobilisation: gender collectives, feminist organizations, workers organizations, students unions, environmental activism, religious groups, independentist movements, human rights organizations, political mobilisation, organizations in defence of immigrants and refugees, cultural, ethnic or linguistic minorities, political activism in electoral campaign periods, among others. Taking this as a starting point, we accept articles that address the theme of symbols in digital context as deployment and/or promotion of digital activism, as well as symbolic manifestations in the urban space and its flows through digital spaces in potential interactions with the new resources and tools that social media allow.

Dígitos will give priority to articles addressing the following topics:

  • The reproduction in digital spaces of mobilisation symbols that are used in the offline world and the urban space
  • The role of hashtags on mobilisation promotion
  • The use of memes on digital mobilisation
  • Methodological approaches to the study of mobilisation symbols in the digital space
  • Theoretical notions about the use of symbols for digital mobilisation and activism
  • The reproduction of symbols in digital spaces as a mobilisation strategy
  • The media coverage of mobilisation and activism on social media
  • Strategies in the use of symbols in digital spaces
  • Visualization strategies in political and social mobilisation on social media

Open Section: articles on any topic related to the magazine’s general field of study (digital communications).

Reviews: critiques of research articles and doctoral theses in the field of digital communications published during the last few years.

Author registration for sending article or review proposals here

Submission guidelines for Dígitos here

  • Article length: 3.000-10.000 words (for the Monograph and Open Section)
  • Review length: 800-1500 words

Deadline for paper submission:15 December 2019