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Youtube, Twitter and the Occupy Movement


DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2012.756051

Kjerstin Thorson, Kevin Driscoll, Brian Ekdale, Stephanie Edgerly, Liana Gamber Thompson, Andrew Schrock, Lana Swartz, Emily K. Vraga & Chris Wells (2013) YOUTUBE, TWITTER AND THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT, Information, Communication & Society, 16:3, 421-451. Print.

p.423: Videos stored on YouTube served as a valuable set of communicative resources for publics interested in the Occupy movement. This article explores this loosely bound media ecology, focusing on how and what types of video content are shared and circulated across both YouTube and Twitter. Developing a novel datacollection methodology, a population of videos posted to YouTube with Occupyrelated metadata or circulated on Twitter alongside Occupy-related keywords during the month of November 2011 was assembled. In addition to harvesting metadata related to view count and video ratings on YouTube and the number of times a video was tweeted, a probability sample of 1100 videos was hand coded, with an emphasis on classifying video genre and type, borrowed sources of content, and production quality. The novelty of the data set and the techniques adapted for analysing it allow one to take an important step beyond cataloging Occupy-related videos to examine whether and how videos are circulated on Twitter. A variety of practices were uncovered that link YouTube and Twitter together, including sharing cell phone footage as eyewitness accounts of protest (and police) activity, digging up news footage or movie clips posted months and sometimes years before the movement began; and the sharing of music videos and other entertainment content in the interest of promoting solidarity or sociability among publics created through shared hashtags. This study demonstrates both the need for, and challenge of, conducting social media research that accommodates data from multiple platforms. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.424: Each of these videos entered the communication ecology of the Occupy movement in November 2011, and each reflects a different set of expectations and experiences regarding the production, use, and circulation of online video. The purpose of this article is to explore the diversity of media practices within contemporary social movements by opening a window into the specific case of videos linked to the Occupy movement. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.424: Digital media challenge classic theories of collective action by enabling widescale, relatively unorganized contributions to repositories of resources for networks of activists and interested publics (Bimber et al. 2005; Baym & Shah 2011; Earl & Kimport 2011). -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.425: We conceptualize the stock of videos available to a movement as a ‘second-order communal good’ (Bimber et al. 2005), a collection of resources created collectively, but without a bounded community, through video posting, tagging and circulation practices engaged in by individuals. In many cases, these practices are in turn enabled (and sometimes constrained) by the affordances of commercial online platforms such as YouTube and Twitter. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.426: An essential question in the debate is what functions social media actually play in protest movements. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.426: Segerberg and Bennett (2011), for instance, argue that social media now play an important role in ‘coconstitut[ing] and coconfigur[ing] the protest space’ (p. 201). Any protest movement is a negotiation between a variety of entities, including individual activists and formal groups, who must work together to define issues from the movement’s next actions to the movement’s identity and meaning. Social media are increasingly one of the arenas where that negotiation may take place, particularly within movements with relatively weak or nonexistent formal structures and diverse participant perspective such as Occupy. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.427: Additionally, activist media provide a means of circumventing the mainstream news media, which has often ignored or offered distorted coverage of protest movements (McLeod & Hertog 1999). -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.427: Scholars of participatory culture have noted that digital artists regularly scour and appropriate archival and contemporary videos to create digital remixes and mash-ups – producing new texts using components of recognizable cultural artefacts (Jenkins 2003; Burgess & Green 2009; Horwatt 2009). -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.427: Baym and Shah argue that videos fulfil diverse movement needs, acting as informational resources, as affinity resources to aid in the development of collective identity, and, potentially, as deliberative resources that can expand the pool of arguments for and against a variety of issue positions. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.427: As Castells (2012) points out, the Occupy movement was characterized by a ‘hybrid form of space’ made up of both physical occupations and their networked mediation. However, online traces remain vitally important as they ‘allowed the experience to be communicated and amplified, bringing in the entire world into the movement, and creating a permanent forum of solidarity, debate and strategic planning’ (p. 177). -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.428: Such video creation and circulation practices fit squarely under Mann’s notion of sousveillance (Mann et al. 2003; Mann 2004), an ‘inverse panopticon’ that keeps watch on those in power in an effort to equalize the asymmetrical nature of the relationship. These videos were subsequently used as source material for fellow activists, to show evidence of police brutality, and re-circulated through mainstream news. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.428: Twitter provides researchers with an intriguing window into the public and semi-public communication networks of protest movement actors, offering opportunities to see behind the veil of difficult-tostudy social movement processes. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.433: Cross-tabulation of the data also enabled us to select videos by specific practices, such as ‘remixed videos of protest footage’, for richer, textual analysis. In what follows, we use examples from this analysis to illustrate the diversity of videos that comprised Occupy’s media ecology. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.442: These types of videos make sense through the lens of sousveillance, exemplifying the use of portable devices by activists to monitor the behaviour of those in power and strategically force transparency on the actions of police (Bakir 2010). But Occupiers and interested others also posted passionate, eloquent appeals for political reform, mash-ups of protest and occupation footage from around the world, self-produced videos for original songs about Occupy, and slide shows about Occupy narrated with protest songs from the 1960s. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.442: Whether Occupiers regarded YouTube as a platform for publicity, sociality, circulation, or simply as a personal archive, the materials they uploaded contributed to a stock of resources available to publics associated with the Occupy movement. The mere act of adding ‘Occupy’ to a YouTube video’s title, tags, or description made it accessible via search and therefore part of a communal good – ‘a class of public goods attained through communication ... where members jointly hold a single body of information’ (Fulk et al. 1996, p. 67). -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.443: As artefacts and discourses cross the boundaries among different platforms, they reveal an interdependence among sites and services that exceeds the relationship of any one corporation to another. Disruptions on one platform will have unpredictable effects – social as well as technical – to all interrelated platforms. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014