How the hashtag revolutionizes the way we collectively contend for our interests

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Borja, Eric Enrique

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Political contention has entered a new age. Over the past three years unprecedented large-scale movements have challenged states across the globe, and social media has been an important component in their development and articulation. With the advent of social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, ordinary people have the technological ability to instantaneously transcend space, time and resources (Aouraugh and Alexander 2011; Castells 2012; Earl and Kimport 2009, 2011; Eltantawy, Nahed and Wiest 2011; Gerbaudo 2012; Hands 2011; Holmes 2012; Mason 2012). Are we currently living in a historical moment where a new repertoire of contention is emerging? If so, how is social media changing the way we collectively contest for our interests? The theoretical framework I propose in this paper advances and elaborates a social geographic approach in the framing of political contention that emphasizes the importance of the spatiality and temporality created by the hashtag (#) in the development and articulation of today's social movements. In addition to secondary sources about the protests in Brazil (#VemPraRua), I draw on participant observations to analyze a new modular form of protest I call the "hashtag movement." I claim that the hashtag (#) creates a new space/time (Massey 1992, 2007; Soja 1996) that fundamentally shifts the process of nation-ness (Anderson 2006) and marks a new phase in the mediazation of modern culture (Thompson 1991); two fundamental shifts that I argue are comparable to the structural and cultural shifts that formed the modern repertoire of contention (Anderson 2006; Della Porta and Diani 1999; McAdam 1999; McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly 2001; Sewell 1990, 1996; Swidler 1986; Tarrow 1993, 1994; Tilly 1986, 1995a, 1995b; Young 2002).




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