The nature of participation in internet activism: the case of the #ZumaMustFall movement on Twitter
Political participation is a key principle in maintaining a healthy democracy by keeping governments and political parties accountable to the constituencies that elected them (Bimber, et al., 2015:22; Issakson, 2014:244; Stockemer, 2014:201-202). However, when conventional forms of political participation, like voting, aren’t sufficiently addressing the concerns of citizens, unconventional forms of political participation, like demonstrations, boycotts and petitions, increase (Stockhemer, 2013:202). With the development of information and communication technologies (ICT’s) innovations like the internet, mobile phones and social media enhanced the way in which global collective action and the participation in activism such as social movements occur. Social media, as a result of the development of Web 2.0 allowed for platforms like Twitter to provide participants with the ability to build pervasive networks that can organise social action at a rate that was not possible before. Twitter specifically, supports a fast, constant and variety of engagement that contributes to activism movements whilst also indicating public responsiveness to certain content and information within the sphere of the movement (Della Porta & Mattoni, 2010:175; Howard & Hussain, 2011:36). The #ZumaMustFall movement is an example a social movement that saw the use of internet activism, specifically on Twitter, as an essential tool to mobilise participation. The movement called for the resignation of South African president Jacob Zuma after various controversial issues in which he was involved (Van Onselen, 2015; Nhlabathi, 2015). It is against the above mentioned theoretical context that the #ZumaMustFall movement was studied. Quantitative social network analysis and qualitative content analysis were carried out against the theoretical framework of the Dialogical Framework of Transnational Diffusion. The analysis indicated that the news media played an essential role in mobilising the movement after which power shifted towards grassroots individuals. Due to the empowerment of grassroots individuals they were able pressure local political parties and politicians to get involved with the movement. The movement’s identity also played an important role in increasing participation. Only when the identity shifted from a racial narrative towards a collective identity, did the movement see more wide-spread participation. Ultimately, the increasing empowerment and shift in movement identity resulted in the offline application of the movement spreading from only Johannesburg and Cape Town to locations like Pretoria, other parts of Johannesburg and even Tanzania.
- Humanities