Social media, public sphere and counterpublics

An exploratory analysis of the networked use of Twitter during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in India


  • Dilli Bikram Edingo York University


multifaceted public sphere, networked discourses, counterpublics, dominant publics, counternarratives, protests


This study has examined the roles of social media in the formation of a multifaced virtual public sphere for networked political participation. A visualization app/tool and content analysis method were used to collect and analyze 1702 tweets during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)-2019 in India to examine how the rival groups like dominant publics and counterpublics involve in a series of confrontational and discursive interactions to occupy Twittersphere as a networked public sphere. The findings demonstrate that the counterpublics represented by the anti-CAA protesters effectively used both the offline public sphere and Twittersphere as essentially complementary spaces to resist their hegemonic relations with the dominant publics and discriminatory policies, whereas the individuals from the culturally and politically privileged groups and communities dominantly occupied Twittersphere as an alternative to the offline public spheres. Twitter offers political participants a medium for creating networks of engaging political and cultural discourses and frequently communicating them across social media networks as a new way to simultaneously participate in protests. The platform-specific interactive attributes like scalability, multipurpose re/usability and re/purposability that allow diverse groups like counterpublics and dominant publics to concurrently engage themselves in networked political discourses make Twitter a multifaceted online/virtual public sphere. Frequent re/tweeting of engaging contents in the networks of affinity tweets, re/sharing of the engaging contents in the networks of anchor tweets, avoiding offline participation and opting for either one or both of the online and offline protests were the protest-tactics conspicuously employed by the CAA protest participants.

Author Biography

Dilli Bikram Edingo, York University

Ph.D. candidate (ABD)
Communication and Culture (the York/Ryerson joint program), York University, Canada


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