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
Keywords: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.
Boudreau, J. (Nov. 2, 2011). Occupy Wall Street, brought to you by social media. Oakland Tribune. https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/901935102?pq-origsite=summon
Conover, M. D., Ferrara, E., Menczer, F., & Flammini, A. (2013). The digital evolution of Occupy Wall Street. PLoS One, 8.5. e63679. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064679
Dagoula, C. (2019). Mapping political discussion on Twitter: Where the elites remain elites. Media and Communication, 7(1), 225-234. Doi:10.17645/mac.v7i1.1764
Dahlgren, P. (2009). Media and political engagement: Citizens, communication and democracy. Cambridge UP.
Daum, C. W. (2017). Counterpublics and intersectional radical resistance: Agitation as transformation of the dominant discourse. New Political Science, 39(4), 523-537. https://doi.org/10.1080/07393148.2017.1378492
Deka, K. (2019, December 23). Everything you wanted to know about the CAA and NRC. India Today Insight. https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today-insight/story/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-caa-and-nrc-1630771-2019-12-23
Dutta, P. K. (2019, December 20). Anti-CAA protests: Why political parties are hiding behind students. The India Today. https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/anti-caa-protests-why-political-parties-are-hiding-behind-students-1630048-2019-12-20
Edingo, D. B. (2017). Cloud-enabled learning environment: Optimizing collaborative pedagogies, bridging the digital divide, and enhancing inclusive learning. In B. Gurung & M. Limbu (Eds.), Integration of cloud technologies in digitally networked classrooms and learning communities (25-41). IGI Global.
Edingo, D. B. (2014). Re-evaluation of Nepali media, social networking spaces, and democratic practices in media. In M. Limbu & B. Gurung (Eds.), Emerging pedagogies in the networked knowledge society: Practices integrating social media and globalization (262-279). IGI Global.
Ems, L. (2014). Twitter’s place in the tussle: how old power struggles play out on a new stage. Media, Culture & Society, 36(5), 720–731. DOI: 10.1177/0163443714529070
Express Web Desk. (2020, March 24). Shaheen Bagh’s 101-day protest: Timeline of sit-in against CAA. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/shaheen-bagh-protests-cleared-timeline-caa-delhi-coronavirus-6328911/
Habermas, J. (1989). The public sphere: An encyclopedia article. In S. E. Bronner & D. M. Keller, (Eds.), Critical theory and society: A reader (pp. 136-142). Routledge.
Haunss, S. (2015). Promise and practice in studies of social media and movements. In L. Denick & O. Leistert (Eds.), Critical perspectives on social media and protest: Between control and emancipation (pp. 13-31). Rowman & Littlefield.
Hindustan Times. (2019, December 19). Born on social media, anti-NRC group walks on Kolkata streets. The Hindustan Times. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/born-on-social-media-only-days-ago-anti-nrc-group-walks-on-kolkata-streets/story-L8C9enqaxsNkRqvT5p6cFM.html
Kruse, L. M., Norris, D. R., & Flinchum, J. R. (2018). Social media as a public sphere? Politics on social media. The sociological Quarterly, 59(1), 62-84. Doi:10.1080/00380263.2017.138343
Lee, S. N, So, C., Y. K., & Leung, L. (2015). Social media and Umbrella Movement: insurgent public sphere in formation. Chinese Journal of Communication, 8(4), 356-375. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17544750.2015.1088874
Lee, P.S.N., So, C.Y.K., Lee, F., Leung, L., & Chan, M. (2018). Social media and political partisanship—A subaltern public sphere’s role in democracy. Thelematics and Informants, 25, 1940-1957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2018.06.007
Losifidis, P., & Wheeler, M. (2015). The public sphere and networked democracy: Social movements and political change? Global Media Journal, 13(25), 1-17. https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/13776/3/Social%20Media%20-%20Iosifidis-Wheeler.pdf
Lutz, B., & Du Toit, P. (2014). Defining democracy in a digital age: Political support on social media. Palgrave Macmillan
Matsilele, T., & Ruhanya, P. (2020). Social media dissidence and activist resistance in Zimbabwe. Media, Culture & Society, 1-14. DOI: 10.1177/0163443720957886
Mengle, G. S. (2019, December 20). Anti-CAA protests: Social media warriors worked tirelessly behind the scenes. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/social-media-warriors-worked-tirelessly-behind-the-scenes/article30352957.ece
Papacharissi, Z. A. (2010). A private sphere: Democracy in a digital age. Polity Press.
Pason, A. (2017). Phenomenon or meaning? A tale of two occupies. In C. R. Foust, A. Pason & K. Z. Rogness (Eds.), What democracy looks like: The rhetoric of social movements and counterpublics (pp. 107-128). University of Alabama Press.
Penney, J., & Dadas, C. (2014). (Re)Tweeting in the service of protest: Digital composition and circulation in the Occupy Wall Street movement. New Media & Society, 16(1), 74-90. DOI: 10.1177/1461444813479593
Punj, S. (2019, December 18). Citizenship Amendment Act: the anatomy of a protest. India Today Insight. https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today- insight/story/citizenship-amendment-act-the-anatomy-of-a-protest-1629222-2019-12-18
Renzi, A. (2008). The space of tactical media. In M. Boler, (Ed.), Digital media and democracy: tactics in hard times (pp. 71-100). The MIT Press.
Reuters. (2019, December 19). Social media becomes channel for dialogue on Citizenship Amendment Act. Decon Chronicle. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/technology/in-other-news/191219/social-media-becomes-channel-for-dialogue-on-citizenship-amendment-act.html
Sentiment Viz (2020). Tweet Sentiment Visualization. https://www.csc2.ncsu.edu/faculty/healey/tweet_viz/tweet_app/
Shirky, C. (2011). The political power of social media: Technology, the public sphere, and political change. Foreign Affairs, 90(1), 28-41. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25800379
Theocharis, Y., van Deth, J. W, & Garcia-Albacete, G. (2015). Using Twitter to mobilize protest action: Online mobilization patterns and action repertoires in the Occupy Wall Street, Indignados, and Aganaktismenoi movements. Information, Communication & Society, 19(2), 202-220. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2014.948035
Theocharis, Y., & Lowe, W. (2016). Does Facebook increase political participation? Evidence from a field experiment. Information, Communication & Society, 19(10), 1465-1486. Doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1119871
Tirodkar, A. (2019, December 27). CAA-NRC protests: Students turn out in large numbers in Azad Maidan. The News Click. https://www.newsclick.in
Urman, A. (2020). Context matters: political polarization on Twitter from a comparative perspective. Media, Culture & Society, 42(6), 857-879. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443719876541
Warner, M. (2002). Publics and counterpublics. Public Culture, 14(1):49-90. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/26277
Yang, H. C., Paul, N., & DeHert, J. L. (2020). Social Media Uses, Political and Civic Participation in U.S. Election 2016. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 9.2, 275-305. thejsms.org
Yuan, E., Feng, M. & Liu, X. (2017). 3. The R/evolution of civic engagement: an exploratory network analysis of the Facebook groups of occupy Chicago. Information, communication & society, 22(2): 267-285. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1371786
LicenseAuthors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).