Based on 17 in-depth interviews with people involved in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, we present a typology of how Twitter is used in the service of protest that draws attention to its utilization in conjunction with face-to-face actions. The OWS case study demonstrates how the rapid digital circulation of texts allows protestors to quickly build a geographically dispersed, networked counterpublic that can articulate a critique of power outside of the parameters of mainstream media. Furthermore, we find that the relay of pre-existing material was perceived to be just as meaningful a form of participation as drafting original compositions. By including these forwarding activities in their online efforts, these Twitter users worked to expand the circulation of information building and sustaining an OWS counterpublic. However, dependence on this external platform leaves protestors vulnerable to restrictions on their ability to communicate, as well as to unwanted surveillance from potentially hostile authorities.
- Digital rhetoric and composition
- online activism
- social media
- social movements