Monthly Archives: January 2013

Twitter and Microblogging conference at Lancaster (#LUtwit)

Just thought I’d post the abstract that has been accepted for the Twitter and Microblogging conference in Lancaster in April. More details on the conference here (and, closer the time, using the hashtag #LUtwit).


A discourse-historical approach to media framing of activists use of Twitter

The aim of this paper is to explore media framing of the use of Twitter by activists protesting against the current Coalition government’s austerity measures, with UK Uncut and Boycott Workfare highlighted as examples of these activist networks. Recent research from within social movement studies suggests that the definition of political opportunity structures must be broadened to include media opportunity structures (Crossley 2002; Cammaerts 2012). This approach contends that activists are aware of mediated political representations of their strategies, which in turn influence activist’s protest repertoires.

This paper adopts a discourse-historical approach to critical discourse analysis (Wodak 2001) to show how media framing of the utilisation of social media platforms, specifically Twitter, by activists is used as a discursive strategy to delegitimise the claims of protesters, extending CDA to issues surrounding social media (see also Unger 2012). I argue that claims made by journalists and politicians within the field of mediated politics, such as on BBC’s Newsnight, frame the use of social media for activism in a variety of negative ways. Twitter is represented both as a medium colonised by radical and extremist opinion and an instrument employed by individual activists in order to mobilise their followers. Activists’ use of twitter is represented in dualistic terms (Jurgenson 2012), where a separation between online and offline is strategically employed to discredit activists. This analysis paves the way for further questions relating to how activists respond to these representations, both within the news media and through social media.


Cammaerts, B. (2012) Protest logics and the mediation opportunity structure. European Journal of Communication 27(2): 117-134.

Crossley, N. (2002) Making sense of social movements. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Jurgenson, N. (2012) When atoms meet bits: Social media, the mobile web and augmented revolution. Future Internet 4: 83-91.

Unger, J. (2012) Confronting critical discourse analysis with social media. Paper presented at Language and Social Media: New Challenges for Research and Teaching Linguistics, 26-27 April 2012, University of Leicester.

Wodak, R. (2001) The discourse-historical approach. In: R. Wodak and M. Meyer, eds. Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage, 63-94.


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