From Poell, Abdulla, Rieder, Woltering and Zack (2016)

It has been argued that contemporary or recent protest movements taking place and being organized on social media, such as the Occupy movement, are characterized by a logic of ‘connective action’ in which the sharing of personalized ideas, images, memes by individual activists unaffiliated with established organizations is of importance, and in which formal leadership is absent or unimportant.

This paper critiques that view, by looking at the Facebook page Kullena Khaled Said (We are all Khaled Said) which played a role in bringing about the revolution in Egypt that toppled Mubarak’s regime, and showing that the page’s admins, in their own way, took a leadership role in the events. They then tie this to the idea of ‘connective leadership’, in contrast to more traditional social movement leadership, characterized by the use of social media instead of mass media, steering of discussion and participation instead of giving orders and proclaiming views, of coordinating streams of information and networks of people instead of a formal organization, and so on.

This ties well with my own emerging views on the topic. Social media and modern technologies have not made organizations and leaderships irrelevant or useless, but they have, in some cases, changed their dynamics.

Taken together, the examination, on the one hand, reaffirms Castells’ (2012), and Bennett and Segerberg’s (2012) observation that the 2011 protest wave was not initiated or coordinated by formal SMOs and prominent activist leaders. — On the other hand, our analysis compli-cates the idea that this was an uprising organized by the crowd through self-motivated online sharing. It suggests that the sharing of grievances, as well as more complex pro-cesses of protest mobilization and coordination, was facilitated and shaped by what has been labeled as connective leadership. — Whereas social movement leadership appears effective in motivating protest participation through mass media, connective leadership, in its focus on actively involving users in the articulation of protest, seems especially suitable for the social media age.

Poell, T., Abdulla, R., Rieder, B., Woltering, R., & Zack, L. (2015). “Protest leadership in the age of social media”. Information, Communication & Society, 4462(June), 1–21.

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