Mediated Digital Activism: A Critical Assessment of Opportunities, Promises and Problems of Social Media Uses in Contemporary Grassroots Movements

Baruck Opiyo 1 *, Ülfet Kutoğlu Kuruç 1

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Abstract

The rapid development and widespread and increasing use of Social Networking sites is arguably one the most significant developments in contemporary human communication over the past two decades. Indeed, perhaps comparable only to development of mobile communication technologies, social networking may well be one of the most important and visible forms of human interaction since the invention of the Internet. In this paper, we examine and highlight the enormous potential of these fairly recent technological developments and highlight opportunities they present to humankind as platforms for democratic and participatory communication and governance - especially in grassroots social movements activism. While doing so, we use cases to show the important potential and actual contributions that social media hold out and represent for democratic communication. The paper also casts a critical look at the potential risks and examines proven and theoretical shortcomings and challenges that these new advances in human communication may pose or represent for society, and identify cybercrime, cyber bullying, their effects on human physical and emotional health, their impact on productivity and other workplace complications, and potential societal disorder and dysfunction of certain social norms among the list of concerns that we suggest require further reflection and redress. The paper concludes by depicting social media as a potentially useful tool from which much social and societal capital can be derived; but also draws attention to their many problematic aspects that make them seem like double-edged sword – with enormous opportunities and benefits on the one hand, and risks and threats, on the other, depending primarily on the uses to which they are put. Global, regional and national initiatives should be taken to maximize the benefits of social media while minimizing, or at least containing the threats through incorporation of independent but limited guidelines and regulations that would safeguard people’s freedoms and rights while protecting users from abuses and adverse effects often inherent in new developments.

Keywords

social media cyber-democracy cybercrime social media activism conflict participatory democracy conflict sensitive journalism social media literacy

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Article Type: Research Article

Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 6, Issue December 2016 - Special Issue, pp. 121-148

Published Online: 01 Dec 2016

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