WGSS Thesis Spotlight

Activism in Transition: Social Media Activism and the Contentious Politics of Social Change

Author: Katelyn Aberl, Double major in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies & Philosophy

Thesis committee: Dr. Wendy Smooth (thesis advisor) and Dr. Cricket Keating

Abstract: Online spaces have changed the way new generations of activists interact with their communities and get involved in movements for resistance. Using social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram, internet users engaged in social issues have called into question how we think about activism and leadership roles in movements. While some uplift the potential of social media to democratize knowledge production in activism, some seek to delegitimize it. Despite the fact that traditional and social media activisms share many similarities in their work, social media activism is harshly compared to traditional activism and given the name “slacktivist.” This research project takes a look into the differences and commonalities between traditional and social media activism, and looks into where claims of slacktivism are based. From that discussion, I argue that social media activism should count as real activism, contrary to the views of those who agree with the claims of slacktivism.

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