How social media supports hashtag activism through multivocality: A case study of #ILookLikeanEngineer
Keywords:hashtag activism, multivocality, polyphony, gender diversity, Twitter, social media
Although research on different hashtag activism campaigns abounds, no study has looked at how different affordances of social media support a single campaign. We use data from a hashtag activism campaign, #ILookLikeAnEngineer, launched to showcase diversity within engineering workforce, to examine how different elements of a campaign blend together. We specifically identify three distinct but interconnected ways in which social media supports activism: 1) modality — it allows users to participate through text, photos, and links; 2) messaging — it allows users to post and support multiple though related topics; and 3) actors — it provides a voice to different participants (individuals/organizations, men/women). Our analysis supports the idea that multivocality — the core idea that people leverage multiple ways of participating — is the key to campaign success. Our analysis of 19,492 original tweets and 89,650 retweets shows that multivocality allowed the campaign to receive support not just from individuals but from large corporations, media, and NGOs, who were able to share their perspective using their preferred modality giving rise to a new form of digital polyphonic narrative that supports their agenda.
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