How social media supports hashtag activism through multivocality: A case study of #ILookLikeanEngineer

Keywords: hashtag activism, multivocality, polyphony, gender diversity, Twitter, social media

Abstract

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.

Author Biographies

Aqdas Malik, George Mason University
Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, George Mason University
Aditya Johri, George Mason University
Associate Professor at the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, George Mason University
Rajat Handa, George Mason University
Research Assistant at the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, George Mason University
Habib Karbasian, George Mason University
PhD student at the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, George Mason University
Hemant Purohit, George Mason University
Assistant Professor at the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, George Mason University
Published
2018-11-01
How to Cite
Malik, A., Johri, A., Handa, R., Karbasian, H., & Purohit, H. (2018). How social media supports hashtag activism through multivocality: A case study of #ILookLikeanEngineer. First Monday, 23(11). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i11.9181