Influences of media on social movements: Problematizing hyperbolic inferences about impacts

Anthony A. Olorunnisola, Brandie L. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Pronouncements about the value of information and communication technology (ICT) (hereafter traditional, new, and social media) to social movements-hyperbolic in popular media references to new and social media (e.g., Facebook revolution, Twitter revolution, etc.)-invite scholarly inquiries that critically assess the implications of these assumptions for African countries. Sensing the tendency toward technological determinism, a position which Castells warns is fraught with failure to recognize complex interactions between society and technology; authors examined popular press vis-à-vis scholarly assumptions about the value of media during social movements. Questions that critically analyze the roles and power of old versus new media in social movements should be posed particularly about 21st century iterations with citizens increasingly doubling as creators and disseminators of news and information. For example: to what extent do various media comparatively facilitate or constrain activists in social movements? How have new ICTs assisted citizen activists in circumventing the power and reach of traditional media? How have the roles of traditional versus new media in social movements been framed in the popular press and academic journals? What contextual factors (e.g., communal networks; third-party- and foreign-interventions, digital divide, etc.) may be accountable for the take-off and successes of social movements? In a continent fraught with cultural, political, and socio-economic divisions of historic proportions, authors critically assessed cases across Africa of variegated employment of old (i.e., radio, newspaper, television) and new media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, mobile telephone text messaging) by four social movements spanning 35 years. Assessments underscore citizen empowerment and multiplier capabilities of new media but affirm the value of contextual factors that minimize hyperbolic assumptions about the contribution of new media to the formation and progression of social movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-288
Number of pages14
JournalTelematics and Informatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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