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Conference ‘Social Media and Social Movements’

September 18-19, 2014

St. Petersburg

The conference ‘Social Media and Social Movements’ was organized by the Laboratory for Internet Studies (NRU Higher School of Economics) for the second time in 2014, now with support by the Centre for German and European Studies. The conference aimed at the emerging – and vibrant – interdisciplinary community of scholars interested in digital society – a society where social life is embedded in rapidly developing communication technologies and media.

This year, the focus was on how social movements have been transformed by user-generated online activities, and what impact these transformed movements have had on broader social processes. The conference was opened with 2 workshops – ‘Mining and Analyzing (Russian) Social Media’ by Sergei Koltcov (Laboratory for Internet Studies, NRU Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg) and ‘Hyperlink Network Analysis with VOSON’ by Robert Ackland (Australian National University), – introducing to participants software to mine and analyze social media and social networks. The following 2 days of the conference included 3 keynote talks and 28 participants’ presentations, addressing the impact of social media on social movements with regards to resource mobilization, collective action frames, construction of collective identities, and (possible) radicalization. Robert Ackland’s talk ‘Online Activist Fields on Web 1.0 and Twitter’ provided an overview of network approaches to studying online social movements, highlighting how social movement actors are adapting to social media such as Twitter. Andrey Bystritsky (Higher School of Economics, Moscow) in his keynote speech ‘The End of Dreams About Media Revolution: From Bastille Storming to Color Revolutions’ suggested to rethink the exaggerated influence of social media on social reality transformation, in particular on social movements. The third keynote talk ‘Social Media and Protest Participation’ by Maria Petrova explored how advances in information technologies affect public policies and examined different mechanisms that can drive the effect of social media penetration on participation in political protest activities. Other topics discussed by conference participants included social media and political participation, the role of social media in street protests, global social movements, repertoires of online activism, social media and social movement outcomes, the social space of online movements, and methodological developments in research on social media and social movements.