Early Hypotheses: Who is Fighting for $15 on Twitter and What are they Tweeting?

What findings do I expect to discover from my research into the Twitter presence of 15 Now and related movements fighting to raise the minimum wage and how they tactically mobilize and spread the movement using a social media platform comprised of only 16% of the U.S. population? [source] Due to my years of experience using Twitter for these purposes, it won’t be too much of a stretch to formulate a hypothesis of what the hashtag histories of #15now, #FightFor15, and other related tags will look like.

To begin, I don’t expect an equal distribution of Twitter usage among hashtag participants. While Occupy was a decentralized movement of movements that truly didn’t have any formal leaders, 15 Now is an organized group supported by Socialist Alternative, with a clear leader in Seattle councilwoman Kshama Sawant. I expect the Twitter environment to mirror these dynamics, with a majority of the content originating from handles associated with Kshama Sawant, 15 Now, and Socialist Alternative.

 

I will now formulate the categories of users that are expected to be using #15now. These ideal types will also be applied to #FightFor15, #RaiseUpNY, and other related hashtags to provide insight into the formation and composition of these virtual activist spaces. The users will first be split into two main categories: individuals and groups. I will re-appropriate the classifications used by Lotan et AL. In “The Revolutions Were Tweeted: Information Flows During the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions” [source] splitting non-media organizations into primary and secondary, based on the correlation between: their goals and the aims stated by the larger movement.


Groups

Primary organizations: These include the twitter handles of groups which are directly involved with mobilizing supporters and organizing actions. Due to the explosion of this movement throughout the US, I would consider groups fighting for the same cause outside Seattle to also be in this category.

 

Secondary organizations:These include any other group or movement which is supporting the goal of a higher minimum wage, but also have broader goals beyond the Fight for $15. The line between primary and secondary groups will likely be very thin, especially as the spread of solidarity brings together different organizations under one larger movement.

 

Mainstream media: Any twitter handle belonging to a media source which is widely considered to be part of the traditional corporate media structure. A majority of these sources likely existed before the spread of the Internet and social media.

 

Independent New Media: Other media sources which aren’t considered mainstream in the traditional sense but have a significant following in the virtual world. These include news sources like ThinkProgress and Huffington Post as well as blogs like DailyKos and Salon.

 

Local media: This category includes local sources whose primary presence isn’t online, like local news papers or small independent news stations.


Individuals

 

Politicians:Handles belonging to people who either hold or are running for local, state, or national office. This includes members of third parties like Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative and Jill Stein of the Green Party.

 

Activists:Individuals whose post and retweet content which pertains to activism. These accounts can either be focused on one issue or contain material of a diverse set of activist groups and movements.

Mainstream Journalists: Handles which are used by journalists who work for a media outlet which is part of the traditional corporate media structure.

 

New Media Journalists/Bloggers: Accounts which are used by journalists and bloggers who write for a popular blog or online news site.

 

Citizen Journalists:Users who either have their own personal blog or livetweet movement events, thus providing instant coverage. Many of these individuals can likely also be grouped as activists. This potential issue will be explored once the content analysis begins.

 

Local residents: Since the #15now movement is centered in Seattle, I suspect that inhabitants of the city and surrounding areas are using the hashtag, even if they aren’t specifically activists or politicians. I also predict that local residents of other areas of the US will also be involved, since #15now is connected to #FightFor15, #ShowMe15, #FastFoodFwd, #RaiseUpNY, and other localized movements for a higher minimum wage.


These comprise the classification system which I expect to use, based on Lotan et al.’s work as well as previous twitter experiences. Media companies and journalists are split into mainstream, new media, and citizen/local, so that we can uncover the differences between how twitter users in diverse positions of the media spectrum use social networking sites to provide coverage of the movement.

 

These groups are always subject to change once the content analysis begins, and there is a chance that the categories formulated through the research will then be applied to other current movements, like #climatemarch leading up to the People’s Climate March on September 21st in New York City.

 

Furthermore, I also predict that there will be many tweets originating from accounts representing primary organizations from outside Seattle, who use #15Now in solidarity. These include groups like Fight For 15, Fast Food Forward, and other groups working toward the same objective in other American cities. Whether they are posting retweets, articles and information supporting the goal, or citizen/local media from their own events, these message are important for building feelings of togetherness and commonality between groups who are geographically separated. I predict that these #15Now tweets from outside Seattle will feature hashtags which are used by specific primary organizations (e.g. #ShowMe15, #D15) alongside more general tags (e.g. #LowPayIsNotOK, #RaiseTheWage). These messages are essential for building solidarity.

 

Each time a hashtag is present in a tweet, the visibility of the message is spread to a new subset of users searching that hashtag. The spread of occupy, and worldwide protests like #fastfoodglobal would be impossible without the horizontal organization of twitter ,which allows users from different localities to connect instantly, and share ideas, information, and other content.

 

I fully expect that these solidarity flows are present in these hashtags, uniting the ideas, information, and cultural meanings from workers in different locales who are experiencing the same economic situation. While I am hoping to see tweets from Seattle fast food workers who are taking part in the movement, I suspect that the distribution of tweets will favor groups, their leaders, and their organizational allies. Most accounts will be based in Seattle, with a smaller subset consisting of organizations from throughout the US, and an even smaller subset of organizations outside the US.

 

Next, I will categorize the types of tweets which I expect to see in the hashtag histories. They are defined based on the role they play in mobilizing supporters, reporting on events in physical space, and strengthening the feeling of community among members. I predict that we will see three types of tweets:


Informational: Includes links to articles or other websites accompanied by the title of the article or a very brief description. These digital artifacts are likely to include facts or opinions which support the overall goal of the movement. Other media such as pictures and video can also be attached. Oppositional informational tweets might also be found, posted by those who use #15Now and related hashtags but generally oppose the movement.

Media: A huge feature of the multicast twitter environment, these include text, pictures, or video from users who are posting from an event or meeting related to the movement. They might also include activity from traditional mainstream media outlets, but only if these tweets are covering a specific movement event. They provide a first-person context for those who are following the action on Twitter, helping comprise the virtual space which supports actions in material space.

 

Solidarity: Briefly mentioned earlier, these are essential for building social movements. These tweets are statements of support from members as well as other organizations and individuals who consider themselves in solidarity with the mission and goals of the movement.


The categorizations outlined here provide initial expectations to what types of users and tweets I expect to find in my study of 15Now and related movements in the networked twitter environment. Scanning through the hundreds of tweets which comprise #15Now and related hashtags and labeling the user and tweet types will help uncover how certain social actors use twitter, what their role is in the greater movement, and hopefully, how movement communities can be built around the interplay of virtual networks of Twitter and Facebook, and physical networks of organizational offices and events in urban space.

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