Twitter and the National Fight For 15 Convention

Last week, I posted an analysis of the media coverage of the Fight For 15 convention, which I compiled using the Google News aggregator. With the exception of the New York Times article by Steven Greenfield, all of the information and quotes of each article originated from two Associated Press articles,one previewing the event, and the other providing a recap. This was a sign that very few mainstream media outlets actually covered the event directly.

To supplement these findings, I have also analyzed the top tweets of the #FightFor15 hashtag which correspond to the events that took place in Elmhurst, Illinois on the weekend of July 26th and 27th.

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How Did the Mainstream Media Cover the Fight For $15 Convention?

Two weekends ago, over 1300 people convened in Chicago for the first ever Fight For $15 convention. While the low-wage worker strikes have been escalating over time, with an increasing number of workers and cities involved during each wave, and solidarity among the participants displayed on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, this was the first time that workers-turned-activists from different cities traveled to one location to discuss their experiences and plan for future actions. It could prove to be a major event which unifies the movement as they prepare for escalation in the form of civil disobedience and store occupations.

Due to the importance of this event, I decided to study how the mainstream media covered the gathering, if they even provided coverage. Using Google News, I searched for the term “Fast Food Convention”, which provided over 300 articles, all between July 25th and 28th. After analyzing the first 20 articles, I noticed an emerging pattern: A large majority of these articles were correlated from two Associated Press articles, one which previewed the event [example], and another which provided a recap. [example]

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Likes, Replies, and Event Invites: Facebook and the $15 Minimum Wage Movement

So far, my exploration into groups like 15 Now, Fight For 15, Fast Food Forward, and the multitude of others which compose the $15 Minimum Wage movement, has been focused on the content of tweets and the composition of users who tweet with popular movement hashtags. While Twitter is a network which rapidly facilitates the creation of weak ties which are more useful for spreading information, as studied by Granovetter in “The Strength of Weak Ties”, Facebook is also an important medium which can’t be ignored in the study of new networked social movements.

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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.

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Interviewing Dissent: Outlining the Third Section of my Exploration into New Social Movements

This weekend, I began reading the “Strategy of Social Protest” by William Gamson. He analyzes a random sample of 53 American social movements between 1800 and 1945 that fit into what he defines as an “opposing group.” He seems to be focusing on mainly the outcomes, and has distinct categories for measuring when a group can be considered “successful” in their challenge of a defined antagonist. While this work certainly provides a foundational backbone for the sociological study of social movements, it needs to be complemented by an interactional study of the micro-processes that comprise a social movement, including the role of culture and the frames of the individual protesters.

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Pre-Rally Questions: How can we Explore the Character of Urban Movements?

In the 2013 election, Kshama Sawant defeated a corporate Democrat for a Seattle city council seat, running as a member of the Socialist Alternative party on a platform which heavily featured the $15 per hour minimum wage. Due in part to a progressive city council and mayors office, her debates with opponents of the campaign, and the mobilization of 15 Now both virtually on social media and the streets, she was able to fulfill her campaign promises in just five months. The story of Seattle proves that this type of change is indeed possible in the United States, and corporate money and power can be defeated by the popular will of the people. While some business groups are suing Seattle, and the victory is scheduled to be a gradual increase, it is still a significant achievement, especially in relation to other cities where movements are fighting for the same goals. For instance, can this measure be passed in New York City, where the movement started a year and a half ago with Fast Food Forward?

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What’s In a Tweet?

What is in a tweet? Certainly, we see twitter elements featured on ads in subways and bus shelters, linking our digital and material worlds as if the hashtag symbol itself were a QR code. These hashtags and handles are symbols referencing meanings associated with the digital environment of twitter, whose content is itself comprised of references to the events of our physical world. This interconnectivity between different environments is only increasing as we move into a generation of smart electronics and Google Glass. As we witness this process of singularity occurring before our eyes, we must ask ourselves the question: What is the impact of these technologies on our social world? What I want to explore in particular is how these social networks impact the mobilization and radicalization processes of social movements, and how they can use these tools to build the political power needed to work toward either moderate reform or substantial systemic change in American politics.

As this exploration into the new social movements of the digital age begins, one method for ascertaining the role of social media would be to study current movements against the backdrop of similar mobilizations working toward comparable change in the pre-digital era. How do the protests, rallies, and sit-ins of today differ from past struggles for productive change? What portion of this difference can be attributed to communication via social media? For example, what distinguishes the current fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage from past movements of poor, disenfranchised workers in the United States?

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