From Multitude to Crowds: Collective Action and the Media

by Eduardo Cintra Torres (Volume editor) Samuel Mateus (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 268 Pages
Series: passagem, Volume 8


From Multitude to Crowds: Collective Action and the Media presents a study of collective action in the 21st century. Experts from Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy, Political Communication and Media Studies offer a multidisciplinary approach to social formations in contemporary collective action. The various contributions discuss the relevance of media and communications in social movements and how social mobilization has changed in mediatized societies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Summary
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Introduction
  • I Theoretical Approaches
  • Crowds, Assemblies, Demonstrations, and Clusters
  • Mass, Publics and Multitudes: Digital Activism and some of its Paradoxes
  • The Politics of the Senses: Crowd Formation through Sensory Manipulation
  • Publics and Multitudes: The (Un)Expected Relation
  • II Historical Approaches
  • French Literature around the Construction and Transformations of May 68’s Memory
  • An Early Example of Media, Social Movements and Crowd Interaction: The Oporto General Strike of 1903
  • Freudian Mass Psychology in the Age of Networks
  • III Multitude and Media Strategies
  • Release the Numbers! Multitudes, Crowds, Publics… and Audiences
  • Social Mobilization and Social Media: People Are the Message
  • No Consensus on Consensus: A Paradox within Wikipedian Governance and Collective Action
  • IV Social Movements and Mass Protest
  • Effects of the Gezi Resistance on the Interaction of Different Social Movements and Their Media Strategies
  • Crowding and Feeling Political Communities: Successful and Failed Mass Demonstrations in Hungary 2013
  • June 2013, Brazil: Protests as Empowerment Factors and Promotion of Political Opportunities

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Notes on Contributors

Balázs Kiss, PhD, is senior research fellow at the Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His fields are political communication studies and the role of emotions in politics. kiss.balazs@tk.mta.hu.

Cécile Méadel is Professor at the Department of Communication (IFP) of Pantheon Assas University in Paris, associate researcher at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation (Mines ParisTech/CNRS). Her research interests are on uses and users of communication technologies and on the governance of the internet. Her last English works: ‘Moving to the peoplemetered audience. A sociotechnical approach’, European Journal of Communication, 2015. F. Massit-Folléa, C. Méadel & L. Monnoyer-Smith (eds), Normative Experience and Internet Politics, 2012. É. Brousseau, M. Marzouki et C. Méadel (eds), Governance, Regulations and Power on the Internet, 2012. Email: cecile.meadel@mines-paristech.fr.

Christian Borch is Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His current research focuses on crowd theory and financial markets. His books include Foucault, Crime and Power: Problematisations of Crime in the Twentieth Century (Routledge, 2015); The Politics of Crowds: An Alternative History of Sociology (Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Niklas Luhmann (Key Sociologists) (Routledge, 2011). Email: cbo.mpp@cbs.dk.

Ece Baykal Fide is a PhD student in Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence affiliated to CHERPA (Croyance, Histoire, Espace, Régulation Politique et Administrative) and IREMAM (Institut de Recherche et d’Etude sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman). She is graduated from Galatasaray Communication Faculty and she obtained her master degree in Sciences Politics from the same university. She is also research assistant in Marmara University Communication Faculty in Istanbul.ece.baykal@marmara.edu.tr.

Eduardo Cintra Torres is Visiting Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Human Sciences, Catholic University of Portugal, and at ISCTE-IUL. Researcher at CECC, FCH, UCP. Author and co-editor of 14 books. Articles published in Brazil, Canada, France, England and Portugal. PHD in Sociology, ICS-UL. Television, advertising and media critic in four Portuguese media. Research interests: Television ← 7 | 8 → Studies, Sociology of Crowds and Sociology of Literature. Email: eduardocintratorres@gmail.com.

Erik Neveu is professor of political science at Rennes’ University and deputy director of the CNRS research team Centre de Recherches sur l’Action Politique en Europe. His major research topics are linked to journalism and the public sphere, social movements and public problems. He recently published “Sociologie Politique des Problèmes Publics” (A Colin, Paris, 2015). erik.neveu@sciencespo-rennes.fr.

Gabriella Szabó, PhD, is research fellow at the Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her research interests lie in the area of political communication and communities, studies on public sphere and media. szabo.gabriella@tk.mta.hu.

Gustavo Cardoso is Researcher at CIES-IUL and Professor of “Media and Society” at ISCTE - Lisbon University Institute. His research interests include communication and media studies, the information society, cultural industries and telecommunications. His main publications include The Network Society: From Knowledge to Policy. Email: gustavo.cardoso@iscte.pt.

Jérôme Bourdon is professor at the Department of Communications at Tel Aviv University and associate researcher at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation (ParisTech/CNRS), Paris. He researches the global history of television, the relations between media and memory, the representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the archeology of the Internet. Recent books: Television Audiences Across the World. Deconstructing the Ratings Machine (co-edited with Cécile Méadel), 2014. Du service public à la télé-réalité, une histoire culturelle des télévisions européennes, 2011. Email: jeromeb@post.tau.ac.il.

João Carlos Correia is Associate Professor at University of Beira Interior and Researcher in Labcomm. He is Director of Studies in Communication (Labcom) and author, among others, of Communication and Citizenship (Livros Horizonte, written in Portuguese). His research interests include political communication, new technologies and Public Sphere Studies. E-mail: jcorreia@ubi.pt.

Júlio César Lemos de Castro is research fellow in Communication at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and senior researcher at the Laboratory of Social Theory, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis of the University of São Paulo. Holds a PhD in Communication and Semiotics by the Pontifical Catholic University of ← 8 | 9 → São Paulo and was research fellow in Social Psychology at the University of São Paulo. E-mail: julio@jclcastro.com.br.

Márcio Simeone Henriques is Professor at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil. Doctor of Social Communication - Communication and Contemporary Sociability (UFMG), with post-doctoral studies at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal (Ministry of Education/Brazil - Capes-1931-14-8). E-mail: simeone@ufmg.br.

Samuel Mateus, PhD, is Assistant Professor in Universidade da Madeira (UMa) and Researcher in Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Linguagens (CECL-­ NOVA University). He was also a post-doctoral researcher in the same center. ­Mateus has written on a diversity of subjects related to communication and ­publicity such as Publics and Social Media. He is the author of Publicity and Consummation in Contemporary Societies (2011, written in Portuguese) and Tele-Reality – The Mediatized Principle of Publicity (2013, written in Portuguese). More at: http://samuelmateuspapers.blogspot.pt/ Email: samuelmateus@uma.pt.

Steve Jankowski is a PhD candidate in the joint York University / Ryerson University Communication & Culture program in Toronto, Canada. His research explores how culture, politics, and technology intersect through the production, circulation, and consumption of digital epistemologies. Specifically, he investigates how the socio-technical affordances and limitations of Wikipedia are transforming our understanding of what it means to know in the twenty-first century. stev.jank@gmail.com.

Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology, and chair of the Ph. D. program in communications, at Columbia University, and the author of many books, including The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; and Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street. Email: tg2058@columbia.edu.

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Eduardo Cintra Torres & Samuel Mateus


The 19th and 20th century provided stages for the political affirmation of social groups and the concomitant emergence of social movements as collective endeavours to promote political and social change in any direction and by any means, either peaceful or violent, reformist or revolutionary, consensual or rebellious. This period saw the rise of the social movement in the sense of a set of people who deliberately committed themselves to a shared identity, a unifying belief, a common programme and a collective struggle to carry out social action.

In the 21st century, we are witnessing the transformation of the traditional forms of social action. Indeed, the repertoire of collective action (Tilly, 1978) has changed, as organization and public recognition are radically different when networked media allow for new orders of functioning. The revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests, riots, and civil wars in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010 are an illustrative case. The Arab Spring had, in new communication tools such as the Internet and social networks, a key factor in social mobilization and socio-political demands (Khondker, 2011). The same occurred with, for instance, social protests in the United States (Gitlin, 2012), Portugal, Greece and Spain: all related to the global financial and economic crisis. These events showed the impact of the new communication tools in the co-relation of individuals touched by the causes, but also called into question the role of the journalistic media, now called “old media” or “traditional media” by so many, as mediators and objective informants. As communication came into the core of political and social action, it became the main issue in most studies regarding collective action and its specific forms, like the crowd, the assembly, the public or the multitude. At the same time, the surge of the 21st century digitally networked social movements brought a new interest in those very social forms, and the forms they assume today.

Assessing the new realities, but also the limits, of the relation between social forms and communication forms and content, was one of the main goals of the conference From Multitude to Crowds in Social Movements – publics, gatherings, networks and media in 21st century, held in Lisbon, in January 2015, of which this book is the offspring. It brings together some of the papers presented by authors coming from Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy, Political Communication, and Media Studies, who responded to the multidisciplinary approach of the event. Collective expression, be it the crowd (Drury and Stott, 2013) or any other form of the “anthropologic enigma” of the many (Rosanvallon, 1992), ← 11 | 12 → call for the multidisciplinary approach that we believe is achieved by the set of articles in this book. They are all original, state-of-the-art chapters aiming to discuss the social formations in contemporary social movements, the relevance of media and communications in social movements and how collective action has changed in contemporary mediatised societies. The book is divided in four sections expressing as many dimensions of analysis: theoretical approaches, historical analysis, multitude and media strategies and social movements, as well as mass protests. The chapters address questions that generally stress the place of communication in collective action and help to give the crowd and other collective expressions a more central place in social sciences.

In this introduction, we propose some lines of reflection along with the presentation of the chapters. First, we concentrate on the relation between media and collective action, acknowledging the growing place of communications in old and new forms of social movements. Second, moving to the historical dimension of collective action, we try to underline how past theories and empirical studies of social movements can help illuminate persistent trends that tend to be ignored, thus creating an exaggerated idea of newness in present-day collective action. Third, an actual novelty, is our emphasis on the surge of the multitude as a measurable and visible social entity in our age of widely spread tools for individual and collective communication. The multitude is then a concept in need of further and updated theorization and research to overcome the sometimes difficult task of mapping the borders of concepts like the multitude, crowds and publics, a persistence obstacle to the analysis and theory of collective action and social movements in particular. Fourth, from there we pick the role and the place of the crowd in collective action, as an example, noting how it has not been overtaken by new forms of collective action.

Assessing the Relation Between the Media and Collective Action

Today, we see the rise of bracing debates on the complex relations between social movements and the media. One of the most discussed topics is the kind of contribution the media can give to collective action and social change, especially to the large influence they exert on the patterns of public participation, organizational configurations, kinds of mobilization staging and forms of protest. Some authors have no doubt that we are facing media-driven uprisings calling them “Revolutions 2.0” (Cocco & Albagli, 2012).

Since social movement research is rooted in different fields — Anthropology, Sociology, History, Psychology and Political Sciences — it is not rare to ← 12 | 13 → find studies that suffer from the “fragmentation syndrome” failing to integrate the ubiquitous mediatisation process. Yet, new books, like this one, try to overcome those problems by filling the gap and often by calling upon media studies in order to access the multi-faceted relationship (Bennett & Segerbert, 2013; Bimber et al., 2005).

In fact, one key problem in analyzing the relation between media and social movements may result from the ubiquity the concept of media has acquired over recent decades. Hence the need to separate “old media” from “new media”. Mobile communications and even the Internet has come to be considered as media, in a confusion between methods, tools, technology, agency, communication(s), content, and finally between information and journalism. In the absence of an updated taxonomy for scholarship and common use, it becomes difficult to know what media are – to the point that it doesn’t come as a surprise that a Dictionary of Media Studies does not include an entry for “media” (Abercombrie & Longhurst, 2007) or that an introductory book on New Media: The Key Concepts bases the opposition between “old” and “new” media on technology (Gane & Beer, 2008). This is an invitation to revisit “old” concepts like communication and communication processes, since, mutatis mutandi, social movements of any kind still “take place as conversations” (Tilly, 2002).

It is no wonder that the focus of research today lies in the appropriation and use of the new communication tools by social movements as opposed to institutional/old/traditional media, those we still call by the names of “press”, “radio” and “television”. That opposition, in our view, tends to exaggerate the distance between the “old” media and social movements, considering them as “theirs”, while the “new” media are “ours”. In fact, institutional media, or “social communication”, a concept widely used in Latin idioms, are inscribed in society as much as “new” media, only in other ways. And, while they cannot compare, nor could they, with digital media as tools of organization, spreading information and also allowing the overcoming of their eventual silence or censorship of social and political events, institutional media still maintain a consensual place in society that makes their coverage of events an important moment in social movements’ lives.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (September)
Social Movements Social Networks Social Mobilization Political Communities
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 268 pp., 8 b/w fig., 6 tables, 7 graphs

Biographical notes

Eduardo Cintra Torres (Volume editor) Samuel Mateus (Volume editor)

Eduardo Cintra Torres is Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of Portugal and researcher at its Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Cultura (CECC). Samuel Mateus is Assistant Professor at Madeira University and researcher at the Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Linguagens (CECL), at Nova University.


Title: From Multitude to Crowds: Collective Action and the Media
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270 pages