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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks


Edited By Nathan Rambukkana

This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream – in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres.
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
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Chapter Nineteen: The Twitter Citizen: Problematizing Traditional Media Dominance in an Online Political Discussion


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The Twitter Citizen: Problematizing Traditional Media Dominance in an Online Political Discussion



Wide-ranging public discourse among diverse actors makes an important contribution to the vitality of a democratic society. Castells (2008, p. 78) observed that “[w]ithout an effective civil society capable of structuring and channeling citizen debates over diverse ideas and conflicting interests, the state drifts away from its subjects.” Since the popular adoption of Web 2.0 technologies or the participatory web, scholars have wondered about its promise and limitations in forming a participatory and heterogeneous democratic discussion space (Bohman, 2004; Castells, 2008; Drache, 2008; Pariser, 2011; Small, 2011). Importantly, these tools have the potential to transform people’s relationships with media (Benkler, 2006; Jenkins, 2006) and form a venue for bidirectional discussions that bypass government and traditional media controls (Castells, 2008; Drache, 2008). However, questions remain. Is the promise of this technology fulfilled? Is it really bidirectional and open to all, or is the practice of participation on such platforms dominated by the same communication flows, as is seen in more traditional media sources such as television and newspapers?

Our study aims to answer questions about the nature of public discourse currently occurring on Twitter, a micro-blogging and social networking platform. Since 2006, Twitter has grown to host 255 million monthly active users who ← 255 | 256 → disseminate 500 million tweets per day (Twitter, 2014). Our study examined...

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