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Sociologist edits special issue of Information, Communication & Society

Dr Dan Mercea has edited an edition of the journal titled Protest Communication Ecologies

by Ed Grover (Senior Communications Officer)

Sociologist Dr Dan Mercea has edited a special issue of the international journal, Information, Communication & Society.

The publication, titled Protest Communication Ecologies, looks at the contested links between social uprisings and media in the digital age.

Dr Mercea, a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at City, said the collection of papers formed a response to “continued hype” about the influence of social media on protests.

It comes after the academic published research that showed how protest activity could be predicted by social media analysis, but successful forecasting depended on the location of the unrest.

He said: “In this special edition, authors and editors provide a considered response to continued hype about the centrality of social media to popular uprisings since the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran.

“A principal aim of the issue was to recover the term ‘ecology’ which has a long, though recently fading, career in communication studies. As a metaphor, ecology relates to interconnection and boundedness.

“This means that as a framing concept, it allows researchers to grapple with both the possible imprint of global media and technologies on protest, as well as the local contexts where media usage and communication practices are adopted, adapted, contested and even subverted by activists pursuing social change.”

Protest Communication Ecologies offers a rich, theoretically-informed, evidence-based and critical appraisal of protest communication and its underlying radical politics.

Among the issues covered by researchers from across the world is the way social media agitation benefits different groups of protesters.

“The articles show, for instance, how social media are neither a hindrance nor a boon to aggrieved constituencies who may come to protest their fate,” said Dr Mercea. “Instead, social media may at best act as a colour-blind means of extracting monetary value from the expression of dissent which stands a chance to get aired and become visible as long as it attracts attention.

“The most likely to succeed in this enterprise are individuals with important stocks of capital, be it social, economic, political or cultural.”

In one paper, a comparison of the UK, Italy and Germany revealed that protest participation in all three countries was underpinned by a mixture of news media consumption and social media communication.
“This information and communication regimen, we know from other research, is likely to be more common among affluent and well-educated people,” Dr Mercea added.

However, in another article on research into the 2014 unrest in the US town of Ferguson, it was found that those who felt “marginalised” became central to the political debate via social media interaction.

“Research into the coverage of the #Ferguson protests on Twitter was able to identify the initiators of the trending topic,” said Dr Mercea. “These were marginalised people bearing witness to the plight of their communities whose timely tweets filled a coverage vacuum, placing them at the heart of the vexing political debate on institutionalised racism in US Police departments.”

All articles in the special edition of Information, Communication & Society are available to download from the journal website.

For further information, contact Dr Dan Mercea: dan.mercea.1@city.ac.uk.
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