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Social Media in the 2012 Québec Student Strikes

I'm afraid my blogging app decided to delete my notes on the next presentation at ECREA 2016, so we're moving on directly to the paper by Mireille Lalancette, whose interest is in the role of social media in Canadian politics. Québec experienced a major student strike during the first half of 2012, protesting against an increase in tuition fees but also linking with a number of other social issues.

The present research focusses on the protest repertoires used by these protesters, combining both online and offline components. Twitter serves the purpose of ambient political engagement in this context, connecting various aspects of the protest and enabling participants to keep track of developments. Further, the protests are divided into six phases, from preparation through ignition, protest, external buy-in, and climax to follow-on information warfare.

The project captured all tweets hashtagged #ggi; from this it selected 15 key dates (of protests, negotiations, meetings, etc.), and then selected the first 100 tweets posted on each day. This shows a growing use of Twitter for information dissemination, and a decline in opinion-sharing and mobilisation. There was also a growth in tweets containing URLs (often for material posted on legacy media sites). This can be understood as protesters developing a counter-discourse to the political elites.

There was also a rise in attack tweets, especially around the dates of major demonstrations. Mobilisation tweets appeared especially in response to police announcements. But overall the focus shifted from criticism of police activities to criticism of journalistic coverage of the strike; this represents an attempt to redefine the narrative relating to the strike.

This all shows an evolution of the social media activities around the protests over time, and an emergence of counter-discourses opposing offline coverage and discussions. Twitter also enabled individuals and organisations to be more engaged in the different phases of the student strike, but on their own terms; this changes the dynamics of such engagement.