Social media activism : an analysis of the #RhodesMustFall movement on Twitter (9 March 2015–9 April 2015).
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Social media platforms have increasingly become associated with social movements globally. The platforms enables users to easily produce content, share information and interact with each other. Social media platforms have also provided users with a space that allows them to discuss common issues they would otherwise be unable to discuss due to constraints such as distance. This also provides users with the opportunity to discuss and engage in marginalized issues from a grassroot perspective. As several political parties also utilise social media platforms, users can directly interact with them about matters of concern. With the rise of social media activism, extensive research has been conducted from the global north with cases such as the Arab springs and the Egyptian uprising. In these examples, both protests had roots in issues of social justice and used Twitter to discuss these issues as well as the occurrences that happened during the protests. While the above examples are from the global north, in 2015 South Africa experienced two considerable movements that were also largely influenced by Twitter. #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall initiated conversations that were key to national social justice issues. On one hand, #RhodesMustFall was based on the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes which led to a national conversation about the symbols of oppression around the country and later on discussions about race, transformation and memory. It has become apparent that a strong link has been established between social media platforms and various social movements. Interestingly, in the case of #RhodesMustFall, most of the research has focused on the issues of statues and symbols. This research aims to explore the relationship between social movement and networked public spheres. It will also focus on the aspects of social media that enable users to participate in social movements. The data will be collected under the #RhodesMustFall hashtag on Twitter during the period of 9 March 2015 – 9 April 2015. Although, a great amount of research on social media activism has used qualitative methods to understand the high volume of activities that happen online during the protests, this research will be using qualitative methods. In order to gain a deep understanding of the issues discussed on Twitter, the research will utilise the methods of critical discourse analysis to analyse the tweets and a semiotic analysis to analyse the digital images and memes that were posted online during the protests.