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French Politics

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1–29 | Cite as

Political protest 2.0: Social media and the 2012 student strike in the province of Quebec, Canada

  • Vincent RaynauldEmail author
  • Mireille Lalancette
  • Sofia Tourigny-Koné
Original Article

Abstract

Recent years have been marked by the emergence of a new breed of grassroots-intensive protest phenomena that have challenged the dominance of political elites in several advanced liberal democracies. Whether it is the transnational Occupy movement, the Idle No More movement in Canada or the student-led demonstrations in Chile, these social-media-fuelled mobilization initiatives have quickly mobilized narrow segments of the public and have succeeded in forcing formal political actors to acknowledge their presence. In some cases, they have encouraged them to take some of their demands into account in their decision making. This trend is demonstrative of a growing political engagement disconnect between formal political players (for example: government agencies, political parties) and members of the citizenry. Although most of the former are still relying heavily on politicking strategies tailored for citizens adhering to the dutiful citizenship model, a growing portion of the latter are turning to informal forms of political action better suited to their personal preferences, interests and goals. Specifically, citizens’ involvement in politics is increasingly driven by short- or mid-term priorities or considerations linked to their private lives and progressively less by their adherence to a broader ideology, their party allegiances or their concern for the greater societal good. This article examines one of these protest movements: the 2012 student movement against university tuition hikes in the province of Quebec, Canada, also known as ‘Maple Spring’. Although some facets of this political mobilization phenomenon have been studied in recent years, little is known about its internal dynamic and, more importantly, social media’s role in its overall functioning. This article offers an in-depth look at the #ggi tweeting dynamic between 22 April 2012 and 31 July 2012. Specifically, a hybrid quantitative and qualitative content analysis approach is used to determine in what way, to what extent, and for what reasons different Quebec political players were involved in this protest movement. Moreover, this article explores the links between traditional media and citizens’ discourse on Twitter. The findings suggest that the former informed the latter as protesters frequently used news reports or commentary to support their positions. From a broader perspective, the findings provide a new look at political tweeting as few scholars have conducted a qualitative analysis of political tweets.

Keywords

social media web politics Twitter Quebec social movement political protest 

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent Raynauld
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mireille Lalancette
    • 2
  • Sofia Tourigny-Koné
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Communication StudiesEmerson CollegeBostonUSA
  2. 2.Département de lettres et communication sociale Université du Québec à Trois-RivièresTrois-Rivières (Québec)Canada

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