Do Hashtags Always Trigger Large-Scale Demonstrations? -a Case Study of the Chilean Student Movement from 2012 to 2014-

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kota MIURA, The University of Tokyo, Japan
Why do some hashtags on Twitter trigger large-scale demonstrations while others do not? Since a huge surge of student movements in Chile in 2011, claiming for higher education of free tuition, SNS (Social Networking Service) has been a pivotal tool for Chilean student leaders and organizations. In particular, since 2012, student organizations have attempted to mobilize student participants through the use and diffusion of one common “hashtag (#)” for each movement on Twitter, such as #Yomarchoel25 for the demonstration on April 25, 2012, or #TodosXLaEducación on August 28, 2012. Recent studies on Chilean student movements have emphasized the significance of Twitter for mobilization. In reality, however, a high degree of diffusion of a hashtag for mobilization does not always lead to a large-scale demonstration. For instance, although #Yomarchoel25 diffused ten times more than #TodosXLaEducación, the actual scale of the former demonstration was a quarter of that of the latter. This implies that hashtags are not necessarily effective in mobilization. Under what conditions does the diffusion of hashtags lead to large-scale demonstrations?

Fifteen demonstrations from 2012 to 2014 called by the CONFECH, the most influential student organization, which hashtags were used for mobilization, will be shed light on in this paper. Based on both quantitative and the discourse analysis, the following two conditions under which the diffusion of hashtags leads to large-scale demonstrations will be scrutinized in this paper; (1)Influential users such as student leaders or organizations with a considerable number of followers, not only repeat slogans of the movement but also show purposes of each demonstration, (2)Potential participants in a demonstration use hashtags not only to spread claims of the movements but also to express their will to participate in them. This paper will contribute to reconsidering the effectiveness of hashtags for mobilization and the possibility of future hashtag activism.