Mobilization in the era of social media: Introducing the decisive role of group level factors

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Jonas Toubøl


University of Copenhagen


DKK 1,159,400




Reintegration Fellowships


The basic problem of the project: in social movements, how do the dynamics of interaction in social groups of activists influence the activism carried out by the individual activists? The group has always been crucial in the formation of collective political action and protest. With the introduction of social medias and, in particular, Facebook with its group-based organisation of communities, a very different setting for groups has emerged that is likely to shape activism and political participation in new ways. It also allows for conducting large scale quantitative studies of how styles and moods of group-interaction may influence individual level activism in relative autonomy of individual characteristics as well as macro structural conditions.


In democracies, civic action and activism are commonly assumed to be an essential part of the political process. To understand the dynamics of political activism is important, because it may enable the democratic political institutions to be more responsive to citizens' political claims, thereby strengthening ongoing dialogue. Also, it may help citizens to better organise and participate in the political process. In this process, the social group is vital, as some form of group is inherent in much collective action. Furthermore, groups on social media have supplemented the town halls as the site for political discussion and organising in civil society. Being a very different kind of forum, it is of great importance to understand how such social media groups shape political activism.


The project studies group interaction online among more than 100,000 activists in more than 160 Facebook groups related to the Danish refugee solidarity movement, which experienced a massive mobilization in fall 2015, when the Syrian refugee crisis reached Denmark. This provides the rare opportunity to study interaction in groups within a quantitative statistical research design. By analysing the contend of the interaction in the groups, we can measure the moods and style of the interaction among the group-members. Combined with measures of, on the one hand, individual level characteristics and activism of the group-members, and, on the other hand, macro-level political discourse, we can assess the existence, scope and kind of group level dynamics' influence on individual political activism.

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