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The growing mediatization of everyday life has led to the emergence of new forms of social movements and political contestation. While this trend can be examined meaningfully through the lenses of traditional political, journalistic, and activist cultures, there is something about the distinct combination of communicative action and affective labor that carries uniquely transformative implications (Castells 2015). Whereas popular, individualized articulations of affective empowerment, and personal politics have been criticized for their lack of bearing on material realities (Barnard 2016b), alternative forms of expression on social media appear to have much deeper resonance with political and activist cultures, and therefore much greater chances at contributing to social change. Nevertheless, collective identity and collective action, supported through active engagement with networked technologies, are requisite characteristics of new social movements.
Whether on the ground, on Twitter, or both, participants in the #Ferguson protests expressed feelings of outrage against major social institutions—namely the criminal justice system and the mainstream media. This paper will examine the role that citizen journo-activists play in the transformation of political and journalistic cultures. As a hybrid, journo-activist space, tweeting #Ferguson quickly emerged as an effective way for interested actors to network and spread their message. Similarly, many networked journalists—increasingly referred to as “j-tweeters” (Hedman 2015)—have taken to Twitter to collect and share information about the events in Ferguson. Using a combination of digital ethnography and content analysis of tweets from #Ferguson, this study examines journalistic and activist uses of Twitter as well as the correspondent implications for changes in field relations and practices. Given the growing convergence of these two fields, as well as their concurrent practices, this case study provides unique insights about the role of digital media in efforts aiming to share information and bolster social change.