Digitally enabled activism: a study of hashtag activism and unemployment in Oman
This research explores the interplay between Twitter hashtag activism and the unemployment movement in Oman. It examines the dynamics of the unemployment movement on Twitter in relation to the broader unemployment crisis in Oman and the country’s sociopolitical, ethnoreligious and socioeconomic characteristics, exploring how these characteristics may impact digital activism and how a Twitter-based movement can make a difference, if at all, in offline contexts of the kind of Oman’s monarchic system. This research draws upon the cyberconflict framework (Karatzogianni, 2006) that borrows from three theories - social movement theory, media theory and conflict theory, as its theoretical framework. A mixed methods design was employed: thematic analysis of 5,163 tweets and semi-structured interviews with 17 job seekers. The findings demonstrate that nationalism, national identity and other traits of the Omani context have been important motivators for the development of the unemployment movement on Twitter. Additionally, movement actors utilised Twitter as an opportunity to initiate alternative and digital-based civil society organisations due to the overall weakened and controlled civil society environment in the country. While the findings show that Omani netizens used soft activism strategies where the Twitter sphere has enabled Omani netizens and has constituted the platform for expression of direct, critical and even verbally aggressive discourses against government officials more visible, the movement was quite ‘conservative’, not radical, nor seeking broader change. The research concludes that Twitter hashtag activism can facilitate the creation of a digital activism infrastructure in contexts where offline protesting/mobilisation is banned or seriously restricted. The study offers evidence for the further understanding of how digital technologies can facilitate digital activism and the characteristics of digital activism in contexts of the kind of Oman. In this regard, the study enriches the Western literature about digital activism and online social movements, opening new avenues for advancing academic debates about digital activism in contexts of the kind of Oman.
Supervisor(s)Panayiota Tsatsou; Yimei Zhu
Date of award2022-05-05
Author affiliationSchool of Media, Communication and Sociology
Awarding institutionUniversity of Leicester