Social Protest

Doug McLeod

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Social Protest

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Social protest is a form of political expression that seeks to bring about social or political change by influencing the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of the public or the policies of an organization or institution. Protests often take the form of overt public displays, demonstrations, and civil disobedience, but may also include covert activities such as petitions, boycotts/buycotts, lobbying, and various online activities. Protesters engage in protest activities motivated by both individual rewards (including a variety of personal benefits and gratifications) and collective incentives (benefits that are realized by a large class of individuals that does not necessarily include the individual protester). Most protests represent the collective interests and issues of activist groups, coalitions, or social movements that challenge mainstream institutions. In the process, they serve a number of important democratic functions, including providing opportunities for participation and expression for individuals, and as a potential engine of social change for communities and nations. Communication, whether mass or interpersonal, is a central element in the success of a protest group by facilitating information exchange, mobilization, coordination, integration, identity formation, and many other essential functions. Given the importance of protest to democracies and the importance of communication to protest groups, it is not surprising that social science researchers have become interested in the relationship between media and social protest. This research derives from the fields of communication, political science, and sociology, and a wide variety of journals publish this research. While researchers in these fields share many common interests, they don’t always do a great job of speaking or listening to each other. In fact, in looking at the literature and citation patterns, it would seem that researchers do a better job of communicating across international borders than across disciplinary boundaries. Indeed, research found in this bibliography was conducted in the United States, Britain, Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, South Korea, and Spain. This research has investigated a variety of types of protests—antiwar, environmental, racial, civil rights, and gender to name a few. Research examines the content of news coverage of social protest, as well as its antecedents and consequences. Research on protest news content is a lot more plentiful than research on the effects of such content. Research in this area reveals the limits of traditional mass media coverage but offers hope in the form of optimism regarding the benefits of new digital communication technologies. In fact, much of the most recent research on media and social protest focuses on the influence of new technologies.

Article.  10805 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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