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The events of Arab Spring were shocking for those who study societal movements as long-term dictators were swiftly removed from office and a democratic wave hit the region. Although the outcomes of the Arab Spring revolutions are yet to be determined, what we can gleam from these outbursts of collective behavior is that new media platforms played a significant role in the planning and mobilization efforts that brought people onto the streets and posed serious challenges to the existing political systems. This paper examines the importance of the communication field in influencing the political environment and motivating ordinary citizens to engage in contentious politics. I argue that these two social movements call for an expansion of social movement theory because the digital revolution has expanded the parameters within which groups and individuals can voice concerns, share information, and organize protest activities. Because the resources, organizational processes and structure, and sources of connectivity and communication that activists rely on are different than in earlier eras, we must theorize and conceptualize collective behavior in new ways as current social movements tend to rely on self-organizing and flexible grassroots networks made possible through new information communication technologies (ICTs) and other web-based tools.


This article was originally published in International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, volume 51, issue 1, in 2014.

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Auburn University/Joensuu University Press


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