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Social media activism & digital indexicalities: The case of political activism in Lebanon

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This thesis outlines the confluence between political activism and social media by examining contemporary multimodal approaches to political engagement on Instagram by Lebanese activists. Social media is a site of perpetual identity performances and constant dissemination of (mis)information, calling into question both the authenticity of online discursive content and the authority of users over this content. As the borders between the digital and physical realm become increasingly blurred alongside the progressive integration of technology into social and economic exchanges, the parameters of the public space are expanding to include the cryptic dimensions of the digital sphere. As a result, the following question arises: does there exist a continuum between the online and offline spheres? From a sociolinguistic perspective, this research provides an overview of the digital affordances and limitations of social networks in promoting or hindering political interactions online and calls attention to the important distinction between active political engagement and political passivity in the exploration of what it means to be an activist, to do activism, and to do being an activist in the digital era. This is accomplished through an assessment of the different processes of participation and identification online, the former referring to analytical roles of interaction inspired by Goffman's 'participatory framework' (1981) in the production and reception of speech, and the latter in relation to the discursive means by which users identify and are identified on social media. I challenge scholarship that defend the centrality of code-switching in online Lebanese interactions and conduct discursive analyses of text-based militant initiatives online to present hypotheses delineating the use of juxtaposed monolingual texts of English, Arabic, and French besides indexing targeted addressee(s). I propose to view the clenched/raised fist, both in its physical and digital emoji form, as a performative semiotic device and I question the extent to which mutual understanding of and engagement with the meaning behind this icon of protest can index participatory membership to a 'community of practice' (Eckert, 2006).
108 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Vigouroux, Cecile
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