Take Part - Social Learning to Take Part in Social Movements:

Understanding the Social Transformation of Civic Participation

Learning to ‘#rezist’ – A longitudinal mixed-methods approach to the study of online social learning in social movements


Dan Mercea, Matthias Hoffmann, Felipe G. Santos, Sorana Constantinescu

In this paper, we take the long view to examine the use of the #rezist protest hashtag on Twitter from 2017 to 2022. Associated with some of the most momentous post-communist protests, in Romania, the hashtag tracked what were rolling protests in the country, from February 2017 to August 2018, continuing its existence long after that period.

Drawing on social learning theory and taking stock of the scholarship on the visual practices of social movement actors, we attempt, on the one hand, to answer the call to grapple with the outcomes of the "open production and diffusion of visual materials" by such actors (Mattoni & Teune, 2014: 884). On the other, we consider the theoretical proposition that the visual medium is principally used to communicate chiefly with near others (Kalkstein et al. 2016). We thus ask, what social movement outcomes were cued with visual materials (e.g., support of, participation in the protest)? What interpretations of the #rezist protests did the visual materials invite and, specifically, were they a means to communicate with near others or to bridge geographical distance? Who responded to such cues and what evidence, if any, is there of social learning conducive to movement outcomes?

In our analysis, we probe a dataset of 45,871 tweets containing 4910 images. We use a combination of automated and manual annotation of images circulated with the #rezist hashtag, content analysis of posts and network analysis to illuminate how network structure and social learning mechanisms unfold over time—during periods of intense activity and periods of latency—and in space.

Our research opens the door to new methodological insights into how best to capture intricate dynamics in social movement protest communication and how it might be conducive to a process of social learning about its character, goals or participation in it. Network structure along with a process of social learning may lead to alignments in contentious repertoires, the development of movement resources and its support base over the longer run.

Photo source: Life.ro

Conferences where the paper will be presented:

1. Council of European Studies Conference of Europeanists, Lyon, 2-5 July 2024

2. European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA),
Ljubljana, 24 -27 September 2024