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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 25 - 2018, No. 3

“Yes We Vote”: Civic Mobilisation and Impulsive Engagement on Instagram

, , , pages: 315-332

Social media have become increasingly central to civic mobilisation and protest movements around the world. Emotions, symbols, self-presentation and visual communication are emerging as key components of networked individualism and connective action by affective publics challenging established political norms. These emerging repertoires have the potential to reignite civic engagement, although their coherence and sustainability have been questioned. We explore these phenomena through an examination of Instagram use during the 2014 Romanian presidential election. Voting irregularities during the 1st round, particularly affecting the diaspora, gave rise to an impulsive civic movement utilising social media to express solidarity and drive turnout in the 2nd round. Using an original coding framework, we look at how narratives of identity, community and engagement were visually constructed by users on Instagram; the activities, settings, spaces, objects and emotions that comprised this multi-authored story. Our analysis reveals the creation of a loose “me too” collective: an emotionally charged hybrid of self-presentation and participation in a shared moment of historic significance, which otherwise lacked particular norms, political agendas or hierarchies. The civic movement on Instagram materialised primarily through photos documenting the act of voting; an imagined community that combined co-presence in physical space with virtual solidarity through photos of ballots, flags and landmarks. The platform appears to favour impulsive, symbolic and affective expression rather than rational or critical dialogue. As in other cases of post-systemic grassroots engagement, individuals came together for a short period of time and expressed the need for change, although this remained largely an abstract signifier.

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