Digitally Mediated Protest: Social Media Affordances for Collective Identity Construction

Emad Khazraee, Alison N. Novak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Many scholars discuss the role of social media in the context of social movements, but there remain major disagreements regarding the precise role that social media plays. One area that deserves more in-depth study is the affordances of social media for constructing collective identity. This article examines the case of an Iranian women’s rights campaign page on Facebook, “My Stealthy Freedom,” using an analysis of textual and visual content. The article examines how online campaign pages on Facebook contribute to the formation of collective identity and the construction of a campaign narrative. Following the analysis, the authors discuss how photobiographic campaigns—social media users sharing personal photos and adjoining personal narratives in support of a cause—illustrate two affordances of social media for construction of collective identity: affordances for discourse and affordances for performance. Affordances for discourse contribute to the collective action framing process through sharing of grievances and collectively negotiating meaning. These affordances also contribute to a collectively and incrementally constructed narrative by sharing personal stories that resonate with the group. Affordances for performance focus on the enactment of protest through transgressive photobiographies deliberately staged to convey the movement message to broader audiences. Here, transgressive photobiographies are defined as modular performances that can be adopted for the repertoires of contentious politics through protesting of laws and norms, such as the mandatory hijab. These transgressive performances create group solidarity through engagement in risk, thereby contributing to the formation of group identities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


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