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Reclaiming, proclaiming, and maintaining collective identity in the #YoSoy132 movement in Mexico: an examination of digital frontstage and backstage activism through social media and instant messaging platforms

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This article starts from the recognition that digital social movements studies have progressively disregarded collective identity and the importance of internal communicative dynamics in contemporary social movements, in favour of the study of the technological affordances and the organizational capabilities of social media. Based on a two-year multimodal ethnography of the Mexican #YoSoy132 movement, the article demonstrates that the concept of collective identity is still able to yield relevant insights into the study of current movements, especially in connection with the use of social media platforms. Through the appropriations of social media, Mexican students were able to oppose the negative identification fabricated by the PRI party, reclaim their agency and their role as heirs of a long tradition of rebellion, generate collective identification processes, and find ‘comfort zones’ to lower the costs of activism, reinforcing their internal cohesion and solidarity. The article stresses the importance of the internal communicative dynamics that develop in the backstage of social media (Facebook chats and groups) and through instant messaging services (WhatsApp), thus rediscovering the pivotal linkage between collective identity and internal communication that characterized the first wave of research on digital social movements. The findings point out how that internal cohesion and collective identity are fundamentally shaped and reinforced in the social media backstage by practices of ‘ludic activism’, which indicates that social media represent not only the organizational backbone of contemporary social movements, but also multifaceted ecologies where a new, expressive and humorous ‘communicative resistance grammar’ emerges.
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Keywords: WhatsApp; backstage activism; collective identity; digital activism; frontstage activism; internal communication; social media; social movements; technopolitics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Autonomous University of Querétaro, Querétaro, Mexico

Publication date: August 3, 2015

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