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The mediatization of leadership: grassroots digital facilitators as organic intellectuals, sociometric stars and caretakers

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Scholars of both resource mobilization theory and new social movement theory recognize leadership as integral to traditional social movements. Following global protest movements of 2011, some now characterize movements relying on social media as horizontal and leaderless. Whether due to an organizational shift to networks over bureaucracies or due to a change in values, many social movements in the present protest cycle do not designate visible leadership. Does leadership in social media activism indeed disappear or does it take on new forms? This paper undertakes an in-depth analysis of data obtained through interviews, event observations and analysis of media content related to three Canadian cases of civic mobilization of different scale, all of which strategically employed social media. The paper proposes a conceptual framework for understanding the role of these mobilizations’ organizers as organic intellectuals, sociometric stars and caretakers. By looking closely at the three cases through the lenses offered by these concepts, we identify the specific styles that characterize digitally mediatized civic leadership.
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Keywords: Civic activism; leadership; mediatization; social media; social movements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, Media and Film, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada 2: Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Publication date: June 3, 2018

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