Yannis Theocharis
The Contribution of Websites and Blogs to the Students' Protest Communication Tactics During the 2010 UK University Occupations

Information, Communication & Society, 2013: 16, issue 9, pp. 1477-1513
ISSN: 1369-118X (print); 1468-4462 (online)

This paper examines the use of websites and blogs during the 2010 UK anti-cuts protests, where students across the UK occupied more than 35 universities in a symbolic act of opposition to government plans to cut education funding and increase tuition fees. Although social media have largely monopolized the debate on online political activism in recent years, students did not limit their online e-tactics to the use of social media, but used websites and blogs extensively to describe and contextualize their views, demands, protest experiences and actions. This study assesses which of the website features that are usually found in social movement organization (SMO) websites are adopted by websites constructed by loosely organized groups, such as those of the occupying students, and how they differ from SMO websites. The findings show that informational, interactive and mobilizing features were not equally prominent in all occupation websites. Although all standard SMO website features could, to some extent, also be found on the occupying students' websites, the features were emphasized differently. Mobilizing (and some interactive) features played a more prominent role in the occupying students' websites, which tended to lack other customary SMO website functions such as establishing lateral links with other occupation websites. This study discusses the differences in website features and suggests avenues for further research.