Social media and the transnationalization of mass activism: Twitter and the labour movement

Michael Dahlberg-Grundberg, Ragnar Lundström, Simon Lindgren


This paper explores the labour movement organization LabourStart, a digital initiative that, by various means such as e-mail campaigns and social media use, seeks to promote workers’ rights and to strengthen the labour movement on a global scale. The main aim of this study is to analyse a) how LabourStart employs Twitter for communication and organisation and b) how the Twitter-sphere that LabourStart constitutes — and is constituted by — is geographically structured. Our dataset consisted of all tweets containing the word “labourstart” and all tweets coming from or addressing any LabourStart–related account during the period 2008–2015. As theoretical points of departure, the notions of transnationalization/translocalism were used, in part together with the concept of connective action, to conceptualise the research. In terms of methodology, network analysis was the main approach employed to obtain and visualise the findings. Our results indicate that LabourStart’s Twitter use does not seem to have had any effects in terms of creating a decentralised transnational movement with translocal traits, thus suggesting that LabourStart has failed to fully make use of the connective features of Twitter and to establish a decentralized, transnational union movement. This, we suggest, is to some extent caused by LabourStart’s centralized organizational — and thus communicational — structure. In the concluding section, we interpret our findings in broader terms relating to the context and history of labour movements, and we discuss LabourStart’s work in relation to local and global worker issues.


LabourStart, Twitter, social media, digital activism, union activism, union transnationalism

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