The new information frontier: toward a more nuanced view of social movement communication

Jennifer Earl, R. Kelly Garrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The information environment that social movements face is increasingly complex, making traditional assumptions about media, messaging, and communication used in social movement studies less relevant. Building on work begun within the study of digital protest, we argue that a greater integration of political communication research within social movement studies could offer substantial research contributions. We illustrate this claim by discussing how a greater focus on audiences and message reception, as well as message context, could advance the study of social movements. Specifically, we discuss a range of topics as applied to movement research, including information overload, selective attention, perceptions of bias, the possibilities that entertainment-related communications open up, and priming, among other topics. We suggest the risks of not adapting to this changing information environment, and incorporating insights from political communication, affect both the study of contemporary (including digital) protest, as well as potentially historical protest. The possibilities opened up by this move are immense including entirely new research programs and questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-493
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2017


  • Framing
  • communication
  • digital protest
  • media
  • online protest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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