Network structures in cross-movement talk: Democracy Now!, 2003-2013

Abstract: As organizers often remind us, we need to work across movements if we are to make substantive social change. Such talk is central to how we understand what social movements are and how we can work together. But how is that talk structured, and how might we theorize structural change over time as movements emerge and subside? This paper outlines several key considerations in the social construction of cross-movement relations between 2003 and 2013 on a daily independent broadcast news magazine program in the United States. Drawing on relational sociology and network studies, I offer a framework for understanding the changing structure of cross-movement talk as an interplay of a) the narrative clustering of movement labels, and b) the bridging of cross-cluster narrative divisions. Using positional network analysis, I first chart the movement canon – those movement labels that were used year after year for structuring the cross-movement field – and trace how key labels were used as bridging leaders during two periods of mass-mobilization. I then compare the narrative environment over time as it moved between more segmented and pluralistic structural characteristics, culminated in periods of narrative convergence in 2008 and 2011 around the Obama presidential election and the Occupy movement. By examining the overall structure of cross-movement talk in broadcast news programming, I illustrate how movement labels themselves are used by hosts and guests to facilitate the social construction of emergent movement clusters, and point to strategies for future application and analysis in cross-movement organizing.

Keywords: social movements, cross-talk, cross-movement, network analysis, language, media

Amoshaun Toft (2019) Network structures in cross-movement talk: Democracy Now!, 2003-2013, Social Movement Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2019.1681954

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