Summary of ““#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States”

The article “#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States”, written by Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa explores the arthrological perspective on hashtags and social medias and their effects of racial political events that have happened in the past; specifically the horrible incident of Michael Brown. The authors look at how social media spread awareness and information about Browns death, leading to a national uproar and outcry against police brutality. This fast spread of information wouldn’t have been possible without the use of social media, and specifically the use of hashtags.

            The main arguments in this article are the ways in which social media and hashtags are a quick access in order to find information based on a certain event that has taken place. Another argument is that social media has been used as a tool in order to shine light of the marginalization happening to people of color, specifically the African American community.

Evidence that was presented to the reader to support their arguments was the use of the hashtag ‘#Ferguson’ after the murder of Michael Brown. They dissected this hashtag which quickly circulated different social media platforms. They analyzed how beneficial the hashtag was in order to circulate and find information used with the #Ferguson hashtag; which was primarily used to organize protest, learn about the death of Michael Brown, and follow the case as well as a plethora of information relating to the topic. However, it was quickly realized how much of a narrow view you receive since you are mostly seeing people’s perspective from your social community. Also, it was noted, not everyone used the hashtag to talk about the movement, some used the hashtag to state they were just in Ferguson, some used it just to redirect traffic to their account. So instead, it was more difficult finding the pattern of hashtag use, because it was used for multiple different things and not for the general idea of spreading awareness on Brown.

            The evidence the authors used are clear and do support the authors arguments. It was easy to follow the claims and find evidence which were shortly presented after the claims were. The article was written very well and very clearly, also it was described in depth. Not only would the authors say their claims, but they would give background on the information they were using in case the reader was not familiar with ‘hashtag ethnography’.

            The author helps us understand how critical the use of language is over social media. The author points out how biased informal journalism can be across social media and how limited of a view we are exposed to. It is incredibly important to do research, but frankly speaking a lot of millennials and teens do not do background research and instead get their information straight from Twitter or other social media platforms. It was not expected that the authors would point out the ultimate biases which people have when tweeting, this shows how easily it is to spread false or twisted information just with the use of a hashtag. It is surprising that with this information people still are quick to believe anything as long as it is accompanied with the hashtag of their interest.

            This hashtag #Ferguson is related to #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter and even #BlackOutTuesday. With these hashtags there was a national and even international coverage of police brutality and racial discrimination amongst the black community. However, the issue that seemed to be prominent was people used the hashtag with no content, just a black square to show solidarity. This caused a stop in information flow, so it was harder to find information such as protest gatherings with these black squares, but it also pointed out that digital activism is real and very much temporary. It does not call for action and is the easiest way to think you are helping, which the article did mention.

Bonilla, Yarimar, and Jonathan Rosa. 2015. “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States: #Ferguson.” American Ethnologist 42 (1): 4–17.

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