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‘Follow me, but don’t ask me to lead you!: Liquid Organising and Choreographic Leadership’

Tweets and the streets. Social Media and Contemporary Activism (2012), Paolo Gerbaudo


Activists = « those heavily involved social movement participants or core organisers »

Focus on three movements :

→ Occupy Wall Street (USA)

→ Pro-democracy movement against Mubarak’s government (Egypt)

→ « Indignados of Puerta del Sol » (Spain)

Aim of the chapter = develop a comparative analysis of the use of social media

→ across different social movements & national context

→ focusing on the crucial and controversial question of leadership in social media practices

PART 5 : ‘Follow me, but don’t ask me to lead you !’ : Liquid Organising and Choreographic Leadership

Liquid organisation

→ absence of physical membership

→ individual activists = basis units of the movement

→ goal = spread the informations / communication

→ everything over the internet (social media)


→ evanescent character of social media : long term stability ?

→ ‘communicators’ become ‘organisers’ (by their influence)

– Reluctant leader

in theorie : rejection of leadership : movement « leaderless » / « horizontal »

but in praxis : social media create new forms of leadership, linked with the degree of influence of each activists

→ communication on the internet : ‘power law distribution’

→ ‘hierarchy of engagement’

→ gap between the decision-making and the execution

– Facebook was our training ground…

→ platform for political organising and mass mobilisation

→ arena for public discussion

→ point of contact between activists

=> strategic perspective


→ lack of face contact

→ illusion (different from reality)

…Twitter was our HQ

→ immediacy of news

→ arena for discussion


→ difficulty to recruit

→ isolation in relation to those who don’t share the same opinion

Trending places

→ break the barrier of the digital divide

→ create new contexts of proximity

→ places which have acquired an extraordinary symbolic importance


« choreographic leadership »

→ not completely spontaneous and improvised

→ ‘choreographers’ appears as ‘soft leaders’

1) Emotional coalescence of the « people »

= emotional character of social media used in social movements

Social media :

→ construct a sense of solidarity and togetherness

→ are a channel of intimacy

→ but are also a space for public conversation

=> facilitates gatherings

2) Spontaneity by design

Tension between spontaneity and organisation :

→ critics of the institutions for being bureaucratic, pyramidal, opaque, …

→ preference for direct democracy and direct actions


→ ideology of « horinzontalism » = utopia

3) The threat of evanescence

→ culture of instantaneousness


→ desire for permanence (occupation of public space for example)

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