Evolving Repertoires: Digital Media Use in Contentious Politics

Publication Title

Communication and the Public

Publication Date


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Collective action, contentious politics, digital formation, digital repertoires, eventful history


Communication Technology and New Media | Library and Information Science | Social Influence and Political Communication | Social Media


The spread of the Internet coupled with knowledgeable users has led to the use of digital media as a tool for advocacy and activism. Building on theoretical foundations of eventful histories and digital formations, this article investigates the interrelated nature of contentious politics and digital technologies. Our analysis documents the eventful history of changing digital repertoires of contention in the context of messaging, blogging, and social networking sites in Iran. We argue that investigating single moments of protest offers only snapshots of how digital technologies are used in contentious politics, and entails the risk of focusing on a single platform rather than the mosaic of online and offline repertoires. We demonstrate that documenting event histories challenges the assumptions of the emancipatory nature of a specific technology by revealing the changing efficacy of repertoires during different moments of contention; therefore, we should avoid assigning stable causal relations between digital technologies and the democratization processes of societies.