Digital Communication and the Rise of Online Activism


  • Cory Phillips Ottawa University



Digital Communication, Online Activism, Social Movements, Network Theory, Media Studies, Censorship, Digital Literacy, Digital Security, Narrative and Visual Content, Tech Developers, Long-term Impact, Digital Divide


Purpose: The general objective of the study was to explore digital communication and the rise of online activism.

Methodology: The study adopted a desktop research methodology. Desk research refers to secondary data or that which can be collected without fieldwork. Desk research is basically involved in collecting data from existing resources hence it is often considered a low cost technique as compared to field research, as the main cost is involved in executive's time, telephone charges and directories. Thus, the study relied on already published studies, reports and statistics. This secondary data was easily accessed through the online journals and library.

Findings: The findings reveal that there exists a contextual and methodological gap relating to digital communication and the rise of online activism. Preliminary empirical review revealed that digital communication had fundamentally transformed social and political activism, enabling rapid mobilization and broad dissemination of information. This shift democratized participation, allowing diverse voices to contribute to movements. However, the study also highlighted challenges such as the ephemeral nature of online engagement and the risks of reliance on centralized platforms. Despite these challenges, the potential for digital activism to drive meaningful change was evident, provided that movements could sustain real-world action and build resilient networks.

Unique Contribution to Theory, Practice and Policy: The Network Society Theory, Collective Action Theory and Framing Theory may be used to anchor future studies on digital communication and the rise of online activism. The study concluded that the integration of digital communication in activism required updates to theoretical frameworks to reflect the dynamic nature of online platforms. Practically, it recommended that activists enhance their digital strategies, prioritize digital literacy and security, and create engaging content to sustain participation. Policy-wise, it emphasized the need for regulations that protect online activism while preventing misinformation. Educational institutions were urged to incorporate digital activism into their curricula. Collaborative efforts among activists, tech developers, and policymakers were highlighted as essential for developing supportive technologies. Lastly, the study called for ongoing research to understand the long-term impacts and ethical implications of digital activism, noting its evolving influence on social and political landscapes.


Download data is not yet available.


Amnesty International. (2020). Nigeria: Horrific reign of impunity by SARS makes mockery of anti-torture law. Retrieved from

Anderson, M., Toor, S., Rainie, L., & Smith, A. (2018). Activism in the social media age. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2013). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139198752

Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope: Social movements in the internet age. Polity Press. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt183pjjh

CDD-Ghana. (2021). FixTheCountry: An analysis of citizen demands and government responses. Ghana Centre for Democratic Development. Retrieved from

Datafolha. (2018). Rejeição a Bolsonaro aumenta entre mulheres. Retrieved from

Earl, J., & Kimport, K. (2011). Digitally enabled social change: Activism in the internet age. MIT Press. DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262015103.001.0001

Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43(4), 51-58. DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01304.x

Extinction Rebellion. (2019). The story so far. Retrieved from

FEMNET. (2015). My Dress My Choice: Campaigning for women's rights in Kenya. African Women's Development and Communication Network. Retrieved from

Freelon, D., McIlwain, C. D., & Clark, M. D. (2016). Beyond the hashtags: #Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, and the online struggle for offline justice. Center for Media and Social Impact. Retrieved from

Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the streets: Social media and contemporary activism. Pluto Press. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt183pjjh

Gleason, B. (2013). #Occupy Wall Street: Exploring informal learning about a social movement on Twitter. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(7), 966-982. DOI: 10.1177/0002764213479372

Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Harvard University Press.

Howard, P. N., & Hussain, M. M. (2013). Democracy's fourth wave? Digital media and the Arab Spring. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199936970.001.0001

Jenkins, H. (2012). Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. Routledge. DOI: 10.4324/9780203640044

Kurihara, T. (2020). The KuToo movement: Digital feminism in Japan. Asian Journal of Women's Studies, 26(1), 67-82. DOI: 10.1080/12259276.2020.1712521

Langa, M. (2017). #FeesMustFall: Student revolt, decolonisation and governance in South Africa. Wits University Press. DOI: 10.18772/22017017427

McCosker, A. (2015). Social media activism at the margins: Managing visibility, voice and vitality affects. Social Media + Society, 1(2), 1-11. DOI: 10.1177/2056305115605860

Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Harvard University Press. DOI: 10.2307/2225973

Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and tear gas: The power and fragility of networked protest. Yale University Press. DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1n2tvqf

Van Dijck, J. (2013). The culture of connectivity: A critical history of social media. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199970776.001.0001




How to Cite

Phillips, C. (2024). Digital Communication and the Rise of Online Activism. Journal of Communication, 5(3), 31–44.