Using Netnography to Map Issue Communities on Twitter During South Africa’s #FeesMustFall Student Protests


This case study focuses on how we used digital netnography and social network analysis to help map the conversations among Twitter users during the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa. The aim of the case study is to help explain what types of netnography can be used when embarking on internet research and how it can be a useful tool in distilling large amounts of data. We also take you through how we set up our network analysis and how these measures were able to track user patterns, key influencers, and important users who bridged conversations during the movement. We also discuss some of our own learning experiences, including how we overcame our fear of statistics and learned that big data is not only for researchers in the hard sciences.

Muchena, M. (2018). Hearing the ‘Voiceless’: Examining the #FeesMustFall movement as an issue community. [Masters Dissertation, University of KwaZulu-Natal]. South Africa. UKZN Researchspace.

Pitcher, S. (2016, September 29–1 October). #FeesMustFall - The ‘Forgotten’ Story: An analysis of user images on Instagram. [Conference presentation]. Participatory Culture and the Future of Democracy Conference. Institute of Journalism, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland.

Pitcher, S. (2016, 3–5 October). Setting alternative agendas? A comparison of student protest representations in South African newspapers. SACOMM 2016, University of the Free State.

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