Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2012

Capstone Advisor

Professor Steve Sawyer

Honors Reader

Professor Carol Faulkner

Capstone Major

Information Management and Technology

Capstone College

Information Studies

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Communication | Communication Technology and New Media | Mass Communication | Social Influence and Political Communication | Social Media


The Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement have made great use of the Internet and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). This phenomenon intrigued my interest in how grassroots social movements have employed all types of media to mobilize, as well as how they furthered their agenda in the past. In order to better understand how the Internet impacted the three movements, my thesis draws on resource mobilization (RM) and new social movement (NSM) theories for theoretical understanding and textual analysis. The movements I reviewed for analysis are the Tea Party Movement (TPM), the Coffee Party Movement (CPM), and the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWSM). In addition to analyzing each movement through mobilization theories, I draw upon similar case studies, such as Bi Yun Huang’s (2009) work on the Falun Gong movement. Other studies include Hara and Estrada’s (2005), where they draw elements from theories, and studied indicators of the Internet’s influence on social activist’s activities through observing newspapers and journal articles.

Analysis of three movements’ websites show the SMOs utilized the Internet to communicate with internal and external resources, which reduces the costs of the operation, compared to using direct-mail, phone calls, and television ads. My analysis indicated that the Internet and its means for communication served as an integral part in forming a collective identity among the movement activists, which is a key factor in coming to a collective action, as indicated by the NSM theory. Even for Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been able to solicit ongoing support and allegiance in spite of its broad aims and decentralized organization, due to its ability to maintain solidarity and its overall variability, they have been able to solicit ongoing support and allegiance. More generally, my analysis showed that grassroots social movements are latching on to networked technologies that provide a framework where holders of specific views reinforce their opinions and form solidarity with one another.

The case study on the Internet’s influence on the three movements, as studies by Yun Huang (2009), McCarthy and Neumayer (1977), et al have shown, reveal that as a grassroots social movement, the movements have been impacted in four main ways. Users online engage the most in Internet services modified to suit their movement needs. They are able to access and acquire various types of resources, such as money and knowledge. They are able to make use of the opportunities Internet provides for participants to mobilize offline. They supplement the ways in which participants form a collective identity.

This thesis used a combination of research on grassroots movement and the combination of RM and NSM theories as a framework to analyze the use of the Internet with online grassroots social movements. Use of the two RM theories displays the ways in which Internet expands the movement’s agenda, as well as its constraints in going beyond being a viral, networked movement. Because the theories were formed not movements on the Internet, it is difficult to fully exemplify ways in which Internet expands the movement’s agenda.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.