What Was Up in Wisconsin?

Up until a few months ago I had absolutely no idea that the Wisconsin protests of 2011 even happened. I was 15 and I wasn’t very active on social media yet; I guess I also didn’t really know about or understand social movements, especially those that were going on miles and miles away from where I live. This protest was huge, and yet I didn’t hear about it until years after it happened. I mean, look how many people showed up at the state Capitol building:

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Photo by: Ryan O’Hara, “Protest,” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via flickr

The first I heard about the Wisconsin protests was last semester in a class with the same professor that I am taking this class, Activists Writing Media, with. We read a little bit about it, but I didn’t completely understand it, or how the people of Wisconsin felt about it, until reading Jaffe’s book. Chapter Four, called “Challenging the Austeritarians,” discusses just that.

Most recent social movements rely heavily on social media, either to help start up or to spread the word and connect people from all over. Social media took a large part in the starting of Black Lives Matter and the planning and set up of the Women’s Marches that took place on January 21st, 2017. Upon researching the implications that social media had on the Wisconsin protests, I found that, even though hadn’t seen it on any social media, people were using different platforms, specifically Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to their advantage.

Facebook was used largely to plan the protests and there were many groups for people to join to show their support. It was also used to help circulate pictures and videos from the protests. Likewise, in a world before live streaming was as prevalent as it is today, protesters turned to YouTube to share videos of the protests. Like, Black Lives Matter, this movement had its own hashtag, too: #wiunion. The hashtag is still somewhat active now, six years later. It seems as though most people involved with social media during the protests were the protesters, but I did find that others turned to social media to show both support and criticism towards the unions and the protesters.

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