Mediated interaction rituals: a geography of everyday life and contention in Black Lives Matter

Sander van Haperen*, Justus Uitermark, Alex van der Zeeuw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Movement for Black Lives has connected millions of people online. How are their outrage and hope mediated through social media? To address this question, this article extends Randall Collins’s Interaction Ritual Theory to social media. Employing semisupervised image recognition methods on a million Instagram posts with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, we identify four different interaction ritual types, each with distinct geographies. Instagram posts featuring interactions with physical copresence are concentrated in urban areas. We identify two different types of such areas: arenas where contention plays out and milieus where movement identities are affirmed. Instagram posts that do not feature physical copresence are more geographically dispersed. These posts, including memes and selfies, allow people to engage with the movement even when they are not embedded in activist environments. Our analysis helps to understand how different forms of engagement are embedded in particular places and connected through the circulation of social media posts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-313
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020

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