FeesMustFall (V MODEL CODE BOOK).xlsx (104.3 MB)
Download file

Soft-Power Microblogging for South African Student Activism: A Reflective Case Study of #FeesMustFall Tweets

Download (104.3 MB)
posted on 31.03.2021, 13:44 authored by Nkululeko MakhubuNkululeko Makhubu, Adheesh Budree
This #FeesMustFall (#FMF) case study uses “soft power” as a concept interpreting the influence of a digitally-networked-culture connecting this student activist agenda. “Fallism” as the decolonisation proxy term for narratives shared on Twitter, developed a better understanding of lived post-apartheid socioeconomic issues, and power struggles experienced both at the campus and in society. Using big data artefacts, the thesis categorises the metadiscourse of South Africa’s twenty-six public universities. Tweet metadata characteristics and big data artefacts construct Fallist realities expressed online. Descriptive statistics and normative ethics interrogated Twitter characteristics that influenced the student movement. The relationships between campus discourses during #FMF is categorized into big data research themes deductively threading through the study. Big data artefacts construct the necessary findings of how influential Twitter was during #FMF in terms of opinion-forming and in influencing political action from campus spaces, to the national agenda. Constructivism informs the ‘Pedagogy of Compassion’, a progressive, Fallist emancipatory concept within decolonising Education literature. Using deductive reasoning, the themes are discussed in terms of duration of campus protests, frequencies of engagement matrices and total relative impact of twenty represented campus Fallist campaigns. The V-Model conceptually frameworks big data volume, variety, veracity and velocity preliminary results from sampled campus metanarratives. A mixed methodology expresses big data value as the soft power influence metric for student activism. The protest duration, descriptive frequencies of retweets, language, sources used, geospatial data and hashtags are sampled based on literature and the highest #FMF peak trend date. Findings confirm pedagogical privileges and geographical similarities between top university rankings and campus activist narratives. Metropolitan and Historically White Universities have relatively more tweet data, gaining a strong epistemic dominance over the national student movement. While other universities gained less soft power influence, this down-plays their importance from the student-led discourse on Twitter. The ‘conceptual-v-modelling’ of #FMF student narratives define the behavioural surplus which reflects the impact and role Twitter as epistemically dominated by historically white university narratives on Twitter. Findings ranked and evaluated a need for more student-led movement associations to better define decolonised power-relations, at various higher-education stakeholder levels. A student activism culture and ICT environment built on distrust as seen in this case, can generate perceptions of ‘epistemic chaos’ within social media narratives. As the study reflects the phenomena, a multi-focal lens closes the widening gap of ‘epistemic inequalities’ in the messaging of a shared national student movement agenda

The relationship between campus discourses during #FMF are broken down into five big data research propositions:
1. The Times and Days of #FMF
2. The Viral Messaging of #FMF
3. The Real-time Messaging during of #FMF
4. The Spatial Veracity of #FMF
5. The Metadiscourse of the #FMF Student Movement

Constructivism informs the ‘Pedagogy of Compassion’, a progressive, Fallist emancipatory concept within decolonising Education literature.


Nkululeko Makhubu



The University of Cape Town