Public visibility

Social Movement Action: Public Visibility

Another key characteristic of social movements in the context of knowledge uptake and sustainability is public visibility. In this section, you will learn about public visibility, and how to use it in order to raise awareness, build credibility and increase the numbers of those engaged in the change initiative.

What is the key characteristic ‘Public visibility’?

Public presence or visibility is a key characteristic in social movements. Traditional communication and/or digital platforms such as social media are used intentionally by change agents to assert the existence of the movement and build collective identity (Bujalances Hoyos et al., 2020; del Castillo et al., 2016; Grinspun, 2015a). When applied to knowledge uptake and sustainability public presence draws attention to a social movement, and encourages others to see themselves as active partners in the change and not solely as observers or consumers of information (Bujalance Hoyos et al., 2020; Davey, 2009). Social media in all of its forms is a potent amplifier of social movements (Grinspun, 2021).

Public visibility of the change initiative is expressed through individual and collective action in various ways such as photos, quotes, logos, reports, as well as spoken or written narratives. They are used strategically to advance the goals of the social movement (Bajnok, et al., 2018b; Bujalances Hoyos et al., 2020; del Castillo et al., 2016; Serna Restrepo et al., 2018).

Using communication channels, including social media and websites, is central to the uptake and sustainability of knowledge (also called knowledge mobilization) and is used as a robust medium in modern implementation science. Examples include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Wiki, YouTube and more (Bujalance Hoyos et al., 2020; Grinspun, 2015a; Grinspun et al., 2018; Serna Restrepo et al., 2018).

Why is the key characteristic ‘Public visibility’ important?

  • Public visibility raises awareness of and draws attention to the social movement (Lippman et al., 2013; Serna Restrepo et al., 2018).
  • It triggers and expands the engagement of change agents and others, as public visibility showcases the individual and collective action activities that are occurring (Bujalance Hoyos et al., 2020; Lippman et al., 2013).  
  • It can accelerate change when social media platforms are used strategically to frame or position issues and apply pressure for change or to command a response by others (del Castillo et al., 2016; Grinspun et al., 2018).   
  • Public visibility supports the credibility and momentum of a social movement, as change agents and others see examples of ongoing activity and the individuals who are actively engaging in the change (Bujalance Hoyos et al., 2020; del Castillo et al., 2016; Grinspun, 2011).