Coming Together Around Hashtags: Exploring the Formation of Digital Emergent Citizen Groups

Andrew S Pyle, Brandon Boatwright


It has been well established that during and after crisis or emergency events, groups of citizens come together to help one another, solve problems, and manage recovery or cleanup. These groups are called emergent citizen groups. They form organically and often disband when the emergency is managed. This study proposes that similar types of groups now form in digital spaces during and after crises. The authors studied conversation on Twitter that used the hashtag “#PrayforUSC” after the murder-suicide that took place at the University of South Carolina in 2015. Initial results indicate that hashtags can function as focal points or catalysts for digital emergent citizen groups. More research should be done to determine whether and how these groups form, function, and disperse.


Crisis; Disaster; Twitter; Emergent Groups; Social Media

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