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Materials on internet (esp. social media) and activism

May 11, 2010

NB – copy-and-paste work in progress (with thanks to, couldn’t have done it without you!)

Internet activism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Internet activism (also known as online organizing, electronic advocacy, cyberactivism, E-campaigning, and E-activism) is the use of electronic communication technologies such as e-mail, the World Wide Web, and podcasts for various forms of activism to enable faster communications by citizen movements and the delivery of local information to a large audience. Internet technologies are used for cause-related fundraising, community building, lobbying, and organizing.

Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet: Graham Meikle (2002)

The revolution will not be televised. But will it be online instead? When the Internet first took off, we heard a lot about its potential for social change. We heard it would revitalize democracy. We heard it would empower us. We heard we would all be publishers, working together to created a new public sphere. Future Active tests such claims. With fierce intelligence and wit, Graham Meikle takes us behind the digital barricades and into the heart of Internet activist campaigns.

Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens and Social Movements: Van De Donk, Loader, Nixon, Rucht (2004)

A growing body of literature during the last decades of the twentieth century attests to the significant impact SMs have had upon the restructuring of the political landscape. Most of that literature addresses the more traditional actors and institutions (e.g. parliaments, political parties, bureaucracy etc.). Less attention has been devoted to those manifestations of political action that are concentrated around social movements and all kinds of more or less institutionalised and sustainable forms of citizen mobilisation. This book is a collection of cases that take a critical look into the way ICTs are finding their way into the world of social movements.

Social Movements and New Media (Loader 2009)

It concludes by suggesting that new media does offer important opportunities for cost-effective networking, interpretive framing, mobilization, and repertoires of protest action. However, their adoption does not represent the creation of entirely new virtual social movements but rather a new means of providing existing social movement organisations, local activist networks, and street-level protest with a trans-national capacity to collaborate, share information, and communicate with a wider audience.

Beyond the ‘Networked Public Sphere’: Politics, Participation and Technics in Web 2.0
Dr Ben Roberts, University of Bradford

This article argues for a much more critical or sceptical approach to the political promise of Web 2.0. Focusing particularly on Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks, it argues that current accounts of the participatory aspects of web culture tend to take a rather narrow view of what such participation might mean. However, aspects of the work of Bernard Stiegler, and that of others in the Ars Industrialis group co-founded by Stiegler, can help inform a more nuanced account of the relationship between politics and participation. It looks specifically at the arguments in Marc Crépon and Bernard Stiegler’s book De la démocratie participative, written during the recent French presidential campaign, and will examine how the idea of participation articulates with key themes in Stiegler’s philosophy of technics. Finally it suggests some ways in which this debate on participation might be moved on.

Activism or slacktivism?

What about politics, and the idea that, thanks to the internet, digital natives will grow up to be more responsible citizens, using their technological expertise to campaign on social issues and exercise closer scrutiny over their governments? Examples abound, from Barack Obama’s online campaign to activism on Twitter. A three-year study by the MacArthur Foundation found that spending time online is “essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age”. But discussions about “digital citizens” run into the same problems as those about digital natives: there may simply be too much economic, geographic, and demographic disparity within this group to make meaningful generalisations.

Rheingold: young people need participatory literacy

Participation literacy: So if you look at the statistics that have come out in the recent Pew Internet and American Life studies, a majority of American youth not only consume, but create and author online, whether that’s customizing their MySpace page, or running a blog, or even running a YouTube channel. We are seeing that the newcomers to this new world, the young people who are growing up with online media, are not just passive consumers of information but active creators of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand the rhetorics of these media and how to interpret them to their own advantage. How do you use RSS to track an issue that concerns you? How do you use a blog to advocate a position on the use of a wiki to organize a plan to action? These I think are appropriate places for interventions by educators.

Cyberspace Ethnography: Political Activism and the Internet

We thus witness a range of concerns in the literature on politics and power in/via the Internet, ranging from new utopian conceptualizations of a cyber democracy, to critiques of balkanization and fragmented associations, to serious worries that social media are the best state surveillance tool yet, permitting heightened policing of citizens, or even crowd sourcing intelligence for the cause of national security. Anyone can use social media to organize causes and project political messages, including states and their military and intelligence agencies – witness the techniques of “soft power” and “genetically modified social movements.”

Social media and the myth of techno-utopia « Cyberspace Ethnography: Political Activism and the Internet

TV Ontario, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, aired this episode on 24 February 2010, featuring debate around issues of cyber activism, digital resistance, and authoritarianism.

How Iranian activists’ bubble burst

Iranian activists have long reaped the benefits of Internet communication, but especially in the months since the June 12 election, they have also fallen prey to its pitfalls. Reassured by their own online echo chambers, activists and participants allowed their optimism to grow like a market bubble — a bubble that, many say, was popped on Thursday.

The vulnerabilities of new media #activism

Activism as a means of community mobilization or resistance generally relies on a community’s collective understanding of an issue that concerns its members. This collective understanding is generally reproduced and mediated by various communication channels such as email, websites, blogs and forums. When looking at new media activism as it is carried out amongst community groups, it is necessary to consider how a group’s understanding of their cause or agenda is mediated within the digital realm. New media activism utilizes the long-ranging opportunities of digital technology for groups to connect via channels that are inexpensive, quick, and accessible for all members to some degree. However, in utilizing the Internet and other technologies, activists and activist groups are subject to the threats of infiltration, surveillance and hacking.

CFP: “Twitter Revolutions? Addressing Social Media and Dissent” « media/anthropology

What the Iranian case has added to the discussion – crystallized in the above quote from Giroux – is supposed evidence of the powerful role of social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in facilitating dissent during times of conflict and suppression. However, the aftermath of the June 2009 Iranian elections also provided ample evidence of the inverse: how the use of social media by anti-government activists, as well as access to highly sophisticated monitoring hardware and software on the part of the Iranian authorities, rationalized processes of state surveillance and repression.

Digital Activism: An Interview with Mary Joyce (via @anjakovaks)

in almost all of the famous cases of digital activism “success” – the post-election mobilizations in Iran and Moldova in 2009 or the 2008 general strike in Egypt – while activists did successfully mobilize using social media, they did not achieve their campaign goal, be it to overturn an allegedly fraudulent election result or the wide range of social and political reforms demanded by the strike organizers.

@ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture
(Paperback) by Joss Hands (Author)

“@ is For Activism” examines the transformation of politics through digital media, including digital television, online social networking and mobile computing. Joss Hands maps out how political relationships have been reconfigured and new modes of cooperation, deliberation and representation have emerged. This analysis is applied to the organisation and practice of alternative politics, showing how they have developed and embraced the new political and technological environment. Hands offers a comprehensive critical survey of existing literature, as well as an original perspective on networks and political change. He includes many case studies including the anti-war and global justice movements, peer production, user created TV and ‘Twitter’ activism. “@ is For Activism” is essential for activists and students of politics and media.

DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media

A renewed emphasis on participatory forms of digitally-mediated production is transforming our social landscape. ‘Making’ has become the dominant metaphor for a variety of digital and digitally-mediated practices. The web is exploding with independently produced digital ‘content’ such as video diaries, conversations, stories, software, music, video games—all of which are further transformed and morphed by “modders,” “hackers,” artists and activists who redeploy and repurpose corporately-produced content.

Morozov v Shirky on Iran internet activism (Jan 2010)

The palpable digital enthusiasm surrounding the situation in Iran appears very similar to what we observed in the autumn of 2007, as the “Saffron Revolution” was getting underway in Burma. Similarly, that revolution was abetted by mobile phones and text messaging and was widely expected to loosen the junta’s tight grip on power. Today, however, one would need a powerful magnifying glass to notice any major democratic changes in that country.

Das Unbehagen an der digitalen Macht, von Clay Shirky und Evgeny Morozov (via @evgenymorozov)

Die Träume der Netz-Utopisten und die Wirklichkeit: Ist das Internet ein Medium der Emanzipation und des Umsturzes – oder ein Werkzeug der Kontrolle und der Unterdrückung? Haben Twitter und Facebook die Rebellion in Iran befeuert, oder halfen sie, die Rebellen zu enttarnen? Ein skeptischer Dialog

Online activism gets tactical with new documentary (Dec 2009)

The power of technology to mobilise the masses and force change has been felt across the world – and now a documentary film-maker hopes to offer “practical advice” for activists. The film – 10 tactics for turning information into action – offers practical advice such as “amplify personal stories”, and “how to use complex data”.

To be continued…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2010 8:58 am

    Interesting stuff John.

    What is it, when studying internet activism, that lets the ethnographer avoid “going native” and indeed should they?

  2. May 12, 2010 9:13 am

    Thanks Daniel. That’s a tricky one. I’m still reading Jeff Juris’ ethnography of Barcelona-based activists, Networking Futures, where he describes himself as both an academic and an activist of the anti-globalisation movement.

    In my own research on local internet activism in suburban Kuala Lumpur I had a delicate act to balance. Although I sympathised with and got on well with the local activists, I also had to maintain good working relations with various government agencies and politicians, who I generally also got on well with.

    The general understanding across the governance divide was that I was there as a neutral foreign observer, which doesn’t always fit in well with active participation!

    How’s your own activism-cum-research in India coming along?

  3. May 12, 2010 9:15 am

    … if indeed it is both!


  1. Jennifer M Jones | Social Media & Media-Events: Archiving Vancouver’s Alternative Media: 4th of October #ANDFest @CornerhouseMCR

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