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Notes on Ganesh and Stohl (2010) article on NZ activism and ICTs

June 22, 2010

Ganesh, S. and C. Stohl 2010. Qualifying Engagement: A Study of Information and Communication Technology and the Global Social Justice Movement in Aotearoa New Zealand, Communication Monographs, Volume 77, Issue 1 March 2010 , pages 51 – 74.

ICTs as used by Global Social Justice Movement (GSJM) not sufficiently problematised in media and academic discourse.

Most authors see networks as defining GSJM and focus on organising and individuals rather than on formal organisations which they see as losing their importance (e.g. Shirky 2008), p. 54

Authors interviewed 24 ‘rooted cosmopolitan’, leading activists in NZ in 2007. Interested in their brokerage across different groups + organisations.

Findings:

  • Attitudes towards new ICTs varied considerably (contra most scholarly accounts which see activists as uncritically technophiliac, p. 57), from sceptics through equivocators to advocates.
  • Activists were ‘organisational entrepreneurs’ brokering across more and less established orgs and other groupings, p. 60
  • Activists had a number of concerns re: ICTs, esp. about security (e.g. listservs as trusted ‘closed forums’, p. 62; concerns about activist-terrorist slippage in security forces’ perceptions post 9-11), access, relevance, labour (using ICTs for activism is hard work, see also Nielsen 2009 in forthcoming media/anthropology blog post)
  • Although greater individual agency enabled by ICTs, no evidence of organisations and collectives losing their importance [i.e. no ‘networked individualism’ in sight, which echoes my own findings among suburban activists in Malaysia].
  • Social media and mobile web beginning to take off at the time (2008)
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