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28 April talk: Free culture activism and social media in Barcelona

April 12, 2011

Dr John Postill
IN3 Visiting Fellow

Thursday 28 April, 10:30 to 12:00
IN3, Mediatic Building, 7th floor
W. Mitchell Room
Open University of Catalonia
Roc Boronat, 117 (near Glories)

The free culture movement is an international movement that defends the right of ordinary people to produce, consume, share and modify digital and other cultural artefacts freely. In this talk I review my current research into the uses of social media for free culture activism in Barcelona, a city that is home to a thriving free culture scene. I shall discuss the following findings: (1) The free culture movement in Barcelona takes on a range of online and offline forms, including an alternative award ceremony, forums, seminars, training sessions, and protests; (2) activists’ use of proprietary software does not raise any major ethical dilemmas, (3) social media are essential tools in the free culture toolbox, especially Twitter, Facebook, Menéame, YouTube, Vimeo, blogs and wikis; (4) …but so are good old-fashioned mailing lists (a neglected technology in the academic and journalistic discourse); (5) free culture activism in Barcelona is attuned to the changing political scene in Madrid, e.g. during the December 2010 mobilisation against  the Sinde bill (“Ley Sinde”), aimed at curtailing free access to copyrighted contents; and (6) one bone of contention within the movement is to what extent internet campaigns require a ‘street’ dimension in order to be effective. In the latter part of the talk I will offer some tentative explanations for this set of findings building on my previous research into internet activism (Postill, J. in press. Localizing the Internet: An Anthropological Account. Oxford: Berghahn).

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nagaraju Jinka permalink
    April 12, 2011 1:24 pm

    Webellion And Rebellion

    It’s really a thought provoking idea. Yes, when does the internet campaign acquire a street dimension to be effective? Does it need a flash point to become a physical force?
    When does the webellion become rebellion?
    I would like to share the recent Indian campaign against corruption led by octogenarian social activist Anna Hazare,
    The recent developments in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have generated an unprecedented online acrimony (I would like to call this webellion) on the corruption and the life styles of politicians and bureaucrats in India. These volumes of messages, tweets, chats and other forms of social media activities have not grown to the level of producing a murmur on the ground. Even though the Parliament of India was discussing the corruption of humongous dimension in Telecom department in which government lost revenue to the tune of approximately $3.5 billion, not a soul was seen on the road protesting the loot of the country by the ministers in the federal government, who distributed the 2G spectrum to private telecom firms at throwaway prices allegedly by taking kickbacks.
    Anna Hazare’s ‘street-fight’ by resorting to fast unto death received a groundswell support from the people which included the online activists.
    Anna began his fast in the national capital New Delhi on April 5 and called off it on April 9, when the federal government agreed to bring about a legislation to curb corruption with the involvement of civic society.
    In the first three days of the fast reported an unusual online activity. According to a report in Times of India, a total 4.4 million tweets from 8,26,000 unique users across 79 cities in India participated in the campaign. And it’s the people aged between 36 and 45 years who were talking about it the most, followed by those aged above 46. IT city Bangalore ranks third among the top seven cities on this impressive list after Mumbai and Delhi according to the quick data tracking of 42,000 sources by a Banglore based Vangal Software & Services Private Limited. While Mumbai leads the list with 3.71 lakh mentions for Anna Hazare and his fast, Bangalore and Kolkata have more people following up on the Lokpal bill. Over 2.24 lakh Bangaloreans have shown keen interest in knowing more about this legislation. In Kolkata, it’s 2.32 lakh.
    Observations during the three days have also seen a shift in people emotions online. About 77% of them are now absolutely positive about Hazare’s fast and the campaign. The 16% increase comes in just three days. Even the 18% initial negative sentiments for his fast had reduced to 11%. The report also shows 12% of them still neutral in discussion without taking any clear stand. This number has also reduced by 9% (It was 21% the previous day).
    But ultimately it was not the groundswell support by Net activist, but the street dimension of Anna that brought the government to its knees. The webellion did mobilize people but it transformed into a rebellion only after Anna provided the trigger.
    Is it not reminding you that revolutions are preceded by Great War of ideas? Earlier literature and other cultural forms used to prepare the masses for the revolutions or insurrections. Do the Web activities like literature need a ‘street’ trigger to become a physical force?
    -Nagaraju Jinka

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