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Spain’s 15 May movement and social innovation

July 19, 2011

Thinking aloud in preparation for Social Media for Social Innovation roundtable, Barcelona, 21 July 2011. My task is to speak briefly about social media and social innovation in relation to the #SpanishRevolution, also known as 15 May Movement. These notes are work in progress.

Thoughts, questions:

  • What is social innovation? How do we recognise it when we see it? Who defines what counts as social innovation? Is it counterposed to technological or scientific innovation? Should we speak of socio-technical innovation as a subcategory of social innovation or are the social and the technical inseparable? Doesn’t this term contain a problematic normative bias?
  • Social innovation will always proceed unevenly across organisations, classes, specialist fields, countries, etc.
  • More often than not social innovations spread from locale A to locales B, C, D…; occasionally they arise independently in A, B, C, D …. For example, local forms of banal activism have arisen independently as demanded by local needs in a number of residential suburbs around the globe; they did not spread from a single source (Postill 2011). By contrast, the 15-M encampments spread from a single source, Puerta del Sol (Madrid), to many other locales from 16 May 2011 onwards. Not so the pre-15-M preparations which arose from multiple sources connected to one another through networked technologies and co-present meetings.
  • But are the encampments social innovations or merely rehashes of old practices? How long should we spend agonising over whether a given social phenomenon is new, old or newish?
  • If 15-M is both ‘a social movement and a form of cultural production’ (as the anthropologist Mark A. Peterson has recently described the Egyptian uprisings) what part has social/socio-technical innovation paid in its progress so far? Any examples?
  • Avoiding false dichotomies (e.g. virtual vs. real life) and media polemics of the ‘Twitter revolution’ variety, we should develop historical-processual analyses that track the messy interactions between political agents, digital media and the physical world that characterise political struggles in the present era, e.g. 15-M movement.
  • The 15-M movement has its own logic (or set of logics), its own momentum, techno-political tools, practices, leadership (yes, leadership), followership, etc. – and these do not map nicely onto Spain’s existing political culture (and indeed that of other states). An ethnographic and historical reconstruction of the movement since its inception in the first half of 2011 should ‘follow the movement’ and seek to understand it on its own terms, not those of the extant political system.
  • What part do viral processes of diffusion and modification of ideas, slogans, symbols, information, etc, play in the spread and consolidation of 15-M?
  • To end on an upbeat note: these events may be so complex that they will require a future Tony Judt giant to synthetise them into a coherent narrative, but they are also incredibly exciting. There is no doubt that techno-political innovation is taking place; working out exactly how and where will keep social scientists busy for years.

Materials:

2 May 2011. La calle (y la red) es nuestra | Guerreros del teclado ¿Apáticos? ¿Desafectados? ¿Pasivos? En absoluto. No es eso ni mucho menos lo que bulle en la red ni lo que destilan los miembros de la plataforma ciudadana Democracia Real Ya, una de las varias que han surgido en el ciberespacio español para decir que ya basta y promover un cambio. Curiosa desde que la descubrí en el muro de una amiga en Facebook, me pasé ayer por la reunión semanal que la sección de Barcelona mantiene en el barrio del Raval y lo que percibí fueron grandes dosis de entusiasmo para combatir la indignación. Cada domingo suelen coincidir aquí entre 30 y 40 personas; es cuando el mundo online y el offline se conectan y se asocian caras desconocidas con cuentas en las redes sociales y mensajes dejados en los fórums.

18 May 2011. Democràcia real ja!: Y ahora, ¿qué? Pues bien, ahora parece que la gente está entregada a la calle tomando las plazas, pero la labor de Democràcia Real Ja! no acaba aquí. Mañana Jueves 19/05 hay una asamblea aquí en Barcelona, ya estamos terminando de confeccionar el orden del día. Básicamente lo que más pide la gente es reorganizarnos, pues las antiguas comisiones de trabajo han quedado obsoletas tras el #15M y tenemos que enfocar energías. Si te apetece proponer algo a debatir, hazlo aquí. La buena noticia es que están surgiendo muchísimas ideas, la mente de la gente ebulle, la creatividad se dispara y estamos encantados a más no poder. De hecho, ¡nos gusta tanto que os seguimos animando a entrar en el foro y colaborar con nosotros!

21 May 2011. Demandes | acampadabcn En Barcelona, recopilando la sabiduría y las aportaciones de centenares de personas, se están escribiendo colectivamente varios documentos de trabajos que hablan de los varios niveles en los que vamos a operar para conseguir el cambio. Todos ellos son documentos abiertos en modificación y mejora constante.Esto es tan solo uno de ellos. Con la intención de sumar a este, documentos más concretos y especializados, se han creado subcomisiones de contenido. Estamos cambiando el mundo. Completamente.

25 May 2011. The #spanishrevolution is an internet movement that was started by leading figures on the internet, including top bloggers and internet entrepreneurs, to harness the distress of the Spanish people into action ahead of this past weekend’s elections. The most active supporters of the movement have moved from the internet to the streets to gather in camps at key locations of many Spanish cities, like the Plaza del Sol in Madrid, where they discuss the changes they want to bring about and are planning to stay for the time being. Each camp is autonomous, there is no central organ coordinating the movement and many sleep in public squares in protest.

28 May 2011. #Wikiacampadas Es una nueva política para salir de la crisis hacia un nuevo modo de vida construido colectivamente. Manuel Castells. Key points: Electoral slogans rang hollow as Spain approached 22 May municipal elections; new platforms emerged from the internet to demand an ‘ethical revolution’ that will end the present two-party system and its subordination to global corporate capitalism. Not the usual suspects, see Flickr photos on acampadabcn.org for examples of diversity. Leaderless movement – those who tried to stick out their head quickly de-authorised by the camp; each person represents his or herself. Intense debates, dynamic organisation around thematic, autonomous committees coordinated through an inter-committee whose members rotate. After the elections, the movement became more widespread, concrete and deep. Increased attention paid to elaborating concrete objectives, e.g. AcampadaSol. Alongside these concrete goals there is utopianism, but what’s really transformative is the process not the product. Those who play down these wikicamps don’t yet understand their depth; Spaniards have discovered new ways of organisation, participation and mobilisation [my emphasis] that cannot be contained within traditional institutions.

1 June 2011. Tweets from Carlos S. Almeida talk on #SpanishRevolution’s cyberactivist roots. So we can now create new forms of doing politics. Thank you [FINAL TWEET].“Social movements have, at long last, converged with cyberactivism”. We should take debate back to its natural habitat: the net where we can debate and deliberate calmly, without mass media pressure… and return to streets with renewed strength. What next? only spanish society can decide. Thrill to see diff gens of activists, from Paris 68 via Seattle, converging in 15-M movement. Civil society orgs have done their part. We at #nolesvoteshave helped on the net; Democracia Real have done great organisational job at street level. On 15 May we were all out in the streets. JSF, DRY and NolesVotes hashtags all channelled together to form 15 May movement. On 27 Jan 2011 Sanchez Almeida tweeted #nolesvotes (don’t vote for main parties). Then once all nodes aligned thanks to galvanising Sinde issue, proposal was broadened via wiki. Sinde´s censorship Law was catalyst for much wider mobilisation. Two new embryos emerged: Juventud sin Futuro and Democracia Real Ya.

10 July 2011. La no identidad como identidad · ELPAÍS.com El movimiento de cultura libre, con su habilidad de retournement (que dirían los situacionistas), es decir, con su capacidad de hacer descarrilar, reconducir y recrear todo tipo de producciones culturales y artísticas, ha servido de zócalo a la movida [del 15-M] rompiendo moldes y derechos de propiedad, compartiendo y difundiendo. Se ha aprovechado, asimismo, la gran capacidad de inventiva y de contracultura hegemónica desplegada en América Latina, donde ya hace años probaron de manera directa y cruda las recetas neoliberales.

14 July 2011. Spain’s indignants: Europe’s most earnest protesters | The Economist. They may not know what they want, but they are starting to get it.

18 July 2011. El ‘big-bang’ del 15-M · ELPAÍS.com. Ha pasado más de un mes desde que los indignados desmantelaron el campamento de la Puerta del Sol y se refugiaron en las asambleas 15-M de los barrios y pueblos. En Sol quedó el punto de información, que necesita 22 voluntarios diarios (aunque les cuesta cumplir todos los turnos que tienen establecidos), y unos pocos llevaron la acampada itinerante a su primer objetivo: Rivas (desde hace una semana se han mudado a Parla, a la plaza Adolfo Marsillach). El resto, se fue a casa, y desde su casa, a las asambleas 15-M de los barrios y pueblos de Madrid. Suman más de 110, según la web que aglutina las actividades de todas.

19 July 2011. La red N-1 despierta con el 15-M – Madrid – Madridiario. Los “barrios despiertos” del 15-M se organizan y coordinan gracias a las redes sociales, Twitter y Facebook son la referencia, pero las asambleas han aprendido a usar una red que estaba dormida y la han adaptado: se llama N-1(n menos uno).

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