Recent civil disturbances and political protests from China and the Middle East to New York City and university campuses have been accompanied by a growing body of video and photography. Activists and observers can now capture events with inexpensive digital cameras and cellphones and distribute the footage through social media sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Ustream, and Facebook. How have these changes affected public perceptions and the way officials and police and handle such events? What new standards are necessary for the use of video as legal evidence? How can emerging technologies be enhanced and participants trained to make these tools more effective?
As mobile technology has progressed in the past decade, users have been increasingly able to share content through their mobile devices. Where users were previously limited to audio and text messages in 1-to-1 communication, they are now able to audio-visually record content and distribute it over a vast network of interconnected mobile and stationary devices. This progression is now affecting the representation of United States law enforcement in online and traditional media as police misconduct is more easily recorded and distributed through smartphone technology. This technology has been excessively used by American protesters in the Occupy movement which is why it will exemplify the war of images being fought by law enforcement and the public. The role of mobile devices and social media in the movement will be analyzed in order to understand how the ubiquity and affordances of representation of digital technology is now converging with a parallel development of increased militarization and non-lethal weapon use by law enforcement.
Advances in personal communications devices including smartphones, are enabling individuals to establish and form virtual communities in cyberspace. Such platforms now allow users to be in continuous contact, enabling them to receive information in real time, which allows them to act in support of other members of their network. This paper will discuss some of the capabilities afforded by social media to protest groups focused on civil disobedience. Direct action protests are now a common sight at gatherings of world leaders, most notably the meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Seattle in 1999, the G20 meetings in Melbourne in 2006 and Toronto in 2010. Facebook and Twitter are becoming recognised as key mediums from which to drive change, exert influence and strategically and tactically outmaneuver conventional police deployments at protests. Police charged with managing protest activity now need to operate in both the physical and cyber worlds simultaneously.
The Internet shutdowns in Syria and Egypt have shown how governments can thwart activists who mobilize and promote their cause online. Some countries claim that control is their right, but will the rest of the world agree?
Scholars and activists have hotly debated the relationship between social media and social movement activity during the current global cycle of protest. This article investigates media practices in the Occupy movement and develops the concept of social movement media cultures: the set of tools, skills, social practices and norms that movement participants deploy to create, circulate, curate and amplify movement media across all available platforms. The article posits three key areas of inquiry into social movement media cultures, and explores them through the lens of the Occupy movement: (1) What media platforms, tools and skills are used most widely by movement participants? (Practices); (2) What role do experienced practitioners play in movement media practices? (Expertise); and (3) In what ways does the movement media culture lean toward open or participatory, and in what ways toward closed or top–down? (Open/Closed). Insight into the media culture of the Occupy movement is based on mixed qualitative and quantitative methods, including semi-structured interviews, participant observation, visual research and participation in Occupy Hackathons, as well as the Occupy Research General Demographic and Political Participation Survey, a database of approximately 1200 local Occupy sites, and a dataset of more than 13 million Occupy-related tweets. The findings will be of interest to both scholars and movement participants.
This paper explores the relationship between the identity of a political campaign and its use of internet technologies. Through detailed case studies of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and those of previous online innovators, I show that outsider campaigns with an antipolitics message have been responsible for many breakthroughs in online politics. I argue that such innovation is possible because these campaigns are unconstrained by the conventional wisdom of political consultants. This allows innovation which maximizes the internet’s unique capacities for social networking. This study illuminates the dynamics of technological progress and campaign strategy.
"While the 'Jasmine Revolution' in Tunisia would not have happened without the long struggle of brave human rights defenders over the last two decades, support for activists from outside the country may have been strengthened as people scrutinized the WikiLeaks documents on Tunisia and understood the roots of the anger. In particular, some of the documents made clear that countries around the world were aware of both the political repression and the lack of economic opportunity, but for the most part were not taking action to urge change."
Sociologists of culture studying “fan activism” have noted an apparent increase in its volume, which they attribute to the growing use of the Internet to register fan claims. However, scholars have yet to measure the extent of contemporary fan activism, account for why fan discontent has been expressed through protest, or precisely specify the role of the Internet in this expansion. We argue that these questions can be addressed by drawing on a growing body of work by social movement scholars on “movement societies,” and more particularly on a nascent thread of this approach we develop that theorizes the appropriation of protest practices for causes outside the purview of traditional social movements
Wired hired writer Quinn Norton in the fall of 2011 to embed herself among activists in the Occupy movement, and report back on what she witnessed.
John Postill's insight:
“We needed Homage to Catalonia,” he told me later, referring to George Orwell’s book on being part of the failed coalition of anarchists, liberals and Communists who fought fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Instead of Orwell’s eloquent honesty, Occupy got egomaniacal live streamers.
While other studies explain the Rose Revolution in terms of the contribution of the “power players,” Popular Mobilization and Empowerment in Georgia’s Rose Revolution, by Kelli Hash-Gonzalez, adds to our understanding of the event by examining it from the perspective of ordinary citizens. Hash-Gonzalez shows how the movement frames targeted people’s emotions, as well as their beliefs and values to more effectively mobilize them for action. Using the election fraud as a focal point, movement leaders and activists amplified the emotions and beliefs incorporated in the themes of injustice, dignity, and duty, which supported movement participation. They also appealed to people’s emotions and beliefs in an effort to transform the common frame of political powerlessness, which worked against participation. The book also examines the role that emotional energy played in mobilization. The achievement of a critical mass of protestors was surprising, given the hopelessness, cynicism, and alienation in the region’s political culture. This level of participation was essential for movement emergence and success. Without the people, none of the other necessary factors—NGOs, civil society, financial resources, foreign support or interference, the media, government vulnerability, political elites, opposition unity—could have achieved a legitimate regime change. Popular Mobilization and Empowerment in Georgia’s Rose Revolution is an in-depth examination of a significant political moment from the perspective of the people who lived it.
International in outlook, outspoken in comment, award-winning magazine Index on Censorship is the only publication dedicated to freedom of expression.
From Tunisia to China, activists and journalists use technology to get vital news out and bring about change. As the battle to control information continues -- from government surveillance, online blocking and big business to hacktivists and protesters -- Index looks at the key players in the fight for digital freedom.
Academic observers and public intellectuals frequently criticize mass email action alerts as “slacktivism” or “clicktivism,” arguing that the lowered transaction costs of the medium produce a novel form of activism that carries with it hidden costs and dangers for the public sphere. This article challenges those claims, relying on a combination of personal observation within the advocacy community and on a new quantitative dataset of advocacy group email activity to articulate three points. First, that mass emails are functionally equivalent to the photocopied and faxed petitions and postcards of “offline” activism, and represent a difference-of-degree rather than a difference-in-kind. Second, that such low-quality, high-volume actions are a single tactic in the strategic repertoire of advocacy groups, thus reducing cause for concern about their limited effect in isolation. Third, that the empirical reality of email activation practices has little in common with the dire predictions offered by common critiques. The article responds to a previous Policy & Internet article: “The Case Against Mass E-mails.” 1 (1).
Can social media facilitate better protest action organisation and coordination? This question has been at the forefront of discussion between media pundits and academic scholars. But what networking mechanisms and communication patterns help activists achieve better organisation and coordination? This study uses social network analysis to explore students' Twitter use during the 2010 university occupations. It maps the interconnections between Twitter occupation accounts at the peak of the online protest network's activity and examines how this structure benefited the entire network and identifies 1) how ‘closely’ accounts were connected, 2) which were the best connected and 3) which acted as brokers. Findings show that the protest groups used the Twitter network structure to establish horizontal, direct lines of communication to efficiently redistribute information. Although some accounts played a larger role in distributing information than others, occupation accounts could continue to receive information from the decentralised network even if well-connected accounts were removed.
Amid a dizzying array of social media, the ground of activism has fractured into decentered knots creating a cacophony of panmediated worlds. Our analysis of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) offers a preliminary charting of the fragmenting of the old media world into a proliferation of social media worlds. On old media, OWS was stillborn, first neglected, and then frivolously framed. On social media, OWS's emergence was vibrant, its manifestations much discussed, celebrated, and attacked. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube create new contexts for activism that do not exist in old media. Plus, social media foster an ethic of individual and collective participation, thus creating a norm of perpetual participation. In OWS, that norm creates new expectations of being in the world.
When Rush Limbaugh made his now famous remarks about Sandra Fluke's Congressional testimony he set off a social media firestorm. The ensuing backlash cost Limbaugh many prominent advertisers and damaged his public image. In this study, we examine the characteristics that motivated some to engage in the social media conversation while others remained on the sidelines. We find that political information efficacy, or confidence that one has the knowledge and skills necessary to participate, dictate political engagement online. We discuss the implications of this finding for radio, communication and media scholars, and healthy democratic deliberation among young Americans.
Faced with an economic crisis, people took to the streets and camped in urban plazas throughout Spain in May 2011. Many people were successfully mobilized by a generalized sense of frustration, indignation and impotency in the face of coming elections where many citizens felt there were no real alternative economic and social policies offered, nor the possibility to vote for government programmes that would deal with the crisis in a way that prioritized the concerns of the population. In online discussions, concerned proactive participants called for ‘A Real Democracy Now’ that represented the concerns and priorities of regular Spanish citizens. In order to make their discontent visible, they called for people to camp and ‘occupy’ public spaces together in order to force politicians and elites to face the generalized discontent with the dire economic prospects. This paper builds on non-participant observation of the Indignados movement in Barcelona, Spain, conducted in the summer of 2011. It looks at the consolidation of the ‘occupy’ contentious performance to protest income inequality and economic policy. It argues that this movement is a direct precedent to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA. The 15 May movement showed that not only people in North Africa had reasons to take the streets and engage in collective action, but many citizens in the developed world also had reasons to take public squares and show their dissatisfaction with the economic and political status quo.
This study examines, through a content analysis of the census of news stories posted in a Colombian online political community, how status cues and informational cascades shape participation in online political discussions. Specifically, it looks at how the authors’ news stories posting increase rate, the number of news story sources, the velocity at which comments to a news story start to appear, and the comment interactivity affect discussion participation. Results suggest that cues that signal expertise influence participation, while discussion among users also influences the decision of others to participate. However, the effect of these variables is stronger for some topics. Implications for the constitution of public spheres are discussed.
...en el ámbito de las políticas públicas han proliferado en los últimos años experiencias de administraciones y gobiernos que han encontrado en internet un espacio estratégico y extremadamente útil para la dinamización y participación ciudadana, siendo quizás los dos ejemplos más claros el proceso constituyente islandés sostenido a través de lo que se ha conocido como la wikiconstitución (foros online donde los ciudadanos redactaban y discutian de forma colaborativa la nueva constitución del país) y el desarrollo en el estado brasilero de Río Grande do Sul, pionero en la puesta en marcha de los llamados Presupuestos Participativos,, del Gabinete Digital, un proyecto complejo que tiene su base en internet y en distintas herramientas digitales que permite una participación directa de los ciudadanos a la hora de proponer medidas e interlocutar con sus representantes.
Social media technologies like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, text messaging, and other mobile blogging programs have recently been used to share information between activists around the world. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, web-roots campaigns have arguably seen countless successes, while information-sharing hacktivists like Wikileaks and Anonymous have demonstrated the potential value of digital media technology in exposing institutional malfeasance. But while many tout the value of digital activism for promoting positive change, others remain skeptical.
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