All posts by Kevin Gillan

Infographic: SMS in review

SMS 2017 Review - infographic screen grabMy latest hacky hobby project relates to my editorial work at Social Movement Studies. I’ve been exploring other ways of presenting the excellent content we publish in the journal, and trying to give a sense of the over coherence of the journal’s development. My initial attempts in this direction are presented in an infographic reviewing SMS 2017 content. Lessons learned from this exercise:

  • The Scopus database is a good source for downloadable data. I found the API rather complex though (especially given licensing issues for different datasets), so haven’t ventured into making a more dynamic website for this.
  • The Google Maps javascript API really does make it rather straightforward to present custom markers on a map. I found it useful to borrow this Overlapping Marker Spidifier to deal with multiple markers on single locations.
  • Jason Davies’ word cloud generator does a marvellous job of layout, although I ended up recoding the resulting svg by hand to make it interactive.

Navigating the Technology-Media-Movements Complex

Flesher Fominaya, Cristina and Kevin Gillan. 2017. ‘Navigating the Technology-Media-Movements Complex’. Social Movement Studies 16(4):383–402.
Abstract: In this article we develop the notion of the technology-media-movements complex (TMMC) as a field-definition statement for ongoing inquiry into the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in social and political movements. We consider the definitions and boundaries of the TMMC, arguing particularly for a historically rooted conception of technological development that allows better integration of the different intellectual traditions that are currently focused on the same set of empirical phenomena. We then delineate two recurrent debates in the literature highlighting their contributions to emerging knowledge. The first debate concerns the divide between scholars who privilege media technologies, and see them as driving forces of movement dynamics, and those who privilege media practices over affordances. The second debate broadly opposes theorists who believe in the emancipatory potential of ICTs and those who highlight the ways they are used to repress social movements and grassroots mobilization. By mapping positions in these debates to the TMMC we identify and provide direction to three broad research areas which demand further consideration: (i) questions of power and agency in social movements; (ii) the relationships between, on the one hand, social movements and technology and media as politics (i.e. cyberpolitics and technopolitics), and on the other, the quotidian and ubiquitous use of digital tools in a digital age; and (iii) the significance of digital divides that cut across and beyond social movements, particularly in the way such divisions may overlay existing power relations in movements. In conclusion, we delineate six challenges for profitable further research on the TMMC.
An open access version will be available once copyright allows, via University of Manchester.

2010+: The rejuvenation of new social movement theory?

Review essay:

  • della Porta, Donatella. 2015. Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back into Protest Analysis. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Castells, Manuel. 2015. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. Second Edition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

The first half of this decade has seen a tremendous wave of protest. The universally recognised spark of the Arab Spring was the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2010. Since then we’ve seen the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, protests turn to civil wars in Syria and Libya, the uprisings of the indignadas of Spain and the Occupiers of Wall Street (and passim), the Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong, a range of new movements in Brazil, Chile and Mexico, and much else besides. If we understand this ‘movement of the streets and the squares’ as a coherent global wave of protest, what exactly does it signify? The two books under review offer interpretations of the most recent wave of protest that may help answer this most central question.

Open access version available at University of Manchester.

Original, definitive version: Gillan, Kevin. 2017. ‘2010+: The Rejuvenation of New Social Movement Theory?Organization 24(2):271–74.

Special Issue: Technology, Media and Social Movements.

Published in 2017 as Social Movement Studies 16(4). Editors: Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Kevin Gillan.

Table of Contents:

You’re not digital natives, you’re settlers

First posted at Medium.

Oh no — I’ve just come across the phrase ‘digital immigrant’ in opposition to ‘digital native’. The implication is that those born into the internet age are naturals at navigating its byways and cultural mores. I don’t think the term ‘digital immigrant’ is supposed to bring the foul right-wing political discourses of migration into play — but even if you  Continue reading You’re not digital natives, you’re settlers

Reflections on ‘The Problem with Democracy’

[NB Re-post. First published at movements@manchester.]

Parliamentary Affairs has just published an interesting public lecture by Matthew Flinders, along with responses by Jack Corbett and Ian Marsh. The lecture brings together a whole host of complaints that have been targeted at advanced liberal democracies in trying to understand nose-diving levels of trust in politicians and voter turnout among young citizens. It is a systematic and insightful piece that ultimately Continue reading Reflections on ‘The Problem with Democracy’

Occupy! A global movement

Cover: Occupy! A Global MovementThis book is an urgent and compelling account of the Occupy movements: from the M15 movement in Spain, to the wave of Occupations flooding across cities in American, Europe and Australia, to the harsh reality of evictions as corporations and governments attempted to reassert exclusive control over public space. Across a vast range of international examples over twenty authors analyse, explain and helps us understand the movement. These movements were a novel and noisy intervention into the recent capitalist crisis in developed economies, developing an exceptionally broad identity through a call to arms addressed to ‘the 99%’, and emphasizing the importance of public space in the creation and maintenance of opposition. The novelties of these movements, along with their radical positioning and the urgency of their claims all demand analysis. This book investigates the crucial questions of how and why this form of action spread so rapidly and so widely, how the inclusive discourse of ‘the 99%’ matched up to the reality of the practice. It is vital to understand not just the choice of tactics and the vitality of protest camps in public spaces, but also how the myriad of challenges and problems were negotiated.

This book was first published as a special issue of Social Movement Studies. Full details and ebook purchase available via Routledge.

Cite: Pickerill, Jenny, John Krinsky, Graeme Hayes, Kevin Gillan, and Brian Doherty, eds. 2015. Occupy! A Global Movement. London: Routledge.

Research Ethics and Social Movements: Scholarship, Activism and Knowledge Production

Cover: Gillan & Pickerill (Eds) Research Ethics and Social MovementsWhat ethical challenges are faced by researchers studying social and political movements? Should scholars integrate their personal politics and identities into their research? What role should activists have in shaping the purposes or processes of social scientific research? How do changing political contexts affect the ethical integrity of a research project over time?

These are some of the live issues of research ethics that face students and scholars whose research ‘subjects’ are located in contentious political terrain. The contributors to this volume expose their own ethical thinking as they have met such challenges head on. Each explores real dilemmas of ethical practice on the ground as they carry out research on social movements across the globe. Authors examining pro-democracy activists in Malaysia, sanctions-breakers in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, environmental health organisations in North America and much else find that the narrow confines of Research Ethics Committees and Institutional Review Boards offer little guidance on the questions that really matter. They offer instead a demonstration of continual reflexivity that is both personal and political in its approach. This book opens up debate on research ethics, delineating key challenges and offering hopeful and practical ways forward for real-world, ethical social science.

This book was first published as a special issue of Social Movement Studies. Details and ebook available via Routledge

Towards an Ethic of Public Sociology

(NB Re-post. First published at Discover Society.)

Among scholars of social movements there is presently a lively debate about the ethics of social research. While the topic of research ethics is rarely one that excites non-specialists (except when Facebook are involved in emotional manipulation experiments) the debate has some important ramifications. Continue reading Towards an Ethic of Public Sociology

The Difficult and Hopeful Ethics of Research on, and with, Social Movements

Abstract: This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. We note, in particular, the tendency of ethics of reciprocity to preclude research on ‘ugly movements’ whose politics offends the left and liberal leanings predominant among movement researchers. The two ethics also imply different positionalities for the researcher vis-à-vis their subject movement which we explore, alongside dilemmas thrown up by multiple approaches to knowledge production and by complex issues of researcher and activist identities. The overall move to increasing complexity offered by this paper will, we hope, provide food for thought for others who confront real-world ethical dilemmas in fields marked by contention. We also hope that it will encourage readers to turn next to the wide range of contributions offered in this issue.

This article, with Jenny Pickerill, was published in Social Movement Studies. An open access version is available via the University of Manchester.

Cite: Gillan, Kevin and Jenny Pickerill. 2012. ‘The Difficult and Hopeful Ethics of Research on, and with, Social Movements’. Social Movement Studies 11(2):133–43.