I was pleased to be invited to talk on Occupy at the opening panel of last week’s Peace History Conference, Continue reading Threads of Occupy talk at Peace History Conference
Chapter to be published in the forthcoming book, Net Working/Networking: Politics on the Internet, edited by Tapio Ha¨yhtio¨ & Jarmo Rinne (2008, Tampere University Press).
This chapter works with the categories of ‘hackers’ and ‘users’ that have developed out of sociological analyses of the adoption of new technologies. These terms have sometimes been used to describe particular technological subcultures such as Sherry Turkle’s work on the mainframe hackers around MIT in the seventies. More generally useful, however, is the indications of particular attitude – what Graham Kirkpatrick describes ‘computational temperaments’ – that structure the ways in which people engage with technologies. In this sense, the notion of the ‘hacker’ may be of much wider relevance than those who carry out highly esoteric modifications in computers’ hardware or software.
This chapter explores these notions in relation to data gathered for a book on Anti-War Activism, asking to what extent user and hacker attitudes to technology were witnessed among activists opposing the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. As the book argues, many movement groups were steeped in a highly mediated information environment, making use various technologies to gather information, organise activity and represent their views. Mostly, as this chapter shows, activists engaged with the technology with a user attitude. That is to say, technologies were adopted in order to make use of their most obvious, advertised benefits. The chapter also details a number of cases in which activists have applied a recognisable ‘hacker’ attitude to the technologies they work with. In activist circles we see this attitude applied at the level of the communication system, rather than a particular device, and often with an explicit aim of creating a horizontal communication structure that transcends the intended uses of the system. It is those areas where activist groups differ most significantly from the intended market of technologies (usually businesses or public sector bureaucracies) where the hacker attitude seems to hold most promise.
You can download a preprint of the chapter here: Attitudes to Technology and Innovation, preprint.
You can find out more about the book from the E-democracy webpage: Net Working / Networking.
- “Very impressive … a clearly presented and well thought out study… All social movement scholars will find something of relevance and interest to them in this book.” Nick Crossley, Social Movement Studies.
- “There are many of us who want to ensure that the British people never again allow a British Prime Minister to get away with what Tony Blair got away with. This book shows what some of us did wrong.” John Sloboda, Times Higher Education.
- “The authors … skilfully combine different methods in their research … written using easily understood language and supplied with attention-grabbing factual material.” Volodymyr Lysenko, Information, Communication & Society.
Full information, including ebook and free preview chapter are available at the Palgrave MacMillan website.
Cite: Gillan, Kevin, Jenny Pickerill, and Frank Webster. 2008. Anti-War Activism: New Media and Protest in the Information Age. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Article to be published in Information, Communication and Society.
Abstract:This article uses interviews with committed anti-war and peace activists to offer an overview of both the benefits and challenges that social movements derive from new communication technologies. It shows contemporary political activism to be intensely informational; dependent on the sensitive adoption of a wide range of communication technologies. A hyperlink analysis is then employed to map the UK anti-war movement as it appears online. Through comparing these two sets of data it becomes possible to contrast the online practices of the UK anti-war movement with its offline ‘reality’. When encountered away from the Web recent anti-war contention is grounded in national-level political realities and internally divided by its political diversity but to the extent that experience of the movement is mediated online, it routinely transcends national and political boundaries.
With Jenny Pickerill, published in Australian Journal of Political Science 43:1, pp. 59-78.
Abstract: The upsurge in activism opposing wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to represent a significant process of transnational collective action. Using data collected through participant observation, interviews and website analysis this paper explores the role of the Internet in facilitating transnational activism between Australia, Britain and the United States. This research confirms Tarrow’s (2005a) assertion of ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ – a primary commitment to locally contextualised action combined with a desire for transnational support. The Internet is used primarily for gathering news and for sharing symbolic expressions of solidarity. In Australia in particular, with fewer domestic anti-war resources online, international networking proves particularly useful. To an extent, online networks reach across both political diversity and geographical boundaries. However, online resources do not appear to enable the more personal connections required to build stable, working coalitions across borders.
An electronic preprint of the article is available for download here: Transnational Anti-war Activism Preprint. The published version is available from the Australian Journal of Political Science 43(1).
Paper presented to the 8th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Glasgow, September 2007.
Abstract: Significant activist groups see information and communication technologies (ICTs) as offering substantial potential in empowering social movements in organisation, mobilisation, and communication of their critiques and demands. Academic studies have begun to demonstrate some of the creative and technologically sophisticated uses to which activists have put new media. However, emphasis on the novel tends to overshadow the degree to which activists’ everyday lives are structured by interaction with new communications media. This paper analyses informational practices among UK anti-war and peace activists, demonstrating a far more complex picture of the value of new media to campaigning organisations. On the one hand, we see informational practices that utilise the manifest functionalities of new technologies as absolutely pervasive in contemporary activism. On the other hand, we see some activist groups discovering the latent functionalities of ICTs through stringing together multiple modes of communication or combining technologies with the social and political networks in which they interact. Through such practices activists produce relatively novel communication structures that potentially offer new ways of exerting the power of collective action.
This paper may be downloaded in pdf format from this link: Anti-War Activism and New Media.
During my last job as a research assistant on the project Internet Activism: Anti-War Movements in the Information Age I have worked with a colleague to revamp the project website. One of the key aims of this project is to produce work that is accessible beyond the academic realm of social science. The website gives us one way of trying to achieve that aim. As the project continues over the next year we will be using the site as a place to explain our findings. We hope that the site also gives a certain amount of accountability, since those who we come into contact with during the research have a place to find out more, and an easy route to get in touch.
With these aims the site design is aims at ease of navigation and simple presentation. Unlike much of my other web design work, this site doesn’t depend on any content management, which, in the main, keeps the technological ingredients down to HTML and CSS. The only complex feature is the photo galleries, written in PHP to enable easy resizing of images.
My involvement has included:
- Giving the site a new design;
- Creating a simple navigation system;
- Editing and authoring content;
- Re-working and installing my own photo gallery software.
From the moment that George W Bush announced the beginning of a ‘War on Terror’, activists from across the world decided to oppose it. They did so on many different grounds, but came together in coalitions struggling against, first, the invasion of Afghanistan, and second, the invasion of Iraq. By 15th February 2003 these movements had created the largest popular opposition to war ever seen.
Within the UK anti-war movement of the time, all three of the frames described above can be seen to be influential as providing activists with particular critical understandings, motivations for action, and methods for acting. Of overriding importance, I argue, was the way that the different frames brought people with different political worldviews, into a broad agreement on an analysis of the war on terror. Commentry on the anti-war movement tends to brush away the any internal conflict, and while this chapter does emphasise a significant degree of unity, it is also sensitive to more difficult internal dynamics. Respondents characterise some anti-war movement activities as lacking space for debate and this proved problematic for two reasons. First, we see that conflict over appropriate methods to oppose the war was rife, creating significant tensions between adherents to different frames that has clearly also been transposed into the social forum movement. Second, since the movement as a whole lacked a broadly shared, detailed analysis of the reasons for war, it had difficulty coping with the moment of the invasion of Iraq. The fact that the three frames had only come into agreement on quite superficial critiques without dealing with more fundamental disagreements contributed to the strategic difficulty of questions such as whether to support the armed resistance inside Iraq once invasion became occupation.
Paper presented to the international research seminar ‘Politics on the Internet’ at the University of Tampere, Finland, 23-24 November 2006.
This article uses interviews with core anti-war and peace activists to offer an overview of both the benefits and challenges that social movement actors derive from new communication technologies. It shows contemporary political activism as intensely informational; dependent on rapid communication by a wide variety of means. A hyperlink analysis is then employed to map the UK anti-war movement as it appears online. Through comparing these two sets of data it becomes possible to contrast the online representation of the UK anti-war movement with its offline ‘reality’. We find that, to the extent that one’s experience of the anti-war movement is mediated online, it appears as a continuous network across national and political boundaries. This is in sharp contrast to activists’ experience ‘on the ground’ which is both politically divided and demonstrably tied to a national-level focus for action.
Please download the paper in .pdf format from this link: The UK Anti-War Movement Online.