Paper at: Workshop on method(s): challenges of on-line research.
This presentation will introduce Issue Crawler software as a methodological tool for examining hyperlink networks. The software identifies sets of websites with dense connections around particular issues. Generated data allows the use of social network analysis techniques to understand the structure of the web. The talk will identify some of the methodological issues raised by the tool and also present some data from a recent study of anti-war websites. Some of this work has been published as Gillan, K. (2009) “The UK Anti-War Movement Online: Uses and Limitations of Internet Technologies for Contemporary Activism,” Information, Communication & Society 12(1): 25-43.
Slides available from RICC Workshop on Methods website.
Paper presented to the European Sociological Association General Conference, Lisbon, September 2009.
The academic publisher Reed Elsevier also organised the world’s largest defence exhibitions. The exhibitions themselves have regularly met vibrant street protests, and from 2005 campaigners targeted the corporate organisers. A coordinated network of anti-arms trade activists, academics, medical professionals and institutional shareholders formed a multifaceted campaign that sought to persuade the corporation to change its behaviour on its own terms. After initial intransigence Continue reading Moral Business: Changing Corporate Behaviour by ‘Speaking Their Language’
Paper for presentation at the Alternative Futures and Popular Protest Conference, 15-17th April 2009, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Direct action (DA) is often considered to be a tactical approach to protest, utilised in the service of a wide range of causes. More recently, the notion that DA forms the basis of a radical social movement of itself has gained some currency (e.g. Doherty, Plows and Wall 2003). This paper argues that we should rather understand DA as an orientational frame: a structure of normative beliefs that can form a guide to understanding and action in a variety of contexts (Gillan 2008).
Examining documentary sources on the British DA tradition and ethnographic data from recent instances of DA protest against globalisation and war, I identify the core beliefs that hold the DA frame together. Three elements in particular are identified. First, DA is based on a fundamental belief in individual freedom that motivates an evaluation of the individual moral culpability of both protest participants and their opponents. Second, DA groups have an attitude to decentralised, non-representative decision making that offers a particular understanding of democracy. Third, DA involves the re-imagining of political space as grassroots collective constructs free from systems of domination, that are consciously sought or created by DA groups.
Exploration of these key ideational elements will offer two benefits. First, we will see how the interaction and translation of ideas within particular contexts shapes the possibilities and constraints that movement participants encounter. Second, this analysis opens up possibilities for comparison with (and critique from) more obviously ideological structures of belief.
You can download a pdf version of this paper from: Direct Action, Democracy and Individualism (PDF).
Presentation at Medsin Global Health Conference, University of Manchester, 29th March 2009.
This talk was based on recent research into the campaign that persuaded Reed Elsevier to quit the defence sector.
You can download the powerpoint slides here: Campaigning on Corporations Workshop Overview
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.
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.
A Paper Presented to the Alternative Futures and Popular Protest Conference, at Manchester Metropolitan University, April 2006
This study utilises a theoretical framework developed from the interpretive frames approach. I will offer a hermeneutic conception of ‘orientational frames’ that has a number of advantages over the more usual, largely positivist, application of the approach. This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork within the Sheffield Social Forum (SSF) from the inception of the group, through its involvement in a UK network of local social forums, to the attendance of members of the SSF at the 2004 edition of the European Social Forum. As such, it relates to processes at a number of levels: the creation of a local organisation; the networking of local organisations nationally; and their involvement in an international event. Data will be drawn from each of these levels in order to argue that despite important ideational continuities the SF movement contains substantially shifted emphases, and the development of novel connections between familiar ideas that signal a new politics of the social forums.
Please download a .pdf version of this paper from this link: Another Ideology?