Tag Archives: new media

Technology, Media and Social Movements

Flesher Fominaya & Gillan (2018) Technology, Media and Movements. Book cover.This book offers an interdisciplinary set of contributions from leading scholars, and explores the complex relationship between media, technology and social movements. It provides a valuable resource for scholars and students working in this rapidly developing field.
Providing theoretical engagement with contemporary debates in the field of social movements and new media, the book also includes a theoretical overview of central contemporary debates, a re-evaluation of theories of social movement communication, and a critical overview of media ecology and media approaches in social movement scholarship. The theoretical contributions are also developed though empirical case studies from around the world, including the use of Facebook in student protests in the UK, the way power operates in Anonymous, the “politics of mundanity” in China, the emotional dynamics on Twitter of India’s Nirbhaya protest, and analysis of Twitter networks in the transnational feminist campaign ‘Take Back The Tech!’. This book was originally published as a special issue of Social Movement Studies.

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

Cite: Flesher Fominaya, Cristina & Kevin Gillan, eds. 2018. Technology, Media and Social Movements. London: Routledge.

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.

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

Party organizational change and ICTs: The growth of a virtual grassroots?

Gibson, Rachel K., Kevin Gillan, Fabienne Greffet, Benjamin J. Lee, and Stephen Ward. 2013. ‘Party Organizational Change and ICTs: The Growth of a Virtual Grassroots?New Media & Society 15(1):31–51.

Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between unofficial party blogs and official party sources in the UK using a mixed-method approach. Specifically we combine interview data with content analysis, user surveys and usage data, and finally hyperlink analysis to profile the emergence, popularity, audience and online prominence of four major party blogs since 2005. The core question posed is how far the blogs are challenging parties as the focal point for member activism and offering an alternative public ‘voice’. The findings show blogs occupy an important alternative critical space for party debate, particularly outside elections. They are not mobilizing tools, however, being used by the grassroots largely for information-gathering and discussion purposes.

The authoritative final version is available via SAGE.

The open access version of this paper is available here: Gibson-etal-2013-NMS-AAM

Reading Notes: Johnson’s Interface Culture

Johnson, Steven. 1997. Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way we Create and Communicate. Basic Books.

[NB These are notes to self, they become pretty ungrammatical towards the end!]

This interesting and erudite book starts from the position that the collision of technology and culture is nothing new, but that with the increased pace of technological change the collision has become more obvious. That is, new media have always intersected with cultural change Continue reading Reading Notes: Johnson’s Interface Culture

Hackers and Users in Anti-War Activism

Protesters at Labour Party Conference, Manchester, 2006.

Short talk for the ‘Internet for Activists’ day organised at SOAS, 15 March 2009.

The purpose was to outline two different ‘ideal typical’ attitudes that activists typically bring to their engagements with technology. Within recent anti-war activism most people have approached technology as users, interested in the technology itself only to the extent that it makes the ususal organisational and communicative tasks quicker or more efficient. The talk outlines a few examples of the hacker attitude in action in order to show some of the possibilities inherent in stretching and blending communication structures. This is not to say that we must all become hackers, rather that an awareness of what we intend with technological solutions should help us approach technologies in an appropriate manner.

The slides for the talk are available here: Gillan, ‘Hackers & Users’ SOAS Workshop.

This talk was a short version of a book chapter published in Net-Working/Networking: Citizen Initiated Internet Politics. A pdf version of the chapter is available here: Diverging Attitudes to Technology preprint.

Diverging Attitudes to Technology and Innovation in Anti-War Movement Organisations

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.

The UK Anti-War Movement Online: Uses and Limitations of Internet Technologies for Contemporary Activism

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.

An electronic preprint of this article is available here: Anti-War Movement Online, Preprint. The authoritative final version will be available online at: Taylor and Francis, ICS.

Anti-War Activism and New Media: New Resource Structure or Creation of Symbolic Power?

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.

The UK Anti War Movement Online: Uses and Limitations of Technology for Contemporary Activism

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.