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.
Abstract: Existing theories of social movements have a weak conception of temporality, which is generally tied to truncated protest waves or else to micro-scale sequences of interaction. Neither approach enables an understanding of continuity and change in the content and form of social movements over longer periods. This article develops a new conceptual terminology intended to bring temporal sensitivity to our understanding of the interplay between movements and their socio-political environments. Vectors highlight evolving patterns of interaction that carry ideas and action orientations into a range of social settings over a period of decades. Examining the interplay of different vectors, and accounting also for the unfolding character of historic events, enables the apprehension of an overarching timescape within which movements move. This theoretical approach is illustrated with an examination of three significant periods of transnational contention associated with the Alter-Globalization, Anti-War, and Occupy movements. Analysis of vectors that shape discourses of conflict, organizational preferences, and practices of individual autonomy explain dynamics of continuity and change across different movements, each of which is shaped by a dynamic neoliberal timescape.
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.
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.
Having recently discovered that Scopus offers some useful tools for analysing large sets of search results, I decided to try to use them to get an overview of social movement scholarship over the last four decades.
This 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.
From the editors’ introduction (with Jenny Pickerill):
“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. Continue reading Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism→
Here is the presentation from my talk at 6 Billion Ways, you can make it full screen and explore by clicking on items and zooming in and out (a scroll wheel is handy). Or use the controls in the bottom right corner to follow a pre-defined path. Continue reading ‘Clicktivism’ talk at 6 Billion Ways→
Social movements contain structures of beliefs and values that guide critical action and aid activists’ understandings. These are worthy of interrogation, not least because they contain points of articulation with ideational formations found in both mainstream politics and academia. They offer an alternative view of society, economy and polity that is grounded in protagonists’ experience and struggle. However, the ideational content of social movements is often obscured by a focus on particular, immediate goals; by their orientation to certain forms of action; and by the mediated, simplified nature of their communication. Continue reading Understanding Meaning in Movements: A Hermeneutic Approach to Frames and Ideologies→
The first academic account of the 21st century anti-war and peace movement. Empirically rich and conceptually innovative, Anti-War Activism pays especially close attention to the changed information environment of protest, the complex alliances of activists, the diversity of participants, as well as campaigners’ use of new (and old) media.
“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.
Paper presented to 57th Political Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Bath, April 2007.
At the heart of social movements lie structures of beliefs and values that guide critical action and aid activists’ understandings. These are worthy of interrogation, not least because they contain points of articulation with ideational formations found in both mainstream politics and academia. They offer an alternative view of society, economy and polity that is grounded in protagonists’ experience and struggle. However, the ideational content of social movements is often obscured by a focus on particular, immediate goals; by their orientation to certain forms of action; and by the mediated, simplified nature of their communication. Additionally, recent social movements display a tendency to coalitional action, bringing a diverse set of political understandings in concert on highly specific campaigns.
This conceptual paper seeks an approach to identifying the messages within social movements that remains sensitive to their complexity, dynamism and heterogeneity. Through a critique of the concept of ‘interpretative frames’ as developed in social movement studies, I describe the novel concept ‘orientational frame’. In contrast to social movement scholars’ tendency to focus on instrumental claim-making by movement organisations, I emphasise deeply held, relatively stable sets of ideas that allow activists to justify contentious political action. Through an engagement with Michael Freeden’s morphological approach to understanding ideologies I attempt to draw frame analysis away from the positivistic attempt to delineate general processes into a hermeneutic endeavour more suitable to understanding the context dependent, specifically realised ideas of particular social movements.