Tag Archives: social movement theory

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.

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.

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

Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism

Published in 2012 as Social Movement Studies 11(2). Editors: Kevin Gillan & Jenny Pickerill.

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

Understanding Meaning in Movements: A Hermeneutic Approach to Frames and Ideologies

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

Anti-War Activism: New Media and Protest in the Information Age

Book cover: Anti-War Activism, by Gillan, Pickerill & WebsterThe 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.

Reviews:

  • “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.