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Digital media and the transnationalization of protests
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Recent developments in communications technology have transformed how social movements might mobilize, and how they can organize their activities. This thesis explores some of the geographical consequences of the use of digital media for political activism. It does this by focusing on the transnationalization of protests. The aim is to analyse how movements with different organizational structures and political scopes are affected by their use of digital media. This is done with a specific focus on how digital media use influences or enables transnational modes of organization and activism. The thesis comprises four different case studies where each study examines a social movement with a specific organizational structure. There are, however, also important similarities between the movements. In each study, somewhat different perspectives and methodological approaches are used. Some of the methods used are semi-structured interviews, content analysis of written data (retrieved from Facebook as well as Twitter), and social network analysis.

The analysis indicates that digital media do have a role in the transnationalization of protest. This role, however, differs depending on what type of social movement one studies. The organizational structure of social movements, together with their specific forms of digital media use, influences how the transnationalization of protests and movements is articulated and formed. In cases where a social movement has a hierarchical organizational structure, there is less transnationalization, whereas in social movements with a more non-hierarchical organizational structure one sees more transnationalization. The thesis concludes that the transnationalization of protests is affected by social movements’ organizational structure. The more decentralized the social movement, the more vibrant the transnational public. In order to explain how transnational social movements, using digital media, can emerge in cases where geographical distances might make such coalitions unlikely, the thesis introduces the notion of affectual proximity. This concept helps us understand how transnational social movements, connecting actors from all over the world, can emerge through digital media. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2016. , 57 p.
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 77
Keyword [en]
Social movements, social media, digital media, digital activism, transnational activism, affectual proximity
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-114456ISBN: 978-91-7601-405-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-114456DiVA: diva2:895571
Public defence
2016-02-12, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-01-22 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-01-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Technology as movement: on hybrid organizational types and the mutual constitution of movement identity and technological infrastructure in digital activism
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Technology as movement: on hybrid organizational types and the mutual constitution of movement identity and technological infrastructure in digital activism
2016 (English)In: Convergence. The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, ISSN 1354-8565, E-ISSN 1748-7382, Vol. 22, no 5, 524-542 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

New communication technologies bring about new ways for political groups and movements to mobilize and organize. A consequence of this might be that established interpretations of and attitudes towards social movements may have to be revisited, for example, when it comes to their internal constitution and their modes of working. This interview case study looks at the digital activist cluster Telecomix and its interventions during the Arab Spring. The study addresses how the network used technological and communicational infrastructures and platforms and how it was organizationally affected by these. By using concepts such as ‘one media bias’, ‘media ecology’, ‘hybridity’ and ‘cognitive praxis’, the article aims to conceptualize how the identity of a movement and its technological infrastructure mutually constitute each other.

Keyword
Arab Spring, cognitive praxis, digital activism, hybridity, social movements, Telecomix
National Category
Communication Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-102490 (URN)10.1177/1354856515577921 (DOI)000392808000009 ()
Available from: 2015-04-27 Created: 2015-04-27 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
2. Extending the local: activist types and forms of social media use in the case of an anti-mining struggle
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Extending the local: activist types and forms of social media use in the case of an anti-mining struggle
2017 (English)In: Social Movement Studies, ISSN 1474-2837, E-ISSN 1474-2829, Vol. 16, no 3, 309-322 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As political activists increasingly use social media in local protests, scholars must redirect attention from large-scale campaigns to scrutinize the ways in which geographically confined actors use social media to engage in protests. This paper analyses how a 2013 anti-mining campaign in Kallak, Sweden, combined on-site resistance with social media strategies via Facebook-pages. The study examines which activist roles and forms of social media use that emerged and aims to explore what larger practical and theoretical implications one can derive from this specific case of place-based struggles. Results show that three typologically distinct activist roles emerged during the protests: local activists, digital movement intellectuals and digital distributors. These different types of actors were involved in four different forms of social media use: mobilization, construction of the physical space, extension of the local and augmentation of local and translocal bonds. Based on our findings, we argue that the coming together of these different activist roles and the different uses of social media added a translocal dimension to the peripheral and physically remote political conflict in Kallak. Media users were able to extend a locally and physically situated protest by linking it to a global contentious issue such as the mining boom and its consequences for indigenous populations.

Keyword
Digital activism, social media, translocality, social movements, mining protest, Kallak, activist typologies
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-114438 (URN)10.1080/14742837.2016.1268955 (DOI)000396839900004 ()
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2017-04-19Bibliographically approved
3. Translocal Frame Extensions in a Networked Protest: Situating the #IdleNoMore hashtag
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Translocal Frame Extensions in a Networked Protest: Situating the #IdleNoMore hashtag
2014 (English)In: IC: Revista Científica de Información y Comunicación, ISSN 1696-2508, E-ISSN 2173-1071, Vol. 11, 49-77 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of the present study was to examine how locally situated social movements can use social media to deploy translocally networked forms of protests. The study looks at the Canadian Idle No More movement, an indigenous and environmental grassroots initiative that emerged around the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 as a reaction to previous neglect of indigenous groups and to the omnibus bill proposal C-45 (which threatened both the partial sovereignty of indigenous territories and the Canadian environment). Focusing on the -decentralized and heterogeneous- movement’s Twitter use in general, and the employment of the hashtag #idlenomore in particular, the study examines to which extent and how Twitter may be a means for establishing bonds between geographically dispersed social movements.

Keyword
Idle No More, Twitter, issue publics, frame analysis, social movements, translocality, framing theory, hashtag
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-100665 (URN)
Available from: 2015-03-05 Created: 2015-03-05 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
4. Social Media and the Transnationalization of Mass Activism: Twitter and the labour movement
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social Media and the Transnationalization of Mass Activism: Twitter and the labour movement
2016 (English)In: First Monday, ISSN 1396-0466, E-ISSN 1396-0466, Vol. 21, no 8Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the labour movement organization LabourStart, a digital initiative that, by various means such as e-mail campaigns and social media use, seeks to promote workers’ rights and to strengthen the labour movement on a global scale. The main aim of this study is to analyse a) how LabourStart employs Twitter for communication and organisation and b) how the Twitter-sphere that LabourStart constitutes — and is constituted by — is geographically structured. Our dataset consisted of all tweets containing the word “labourstart” and all tweets coming from or addressing any LabourStart–related account during the period 2008–2015. As theoretical points of departure, the notions of transnationalization/translocalism were used, in part together with the concept of connective action, to conceptualise the research. In terms of methodology, network analysis was the main approach employed to obtain and visualise the findings. Our results indicate that LabourStart’s Twitter use does not seem to have had any effects in terms of creating a decentralised transnational movement with translocal traits, thus suggesting that LabourStart has failed to fully make use of the connective features of Twitter and to establish a decentralized, transnational union movement. This, we suggest, is to some extent caused by LabourStart’s centralized organizational — and thus communicational — structure. In the concluding section, we interpret our findings in broader terms relating to the context and history of labour movements, and we discuss LabourStart’s work in relation to local and global worker issues.

National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-114439 (URN)10.5210/fm.v21i8.6729 (DOI)
Note

Orginally published in manuscript form with title: Social Media and the Transnationalization of Mass Activism: Twitter and Trade Union Revitalization

Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2017-11-30Bibliographically approved

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