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Social movements and social media. The quiz. What were the three founding parts of the women’s movement in the UK? What were the four core demands of the movement following its 1970 conference? How did the women’s movement get to the structural? What was the last flowering of the movement?
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The quiz • What were the three founding parts of the women’s movement in the UK? • What were the four core demands of the movement following its 1970 conference? • How did the women’s movement get to the structural? • What was the last flowering of the movement? • Why was it problematic?
Where we are so far: Movements and lessons • Liberty in early 18th century: publication • Slavery: a long haul • Ballot: split leadership • Anti-Corn Law League: right time • Prohibition: progress? • North Korea: outside help • South Korea: word of mouth • Nazism: Coup, ballot and boot • Pacifism: change tactics • Women’s movement: three strands
“Only connect…” On the title page of Howard’s End by EM Forster 1910 “When in the course of human affairs things go wrong, the root cause is often described as some failure to communicate. Better communications, it is believed, lead to better mutual understanding, perhaps recognition of a shared humanity, and the avoidance of needless disaster. Perhaps it is for this reason that the advent of every new technology of communication always brings with it a hope for ameliorating all the ills of society.” (Wu 2010: 36)
Now ex-President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak relied on TV broadcasts and state-controlled newspapers and radio in the spring of 2011. His opponents in and around Tahrir Square relied on Facebook, Twitter and the multimedia applications of their mobile phones to mobilise and to publicise to the world their revolt. They followed their fellow Arabs in Tunisia in successfully deposing their dictator often using the new social media to such an extent that it has been called the Twitter Revolution.
. “This changing landscape [of networked media and information technologies] has created unprecedented opportunities for expression and interaction, especially among activists, artists and other political and cultural groups around the world who have found new media to be inexpensive powerful tools for challenging the givens of mainstream or popular culture.” Liverouw 2011 page 22
Five genres of alternative and activist media Adapted from Liverouw 2011 page 22
38 Degrees, a campaigning website in the UK launched a number of campaigns on issues of policy in the UK. Part of the “mediated mobilization” genre in Liverouw’s table of new media. Efforts include getting the UK government to sign up to the EU directive on human trafficking. The 38 Degrees website said: “Success! After months of campaigning by 38 Degrees members and other organisations, the government has agreed to sign up to the EU directive on Human Trafficking.” In another campaign 38 Degrees said “We won!”. It gathered over 500,000 signatures to a petition against the UK coalition government’s plans to sell off publicly-owned forests. The plans were dropped in February 2011 in a very public humiliation of Caroline Spelman, the minister who proposed it.
Early 2011 a Tweeter released the names of people who had obtained super-injunctions from English and Welsh courts to protect their privacy. Traditional media were banned from naming the individuals involved, but Twitter, based in the USA, was beyond the authority of the courts. Victory? The next super-injunction granted on May 13th banned the publication of information which could lead to the identification a woman in, the injunction says, "any newspaper, magazine, public computer network, internet site, social network or media including Twitter or Facebook, sound or television broadcast or cable or satellite programme service."
“Businesses need to join the conversations [with blogs] because they build trust. … Blogs also humanise companies, or at least the people who work inside them… Because blogs are the lowest-cost communications channel, you can reach thousands, perhaps millions of people for an investment of a few cents and some personal time.” (Scoble and Israel 2006: 27) Microsoft: The policies, practices and products of Microsoft linked to its size caused it to be dubbed by its critics The Evil Empire. The main tool of expression for these critics for their contempt for Microsoft was blogging. Several individuals within Microsoft began then to blog, around 2000. Internal disquiet: but many Microsoft employees took up blogging about the company, including a video blog. By March 2005 more than 1,500 active. Microsoft’s image began to shift towards a positive one. “There were many factors involved in the apparent shift in perception, but [Microsoft’s first blogger] felt that ‘Blogging unquestionably has had the most impact’”.
“Over the past decade, and particularly in the last few years, the influence of the Internet as a means to spread information and challenge government-imposed media controls has steadily expanded. This mounting influence directly corresponds to the growth in the number of users around the world: over two billion people now have access to the internet, and the figure has more than doubled in the past five years. However, as more people use the internet to communicate, obtain information, socialize, and conduct commerce, governments have stepped up efforts to regulate, and in some instances tightly control, the new medium. Reports of website blocking and filtering, content manipulation, attacks on and imprisonment of bloggers, and cyberattacks have all increased sharply in recent years.” (Kelly and Cook 2011: 1)
Comparison of 2009 and 2011 results of Freedom of Internet access Source: Kelly and Cook 2011: 23-28
“The internet has become the public space of the 21st century – the world’s town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub. We all shape and are shaped by what happens there, all 2 billion of us and counting. And that presents a challenge. To maintain an internet that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us, what rules exist and should not exist and why, what behaviors should be encouraged or discouraged and how.” Hilary Clinton The US government has put aside $30 million (£18 million) for the development of technologies aimed at breaking Internet censorship by dictatorial political powers.
Once technology is put between the face-to-face transactions of these spaces without technology then there are many changes. These include: the ability to monitor the transactions once they are digitally captured and stored; the ability to insert into the digital stream material which seems to come from one source but comes from another; the ability to flood the space with messages supportive of your cause, as in the use of a megaphone in the town square; and the ability to deny access to such public places. “Whatever its emancipatory potential, the Internet will remain Washington’s favourite growth industry for years to come.” (Morozov 2011: 40) What goes up can be read by all
Three pillars of control: censorship, propaganda and surveillance “The decentralised nature of the Internet may make comprehensive censorship much harder, but it may have also make propaganda more effective, as government messages can now be spread through undercover government-run blogs. The opportunity to cheaply encrypt their online communications may have made “professional” activists more secure, but the proliferation of Web 2.0 services – and especially social networking – has turned “amateur” activists into easier targets for surveillance.”
In short, established political powers are not supine under the use of social media by their critics. They can use the Internet as well as their critics and help identify their critics more easily, helping them in their surveillance.
The Web that failed: How opposition politics and independent initiatives are failing on the Internet in Russia • Mass media is a political power wielded within a society which does not have a culture of accepted opposition: Floriana et al
China • Filtering material • Self-regulation and reporting to the authorities • Sees any external pressure or technical intervention as a breach of sovereignty of China, a very sensitive issue, attack the legitimacy of the Government.
“The Internet has provided so many cheap and easily available entertainment fixes to those living under authoritarianism that it has become considerably harder to get people to care about politics at all,” Morozov p81.
Debate • Social media is a liberating force for social movements • Social media is not a liberating force for social media
References • Floriana Fossato et al: (2008) The Web that failed, Oxford, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism • Lievrouw, Leah A (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media, Cambridge, Polity Press • Morozov, Evgeny (2011) The Net Delusion: How not to Liberate the World London, Allen Lane • Scoble, Robert, and Israel, Shel (2006) Naked Conversations Hoboken, New Jersey, John Wiley and Sons • Wu, Tim (2010) The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, London, Atlantic Books