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Social Change

Social Change

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Published by Jeffrey Bjur
Social networking and creating change
Social networking and creating change

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Published by: Jeffrey Bjur on May 28, 2007
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APPROPRIATING THE INTERNET FOR SOCIAL CHANGE:
 TOWARDS THE STRATEGIC USE OF NETWORKED TECHNOLOGIES BYTRANSNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
Version 1.0
 
Social Science Research Council
 
 November 2003
 Prepared by:
 
Mark Surman
&
Katherine Reilly
This report is a publication of the Information Technology and International Cooperation programat the Social Science Research Council which is generously funded by the Ford Foundation. For more information about our program, please contact us at (212) 377-2700 (p) or itic@ssrc.org.Copies of the report can be downloaded athttp://www.ssrc.org/programs/itic/.
 
Table of Contents
 1. INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................................1
M
APPING OUT STRATEGIC USE
.......................................................................................................................2W
HAT WOULD THE WORLD LOOK LIKE
?.........................................................................................................3
2. LANDSCAPE...........................................................................................................................................6
EACHING FOR A CIVIL SOCIETY
....................................................................................................................6F
ROM ACCESS TO APPROPRIATION
.................................................................................................................9W
HAT DOES CIVIL SOCIETY DO ONLINE
? .....................................................................................................13
3. COLLABORATION..............................................................................................................................16
W
HAT IS ONLINE COLLABORATION
?............................................................................................................17C
ASE
#1 – F
RIENDS OF THE
E
ARTH
I
 NTERNATIONAL
..................................................................................18C
ASE
#2 – J
UBILEE
2000..............................................................................................................................21C
ASE
#3 – S
UMMER 
S
OURCE
.......................................................................................................................23
4. PUBLISHING.........................................................................................................................................27
W
HAT IS ONLINE PUBLISHING
?.....................................................................................................................28C
ASE
#1 – I
 NSTITUTO DEL
T
ERCER 
M
UNDO
(IT
E
M)....................................................................................29C
ASE
#2 - O
 NE
W
ORLD
.................................................................................................................................31C
ASE
#3 - I
 NDYMEDIA
..................................................................................................................................33
5. MOBILIZATION...................................................................................................................................37
W
HAT IS ONLINE MOBILIZATION
?................................................................................................................39C
ASE
#1: O
RGANIZING AGAINST THE
MAI..................................................................................................40C
ASE
#2: O
RGANIZING
S
EATTLE
..................................................................................................................42C
ASE
#3: B
IWATER 
C
ENSORSHIP
C
ASE
........................................................................................................44
6. OBSERVATION ...................................................................................................................................48
W
HAT IS ONLINE OBSERVATION
?.................................................................................................................50C
ASE
#1 - OLISTICA...................................................................................................................................51C
ASE
#2 – S
ARAI
/ W
AAG
E
XCHANGE
.........................................................................................................53C
ASE
#3 - C
ITIZENLAB
.................................................................................................................................56
7. EMERGENCE........................................................................................................................................608. CONCLUSIONS.....................................................................................................................................62
E
QUITY
(
 NORTH
+
SOUTH
)............................................................................................................................62I
MPACT
(
POLITICS
)........................................................................................................................................64T
RUST
(
COLLABORATION
)............................................................................................................................65S
USTAINABILITY
(
MONEY
)...........................................................................................................................65E
 NCLOSURE
(1.0
VS
2.0)...............................................................................................................................66A
MOVEMENT AFOOT
?..................................................................................................................................67A
WAY FORWARD
? (
AKA RECOMMENDATIONS
)...........................................................................................69
BIBLIOGRAPHY......................................................................................................................................73APPENDIX 1: INGO, ODA AND CONNECTIVITY FIGURES..........................................................82
 
 Appropriating the Internet for Social Change
1
1. INTRODUCTION
 Every technological innovation is ambiguous, with the potential for both utopia and dystopia.
Gustavo Lins Ribeiro
 It is not just about building the tools anymore. Now it’s about what people use the tools to do.
 Howard Rheingold 
As civil society, we are confronted with an opportunity – to use the Internet and other emerging network technologies to support our quest for global peace and social justice. Consider that we currently live in aworld where almost anyone located in an urban centre can share their message globally with a free
blog 
 and a few dollars spent at an Internet café. Access is not– or will not for much longer be – a major communications stumbling block for civil society organizations. The much more pressing need is for civilsociety to learn how to appropriate the network technologies that we now have access to, bending andmolding them so that they can be used more strategically and politically. While we can point to examplesof innovative and exciting civil society applications, most organizations have not moved beyond e-mailand basic web sites – and they have certainly not moved on to what might be called the ‘strategic use’ of these technologies. Put simply, the tools are in our hands, but most if us have not yet decided what to build.Certainly, the battle for access is not completely finished. Yet, it has changed to the point where theconcept of the digital divide as gulf between access haves and have-nots has become far too simplistic aconcept to have any value whatsoever. A document by the Sarai / Waag Exchange – a South Asian /European new media research collaborative – states this case eloquently: “We have passed the stage of theone-way ‘technology transfer’ and arrived in the age of global collaboration. This is not to say thatworldwide economic inequality has all but disappeared overnight due to the arrival of the computer.However, the image of the ‘digital divide’ is a much too passive description for the titanic turmoil caused by proliferation of new technologies on a planetary scale. The drive to communicate and exchange, evenunder the very difficult circumstances (wars, ethnic conflicts, economic crisis, poverty) is such a powerfulone. It is creating instant ‘cultures of access’, either in the urban sprawls or in the deprived remote areas.”(Sarai / Waag, 2000) Amidst this pleasant chaos, there is no question that threats to our networks exist.We no doubt face attempts by large private ISPs to enclose the Internet (Meikle, 2002 and Rheingold,2003), the strengthening of regressive intellectual property regulations and the emergence of onlinesurveillance regimes
1
(O’Siochru, 2003). However, these are not simple issues of access as presented bythose who are screaming about the urgency of addressing the digital divide. Rather, they are aspects of acomplex cultural and network ecosystem that includes not only access but also the process of adopting andappropriating network technologies.This issue of appropriation – using networked technologies strategically, politically, creatively – isamongst the most pressing that civil society faces in the information society. The big question is: whatshould we do with these networked technologies now that we have access to them? Looking at the limitedresearch available about the use of these technologies by civil society organizations, one can surmise thatmost civil society organizations have some sort of access to computers, word processors and e-mail
(seeChapter 2 for more on this)
. But how are they using them? By all accounts, the broad majority of civilsociety organizations are struggling with the issue of how to mold these tools to meet their needs – toincrease the impact of campaigns, projects and programs using networked technologies. Or, in manycases, they are simply using them without any thought about where and how these technologies fit into the political work for which they feel so much passion. It is not that these organizations use networkedtechnologies completely without question or critique, but rather that they don't take the time to consider how they can be using these technologies most strategically.

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