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Web Science

Exploring the use of the Web in Global Justice Networks.

1,2 Waddell , 1 Saunders , 2 Millard

Phil Clare Dave 1Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Southampton, 2Web Science Doctoral Training Centre, University of Southampton

How does the World Wide Web impact the micro-processes of political activism? A study of activists associated with Global Justice Networks.
Since the mid 1990s, political activists have been engaging with the Internet and World Wide Web in new and innovative ways in order to challenge the traditional power structures of states. Traditional research into social movements and activism has often taken the macro perspective, seeking to explore how large scale changes in socio-technical constructs affect the creation and maintenance of social movements. Such enquiries can overlook the processes of political awakening that occurs in the mind of the individual, the micro-foundations of political activism which build social movements from the ground up. The Web has the ability to maintain a social movement through cultural reinforcement and storytelling, through individual experience and ideological development during both periods of visualisation and latency. Understanding this process and its importance to social movements is fuels our understanding of the effects such a pervasive technology is bringing to society and the increasingly globalised world we inhabit. This research adopts a methodology rooted in ethnography and complemented with qualitative interview data, with the intention of discovering particular narratives of Web use by activists and organisations that exist within Global Justice Activism. Unearthing the narrative will explain why particular technologies are chosen for use in such a community and complement large quantitative data projects exploring similar questions.

From the Zapatistas to Occupy; Global Justice activism has had a longstanding relationship with the Web.

Conceptualising Global Justice Networks (GJNs)

Traditionally known as a social movement, it seems that global justice activism is rather a more complex structure, one made up of networks of local and transnational actors with a variety of agendas and unique collective identities. Routledge and Cumbers (2009) describe GJNs to be a series of overlapping, interacting, competing, and differently-placed and resourced networks made up of a variety of political actors, from environmental campaign groups to radical anarchists, trade unions to gay rights proponents who come together periodically as coalitions of contention against the neoliberal agenda and visualise a connected global citizenry attempting to influence national policy in both their home countries and overseas through advocating the causes of others. How these activists use the Web is of great importance to the creation and maintenance of such networks.

Participant Observation Fieldwork: Left: A citizen journalist filming a Disabled Activist street protest: October 2012. Accompanied with tweet: #dpac activists block road at #marblearch #livestream at Such experiences glean particular technologies used by activists, the stories deemed important to the individual concerned, the Web based narrative of the event that is constructed by the activist and how that narrative exists within Global Justice Networks. Importantly, certain technologies are identified as being valuable to activists, allowing for academic discussion to take place as to their role in developing and maintaining social movements. Such discussions may lead to further questions regarding the political ideology of Web technologies and the potential impacts of certain Web services that are released by developers.

References: Routledge, P., & Cumbers, A. (2009). Global Justice Networks: Geographies of Transnational Solidarity. Manchester University Press.

Project Status: Year 2; Data Collection (Observation and Interviews)