ECPR Conference Reykjavik, Day 2

On the second day of this huge conference people seem to have navigated their way through the heavy conference programme and the different venues. 🙂 After our yesterday’s presentation on media awareness in networked protest I found myself again in another Internet and Politics section, this time in the panel Digital Politics: Collective Action born in and from the internet. For yesterday’s sessions and everyone interested in the internet and politics section, I reccommend Axel Bruns’ blog who is, as always, doing a great job of live-blogging. Also, the panel digital media and collective – or rather, as we know now – connective action after mass society has been a highlight.

The first presentation of Jarmo Rinne on online mobilisation based on political friendship was a take on political friendship from Aristotle in the context of political action online. The Aristotle concept is referring to utility, pleasure and virtue. These dynamics of political friendship can also be applied to participatory emancipation and mobilization. Activism depends on the believe and hope that actions are going to make a difference. Thus, participatory emancipation contradicts the clicktivism or easy promo activism.

The paper of Jakob Svensson is entitled Becoming Engagable: Characteristics of Online Political Participation among Activists in Southern Stockholm. Svensson is looking into power releationships in new media environments and how new media is supposed to flatten out government hierarchies and putting this into practical perspective by conducting a (n)ethnographic case study on a protest case around a bathhouse in Southern Stockholm. Related to findings from Giddens and Foucault, a kind of network logic is imposing new behavioural patterns to us, so we are mostly “disciplined to connectedness” and to update. The paper can be downloaded here.

Next paper (How Leadership Contributes to Collective Action Online, Peter John, Helen Margetts, Stephan Reissfelder) is on leadership, in particular leadership without leaders in online environments and the interdependencies of personality and participation. The collective actions going on online asks for well-resourced “leaders”. The question is whether one can identify starters or leaders of such actions. People have heterogeneous thresholds for joining collective action and the willingness to start will vary according to personality. People with high internal locus of control will have lower thresholds than other personality types. The distribution of peoples thresholds will shape the form of mobilization. An experimental design including locus of control, social value orientation and 5 personality traits provided data on the interaction of personality, rank and contribution amount. One interesting finding was that most subjects are willing to start at some point. Expectedly, extravert people are more likely to start. Mobilizations need some people with low threshold to start or lead, success will then depend on context and personality features of the population.

“Hacking the Law”: Internet-rooted campaigning on intellectual property reform in the European Union. (Yana Breindl) This is a case study on the Telecoms package campaign. There were two controversial issues: net neutrality and graduated response. There were 20 months of campaigning from 2008 to 2009. There was difficulty to form alliance with like-minded industry actors (even on net neutrality), but very good connections with European Parliament assistants and staff. There was strong leadership even in highly decentralized clusters. Autonomous and independent campaigning allows activists to adapt frames and discourses to local or national audiences, but can also lead to misunderstandings and conflict.

From Politics Through Technology to Politics of Technology: Conceptualising Web-Native Collective Action Through Organisational Innovation (Damien Lanfrey)

Lanfrey presented a quite large, four year’s case study: “Movimento 5 Stelle/M5S”. Although research is building on work from Castells or Benkler about networks dynamics and the definition of collective action as communication process, there are still insufficient organisational explainations. Key findings of the paper were – in line with some other findings of the panel – that activities were a high organizational variability and a general movement in the making ethos. The movement can be seen as distinctive civil society actor.

The new social movements in Spain: the Protests for the Right to Housing as an immediate predecessor of the 15M Movement (Víctor Sampedro, Carmen Haro)

This paper seeks to to identify some features that define the new social movements gestated through new technologies and to differentiate them from the new social movements from the postmodern industrial era. It can be downloaded here.

Panel 423: Political Representation on Web 2.0: Concepts, Methods and Empirical Data.

The Use of Twitter Hashtags in the Formation of Ac Hoc Publics. (Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess)

One of the fascinating things about twitter usage is the emergence of ad hoc hashtags in reaction to happenings in the world, like the #spill or #eqnz hashtags. The paper presents a multidimensional view of an ad hoc public sphere by showing which sub public spheres are part of it. Mapping of the most active users shows how many of their tweets show other resources. Publics on twitter can be divided into the micro, meso and macro level, so we are dealing with multiple, overlapping publics or networks. What needs to be investigated is what drives their information and dissipation and how they do interact and interweave.

Political Communication on Wikipedia (Thomas Rössing)

This was an excellent presentation of a paper on political issues on Wikipedia. Community work on Wikipedia can be split into the meta and discussion level. Wikipedia has many connections to politics, like discussions about community rules and Wikipedia issues on the meta level. On the meta and discussion level, users have political interests within the community and fight for their interests. There are also potentials of conflict and “hot spots”, e.g. when feminist activists meet strict catholics or nuclear energy topics. One can also compare specific national worries and topics on Wikipedia. There are indications that there might be some kind of citation circle, e.g. when journalists boost Wikipedia’s power. Another theory states that most people constantly assess the climate of opinion, which can be applied to Wiki’s community, but also to the general public.

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