How the Right-Wing Attacked the “Dirty, Unwashed Hippies” of #FloodWallStreet and #PeoplesClimate

Countless journalists and social theorists have postulated a link between Twitter and democracy, ever since Bouzazi sparked the flame which burned him to death while igniting a wave of protest which quickly engulfed the Middle East in early 2011. Revolutions obviously aren’t new, they have occured throughout the course of human history, but never has the contagion been as quick as 2011, with movements spreading across populations in months, sometimes even a couple of days. Theorists like Lotad, Boyd, and others explored the information flows of these short-form messages networked to the twitterverse via mentions and hashtags, and hyperlinked to a multitude of other locations on the world Wide Web. They examine who was tweeting with the #tunisia and #egypt hashtags as the revolution spread, and demonstrate how these messages and articles flowed throughout the world in minutes.

This spread of communication across long distances can certainly have a positive effect on democracy. individuals have the ability to seek a dizzying range of information quicker than ever before, as decentralized Web 2.0 technologies facilitate the bottom-up production of information with a much lower participation cost. A television studio, millions of dollars, and a contract with a cable network are no longer required for producing content which has the ability to go viral and spread through global networks. As Castells wrote in “Networks of Outrage and Hope”, virtual social networks facilitate spaces of autonomy which are “largely beyond the control of governments and corporations that had monopolized the channels of communication as the foundation of their power, throughout history.” The increased ability of marginalized populations to communicate instantly, with only an Internet connection can subvert governments, as state control of media discourse becomes much more difficult to maintain. Social movements which used to be suppressed by the state-controlled media now have participants chanting ‘the Whole World is Watching’. We live in a global village, and social networks such as Twitter cam be seen as facilitating a new global democracy, beyond the traditional structures of state and corporate media.

Continue reading

Reflections on the First Ten Days

There are few processes in human life that are more fascinating to explore than the expansion of ideas and concepts over time as a result of research and brainstorming. We are gifted as animals with the innate ability to recognize the patterns that exist around us and it’s refreshing to witness this process occur, especially from a first-person perspective.

Since initiating an academic exploration into our current networked social movements only ten days ago, many ideas have bloomed and evolved, including a wide range of theories, research plans, and expectations of what will be found. I have been collecting a plethora of academic research which will be useful for analyzing the current mobilizations for social and economic justice in America, including frame alignment processes studied by Snow, Benford, and other colleagues, the networked theory of power presented in “Communication Power”, and “Networks of Hope and Outrage” by Manuel Castells, the resource mobilization perspective popularized by Gamson in “The Strategy of Social Protest”, and the theory of networked publics formulated in the research of danah boyd. While resource mobilization theory and frame alignment provide two completely different methods for studying the processes of new social movements, their interrelations must be understood for better analyzing how offline and online action coexist to build movements like 15 Now in Seattle.

Continue reading