Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements

By Brian D. Loader; Paul G. Nixon et al. | Go to book overview
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5

New media, new movements?

The role of the internet in shaping the 'anti-globalization' movement

Peter Van Aelst and Stefaan Walgrave

This chapter maps this movement-in-progress via an analysis of the websites of anti-globalization, or more specifically anti-neo-liberal globalization organizations. It examines the contribution of these sites to three different conditions that establish movement formation: collective identity, actual mobilization, and a network of organizations. This ongoing, exploratory research indicates signs of an integration of different organizations involved and attributes an important role to the internet. However, while both our methodology and our subject are evolving rapidly, conclusions, as our initial results show, must be tempered. The enormous growth of the internet since the mid-1990s has placed debate about the potential consequences of this new media on the political process, on the top of the research agenda (Johnson and Kaye 2000; Bimber 1998; Barnett 1997; Castells 1997; Hague and Loader 1999; Lax 2000; Norris 2001). Most observers of the 'digital democracy' are quite subtle about the impact of this evolution. They don't believe it will radically transform democracy in either a positive or a negative way. While both political insiders and outsiders can use these new information and communication technologies (ICTs), the balance of power and the existing political structure are not likely to change. Research shows that people who are politically active on the web were already 'political junkies' (Johnson and Kaye 2000; Norris 2002). However, we argue that participation in politics will have been facilitated through the use of ICTs. Political action is made easier, faster and more universal by the developing technologies. ICTs lower the costs and obstacles of organizing collective action significantly. Bimber (1998) argues that this will be particularly beneficial for those groups outside the boundaries of traditional public institutions or political organizations. These new, more citizen-based,

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