Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements

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

4

Informing, communicating and ICTs in contemporary anti-capitalist movements*

Steve Wright

This chapter seeks to offer an insight into the role played by information and communications technologies (ICTs) within current movements against global capital. It offers examples from a number of social movements across the globe and seeks to identify common themes, opportunities and potential drawbacks in the integration of ICTs into the communication repertoire of social movements. It concludes not with a blueprint for 'success' but with a series of questions or areas that need further investigation in order to appreciate fully the impact of ICTs on the notion of protest. These reflections are prompted by my own passing involvement in a number of such online projects from the mid-1990s onwards. Is the nature of information and communication technologies and their use in such scenarios something self-evident, or instead might they be too often taken for granted, and perhaps be deserving of broader discussion?

While social movements have in recent years become significant actors on the global stage (Castells 2000b), the debate around their political meaning and social effects has been fractious indeed (Lacey 2001). Movements once deemed 'anti-systemic' (Arrighi et al. 1989)-for example, the official communist parties and their various auxiliary organizations-have long mutated into pillars of the global capitalist system or else declined altogether, while new movements have emerged to challenge them. In order to place the debate into context, perhaps it is wise to remind ourselves of the definition of a social movement offered by Mario Diani (1992:13):

A social movement is a network of informal interactions between a plurality of individuals, groups and/or organizations, engaged in a

* An earlier version of this chapter was presented as 'Issues surrounding the use of ICT by social movements' at 'Electronic Networks-Building Community. 5th Community Networking Conference', 3-5 July 2002, Monash University, Australia.

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