ICTs, Social Movements and Citizenship: A study of civic and political identities in online social and political activism
The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed an upsurge in mobilization and collective action by a wide range of activists and groups engaging in social and political protest, all over the world, which continues to this day. Communication technologies are not only greatly facilitating the ways in which activists communicate and demonstrate (Bennett, 2003), but are also altering the relation of the movements to territorial boundaries and localities (Castells, 2001). Scholars from a wide range of disciplines have tended to focus on questions about the internet’s role in protest (Garrett, 2006), without attending to answer what it means to be a citizen within such movements and through their practices. This doctoral study responds to this need by exploring the connections between citizenship and ICT-mediated social movements, drawing on scholarship on social movements, citizenship and ICTs. The study has three main objectives; it seeks to uncover a) the role of ICTs in contemporary social movement activity b) the ways in which citizenship is constructed within social movement activity and c) the role of the internet in current understandings of citizenship within social movement activity. Specifically, using social movement theories as a starting point, it pulls together elements necessary for a two-level analysis: a) the level of tangibles aspects (participation and mobilization) that refer to the concrete online and offline practices of movements and their participants and b) the level of ideational aspects that refer to more abstract practices of movements and their participants (engagement and ideology) (Van Stekelenburg & Klandermans, 2009). This study is based on a social constructivist approach for the analysis of social movements, while a cultural approach is applied in order to analyze the meaning of citizenship. The proposed analysis is an attempt to bridge common concepts from different theoretical (if not disciplinary) paradigms for a more holistic study of the notion of citizenship in the context of ICT-mediated social movements. For the operationalization of these research objectives we intend to use primarily qualitative techniques for data collection and analysis, namely semi-structured interviews and critical discourse analysis. The case which is selected for this doctoral study is the movement of Indignados in two different contexts, those of Greece and France. The overall aim of the doctoral study is to critically evaluate the potential in both meaning and practices of ICT-mediated social movements and identify the meanings of citizenship today within the contours of social movement activity.