Comunication, Power and Counterpower in the Network Society

Joignez-vous a L'Espagne ... The Spanish 'indignados' called for a "global revolution" back in May 2011

October 15 saw the first global rally ever. With some 900 cities from across 80 countries participating in some degree, it has been the culmination of a year of spontaneous, massive gatherings, which range from the peaceful Arab Spring, the Spanish indignados and the Occupy Wall Street movement to the more violent London riots and the demonstrations in Greece and Chile.

But what can be seen as an organizational success has been promoted indeed by many actors that don’t even know each other. The truth is, besides being fueled by the negative economic scenario, the emergence of social media and mass self-communication has been absolutely definite in the construction of these movements, suggests Manuel Castells.

Without the means and ways of mass self-communication, the new movements and new forms of insurgent politics could not be conceived. Of course, there is a long history of communication activism, and social movements have not waited for Internet connection in order to struggle for their goals using every available communication medium. Yet, currently the new means of digital communication constitute their most decisive organizational form, in a clear break with the traditional forms of organization of parties, unions and associations of the industrial society, albeit these social actors are now evolving towards the new organizational model built around networked communication. For new social movements, the Internet provides the essential platform for debate, their means of acting on people’s mind, and ultimately serves as their most potent political weapon.
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Is mass self-communication enabling a fairer play between power and counterpower forces? And most importantly, as we asked some weeks ago: will these movements benefit democracy in the long term, or will they become an obstacle to unpopular but necessary measures?

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Citizen engagement will be discussed in our breakout session ‘If We Build It, Will They Come: Why Meaningful Citizen Engagement is Hard’, November 9, 1100 to 1230, with Anas QtieshSean ClearyChat García RamiloSusan PointerHenry SweetbaumKjell Magne Bondevik and Petre Roman.

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Are social media-fueled protests going global?

People of Europe rise up. © Club de Madrid / Raúl San Mateo

Madrid calling ... The 'indignados' dreamed of an 'European Revolution'

Excited by its own success, the indignados movement that surged in Spain in May 2011 was prompt to call for a “European revolution”. Indeed, replicas of the camps held at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and other central Spanish plazas were seen in some European cities, but they were only timid copies of their Spanish counterparts, mainly held by Spanish émigrés. It seemed that a turbulent economic and social situation such as Spain’s current was needed for such a thing to happen.

But not only the indignados dreamed of a “European revolution”. By the same time, and in a different way, Trends Research Institute Director Gerald Celente announced that “these revolutions are going to spread through the summer in Europe, and by the winter it’s going to go global”. [Read full article...]

The facts are now there: massive social movements have since sprung up in many parts of the world – protests in Greece, marches in Israel, riots in England, strikes in Chile… All of them different in many ways, but with some things in common: they have been fueled by social media and are telling something about today’s democracies.

However, summer is almost gone and these “revolutions” have certainly not spread all throughout Europe. To which extent was Celente right? Will these protests succeed at a global scale anytime soon? If so, how global is “global”? Would it include developing countries with poor internet access? Or dictatorships where the internet is censored? Or countries where the impact of the economic situation has been minimal?

And most importantly, will these movements benefit democracy in the long term, or will they become an obstacle to unpopular but necessary measures?

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