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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“Even handcuffed we ARE changing the world w/ seamless technologies”

This is what an arrested Occupy Wall Street protester twitted from the back of a police van on September 24, a week after the movement started.

On that day, 96 others were arrested. Twitter user @PulseofProtest managed to send 22 tweets describing his two-hour long arrest. Along his tweets: “Denied being read our rights”; “activist in tears b/c she just wants to use the bathroom, been in zipties for maybe 2 hours”; “Multiple officers overseeing us: ‘I’d rather just die today, we’re so sorry for you, can’t believe we’re being ordered to do this”.

Is this a legitimate mean of peaceful subversion or a threat to necessary police control? A purest example of citizen journalism or an excess of information that need not to be known by the public?

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Mayor Bloomberg on Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street

American Autumn? ... Occupy Wall Steet

One one hand, sympathy for some of its demands. On the other, criticism with the disruption it is causing in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg talks about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Mr. Bloomberg has become increasingly critical of the Wall Street protests, even while repeatedly defending the right of people to demonstrate. On Friday, he described the Wall Street protesters as not productive and as “trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city.”
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Mr. Bloomberg will be talking at Digital Technologies for 21st Century Democracy on November 8, at 2:30pm.

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