Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Activism in the Network Society

Related to the “scaling up the network” note, I heard about something called a “cell phone protest” on Democracy Now this Monday. A Congolese student activist studying in DC encouraged people to turn off their cell phone last Wednesday and change their voice mail in order to bring attention to the conflict in the Congo. Clearly there are many ways to get creative in using ICTs to bring attention to issues of justice around the world.

Our discussion today and Juris’ description of the networking logic that brings together multiple movements and organizations in global justice movements made it seem like there is much potential for these movements, now aided by this “cultural logic of networking.” But as Jim suggested today regarding post-Seattle/WTO activism, I wonder how much it is fear of larger (in terms of more, but also better organized) movements that is leading such actors as the RNC and the city of Minneapolis police to take more preemptive measures to stop large protest events from occurring. Is there more (or less!) space for social conflict where the network meets the man?


Nate said...

I'm interested, as well, in the interactions between emancipatory networks (yay!) and the man (booo!), and I'm curious as to how they play out in terms of hierarchies of networks. I tried to articulate this a little in class, but I keep coming back to the idea of financial networks, or global economic networks, and their relationship to place-based politics.

By this I mean: at what point is there a hierarchy of networks? Union politics, as far as classic examples of workplace organizing go, are largely localized movements. Or at least were. This becomes problematic when the UAW Network, whatever that is, comes up against the network of global capitalism, and the realities of outsourcing and plant closing. To some extent, this kind of network activity can hurt progressive politics, while also encouraging the kind of networked politics we talked about in class.

Of course, there are versions of union activism that largely hinge on the network model, like the SEIU, and it is interesting to see their connection to place. In a certain sense, by organizing around very specifically place-based occupations, like janitor work or hotel labor, the SEIU has a particular advantage over manufacturing unions whose jobs can be easily shipped overseas. At least for now, while hotel owners don't bring in foreign labor like in Dubai or wherever.

So, in general, I'm curious about the possibilities of reactionary or unprogressive networks, and how that plays into our questions about the positive assumptions about networks. In some respects, it seems like the same logic plays out in networks of resistance as it does in networks of capital, and this seems to problematize our binary between liberatory networks and destructive hierarchies.

Jim said...
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Jim said...

Following the cell phone vein…

… made me think of the rise in news articles reporting on the use of cell phones in recent African elections (e.g., as a medium for monitoring and reporting from local voting stations in order to counter “official” vote tallies). Many of the articles frame the story as part of broader trends in citizen journalism and suggest that the inclusion of cell phones in the flow on information is particularly important in places where the press has been state / militarily controlled and reporters or official observers do have the resources to cover the polls (or put themselves in danger to do so).

Here is a link to one that frames it as a network vs. state hierarchy in the control over information flows.

This next article is from (a wink for “e”). The gist is - “how can your organization get in on this cell phone thing?” Note that it is from Feb 2007 and reflects on the fall of 2006 elections.

Together these articles relate to our discussion of networks and hierarchies. How are emerging technology-mediated networks (or models of networking) both creating new opportunities for networking while also being taken up by established players?