About this sample
About this sample
Words: 7044 |
36 min read
Published: Mar 20, 2023
Words: 7044|Pages: 15|36 min read
Studying the communication processes of social movements, particularly their discourse and accompanying communication strategies, provide insights into the movements themselves and how they see the world and the cause that they advocate. In order to understand social movements, it is vital to examine and better understand the communication processes through which they interact, connect with counterparts and institutions and endeavour to maintain themselves (Stewart et al., 2012).
This essay maps the major active solidarity groups in the UK and Ireland, along with classification of their main forms of organised collective action. Through examination of the actions and relations of these groups, internationally and regionally, this chapter distinguishes the leading groups and their geographical distribution in the two countries, along with an overview of their presence on the Internet. It also examines the movement from the perspective of networking, particularly collaborative relations with local allies, including methods of building coalitions with components of civil society in the two countries.
When reviewing the literature on the resources and organizing concepts of movements for collective action, it is hardly possible to ignore the substantial proportion of the research that is focused on the role of networking.
Leading groups in the Palestine solidarity movement have adopted similar networking approaches for maintaining collective action as those used by new social movements. They are engaged in alliance-building with counterparts, including local actors in the solidarity scene and trade unions.
However, not only would active solidarity groups in the Irish and British contexts rather work individually on their advocacy campaigns, and combine their efforts only at times of crisis in Palestine, but, except for campus-based solidarity societies in the UK, inter-organizational collaboration among the leading groups was found to be modest, to say the least.
Despite the strong presence on the web, manifested by active social media accounts, and the constant contact with Palestinian activists in Palestine and in exile, it is safe to say that strategic collaboration between the global solidarity movement and the Palestinian national movement is still absent.
Diani (2015c) introduces the perspective of the ‘mode of coordination’ in which he defines collective action as a ‘set of practices oriented to the production of collective goods’ (p. 934). For him, understanding the mode of coordination among movements requires attention to ‘the question of the relational patterns between the actors mobilizing to produce public goods’ (p. 935). What is found to be relevant in Diani’s work to the subject of this chapter, and to the whole thesis, is the question of relations among solidarity groups and their civil society allies, and how these relations are constructed and reflected through collaboration on the web.
This chapter addresses the movement’s approach to all levels of networking and collaborating, internally and externally, including with leading components of the political movement in Palestine, and the Internet’s role in this process. This part of the thesis explores these arguably limited relations through examination of their existence on the Internet.
After defining the movement, the chapter provides a brief description of the motives behind solidarity activists’ involvement in the movement, followed by a comprehensive mapping of main solidarity actors in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The chapter classifies active groups into three main layers, identifies the forms and areas of activism, points to the shape of relations with civil society organisations, and ends with discussing the cold relations with the Palestinian national movement from the coordination perspective. Then, the chapter analyses how the movement’s limited inter-organisational collaboration can be seen through examination of these relations on the Internet.
Since the mid-1960s, the Palestinian national movement, led by the PLO, has been the major force confronting Israel in its endeavour to achieve liberation and self-determination for the people of Palestine. However, this national movement has managed to establish many partnerships, among which are the global solidarity organisations.
Little scholarly work has addressed the role of such groups in the Palestinian national struggle. Apart from books and research studies addressing the specific stories and personal experience of ISM activists or BDS campaigns (Bakan and Abu-Laban, 2009; Dudouet, 2006; Lim, 2012; Obenzinger, 2008; Sandercock et al., 2004; Seitz, 2003; Stohlman and Aladin, 2003), little academic work has looked at the Palestine solidarity movement in western contexts as a form of collective action movement, and its input to internal Palestinian politics.
For clarification, two forms of organised solidarity collective action should be distinguished. The first is the ISM, which consists of activists who make journeys to Palestine, mainly to the West Bank and Gaza, to live with Palestinian families and participate in voluntary work and peaceful demonstrations. The second organised form of solidarity, which this thesis is concerned with, is the solidarity campaigns that are active around the world in campaigning for the Palestinian people’s rights through advocacy campaigns around the world, including in Europe. There is overlap between the two forms of solidarity organisational work, both in their missions and in the activists involved; they are part of the extended global solidarity movement. However, each is working in a different territorial space, with the first operating in Palestine among Palestinian communities, and the other acting around the globe.
During the researcher’s studies in Scotland, he came to learn more about the organised form of solidarity in western contexts, through encountering activists in Glasgow. The regular activities witnessed included talks, stalls in the main streets and demonstrations. The specific scholarship scheme (The Palestinian Student Scholarship) through which the researcher was awarded a scholarship by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow in 2010 to undertake an MSc in Media and Communication Research was originally created in 2009 as a result of action taken by student solidarity activists. As part of their response to the Israeli war on Gaza between 2008 and 2009, groups of student activists occupied the main buildings of many universities all over the UK in solidarity with Gaza and demanded that universities cut relations with the Israeli water firm Eden Springs, accused of using water from territories illegally occupied by Israel.[footnoteRef:1] Demands were also made that universities should cut ties with arms companies providing weapons to Israel, such as BAE systems.[footnoteRef:2] The students called for the strengthening of ties with Gaza-based universities and the provision of scholarships for students from Palestine.[footnoteRef:3] [1: BDS Movement (2010), ‘Eden Springs Fact Sheet’. http://www.bdsmovement.net/2010/eden-springs-fact-sheet-5115. (accessed 8 April 2014). ] [2: The Scotsman (2009). ‘Spirit of Sixties revived as student protests at links with Israel spread’. http://www.scotsman.com/news/spirit-of-sixties-revived-as-student-protests-at-links-with-israel-spread-1-828949 (accessed 8 April 2014). ] [3: PulseMedia (2009). ‘Strathclyde Students Win Agreement’. http://pulsemedia.org/2009/02/05/strathclyde-students-win-agreement/ (accessed 8 April 2014). ]
Activities undertaken in solidarity, in which many students and non-students participate, take the form of sit-ins and occupation of university buildings or demonstrations. Developments in Palestine remain a central point of attention, and often solidarity activities are organised in response to these developments.
There are two elements involved in forming a movement and determining its scope, namely the actions taken by the movement and the actors forming it. The solidarity movement consists of active solidarity campaigners and their affiliated branches and activists, their allies, supporting unions, non-active groups and individuals that support collective solidarity actions. The actions taken by the movement, including lobbying, are dedicated in the short term to advocacy, informing and raising public awareness, and, in the long run, to changing government policies towards the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. In this regard, Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK, confirms that her group is interested in building support for and understanding of the Palestinian struggle in Britain, and in changing government policies towards Palestine (Interview, 9 October 2013).
This thesis argue that the Palestine Solidarity Movement is a transnational social movement in its shape and a transitional advocacy network in its character and mission, although it adopts contemporary activism methods from new social movements. For this reason, and since the movement is examined through studying its communication perspectives, it is studied from the social movement approach.
The working definition of the movement that this research has built is based on combining the two elements that form the movement and the form of collective solidarity action undertaken by its actors. The working definition of the movement defined by the researcher and used in this research, is as follows:
A solidarity movement is a form of transnational advocacy network that leads solidarity-oriented collective action. It is formed by multiple organisations that adopt solidarity with Palestine as their main mission in their social and political contexts. It is a combination of local, national, regional and international groups, societies and activists in and outside universities. Involved groups have similar missions of challenging media bias by advocating the Palestinian narrative, implementing campaigns that aim at changing the current situation in Palestine through raising awareness in their local surroundings, lobbying local decision makers and members of parliaments and endorsing and advocating the BDS call.
This section of the chapter introduces the main theories in the two fields relevant to the research, namely the study of social movements and media studies. It provides a literature review of the main debates on the theoretical concepts that guide the research project. On social movement studies, it lays out the main arguments around the concepts of new social movements, collective action, and networks. On media studies, it covers new media theory, digital activism, interactivity and mediation. In addition, the related concepts borrowed from the field of political science, such as solidarity movements and transnational advocacy networks, as well as a review of the main works that address Internet activism and mediation in the Palestinian context, are covered.
Scholars in the fields of sociology and political science have developed a substantial literature addressing concepts of collective action, framing processes and the networking of transnational and social movements (Benford and Snow, 2000; Della Porta and Diani, 1999; Diani, 2003; Diani and McAdam, 2003; Keck and Sikkink, 1999; Smith et al., 1997; Snow, 2007; Tarrow, 1996) and others.
This body of literature analyses several aspects of the movements, including collective action, mobilising, resources and networks. The major theoretical concern with which this section deals is the network concept. Establishing the structures and levels of networks within organisations and among activists is a central aim of this study.
The traditional European and American approaches to the study of social movements differ in their examination of how and why social movements emerge: the European scholars contributed to the field by introducing the new social movement theory, while the North American scholars focused on a resource mobilisation approach (Canel, 1997). An attempt to bridge the differences between the two paradigms can be seen in the work of Alberto Melucci and renowned American social movements scholars such as Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilly (Vandenberg, 2006).
In mapping the main literature and the scholars who have addressed theories of new social movements, Buechler used the term ‘new social movement’ to refer to a different group of collective actions, replacing the old social movement of proletarian revolution associated with Marxism. He states that
new social movement theorists have looked to other logics of action based in politics, ideology, and culture as the root of much collective action, and they have looked to other sources of identity such as ethnicity, gender and sexuality as the definers of collective identity.
Equally important, collective action is a primary element that is considered vital to any social movement. Melluci (cited in Diani, 1992) defines a social movement as:
Furthermore, in a later work, Melucci (1996) defines the term as a:
He also emphasizes that collective action could be seen as a result of interactions that are mediated through networks of inclusion.
While Melucci here clearly points to the very basic elements that engaged actors who are involved in collective action have in common, generalising this concept to contemporary digitally connected individuals can be problematic. Classical forms of collective action, in which organised bodies traditionally lead, organise and apply the action, are arguably out of date. Because of the influence of the digital world, centralised movements are no longer the only actors to participate in and organise collective actions. Digitally connected users – who are not necessarily recruited or involved in any movement or organisation – contribute to the public debate on contemporary matters on Internet platforms. A live example can be drawn from the numerous global digital users, many of which are celebrities or actors/actresses, engaged for example on Twitter in public debate on the issue of Palestine; those people are not part of any organised effort around the issue of Palestine.
However, the role of organisations, according to Della Porta et al. (2006), has a positive impact in strengthening movements and therefore collective action. They emphasise that organisations capable of providing useful resources for activities play an important role in organisational networks, mobilising activists and sympathisers. The role of a structured body that may lead the effort remains essential for two purposes: to organise networking efforts, and to provide long-terms goals to maintain organised collective actions. However, it remains important to acknowledge the role of non-engaged, unorganised actors who engage in these actions, facilitated by new media.
At a movement level, networks formed by ties between movement members are valuable for strengthening solidarity among these individuals, and this has a positive effect on collective action. In this regard, Tarrow (1996) notes that collective action mainly exists and is maintained through face-to-face interaction between actors and through their social networks and institutions. This analysis emphasises not only the important role of organisations in any movement – as important as the role of individuals – but also the crucial part played by social networks in movements.
For Melucci (1996), networks are also important for their role as a key element contributing to internal solidarity and the flow of information between active members of movements.
A movement consists of diversified and autonomous units which devote a large part of their available resources to the construction and maintenance of internal solidarity. A communication and exchange network keeps the separate, quasiautonomous cells in contact which each other. Information, individuals, and patterns of behaviour circulate through the network, passing from one unit to another, and bringing a degree of homogeneity to the whole.
Although many renowned scholars see the concept of collective action as a basic element that defines movements (Melucci, 1996; Tarrow, 1998, 2011), others consider networks as vital elements for the mobilisation of social movements. Diani (1995) argues that the level of collaboration in the movement is decided by its members and individuals. This argument is also asserted by Shirky (2008), who sees that, although ‘new social tools’ i.e. new interactive media platforms, have made sharing costs effective and easy, collaborative production requires commitment from group members at all stages, from decisions to production.
The importance of networks lies in their ability to provide channels of communication to members through which a flow of information is maintained. For movements, networks can represent the frame within which all organisations, activists and allies interact.
Although networking, either through face-to-face interaction or via other means of non-technological communication, has been part of human socialising practices, the development of ICTs has given networking in the digital age a new face. The network, as Castells conceptualises it, is another definition of globalisation, as networks overcome geographical and national boundaries. He does not suggest that all humans are part of networks, but they are affected by their frameworks, modes of communication and power.
For Castells (2000a), the emergence of the network society has been influenced by modes of consumption, production and power within society in the information-technology-dominated era. The Information Age, he argues, refers to a ‘historical period in which human societies perform their activities in a technological paradigm constituted around microelectronics-based information/communication technologies, and genetic engineering. It replaces/subsumes the technological paradigm of the Industrial Age, organized primarily around the production and distribution of energy’ (Castells, 2000a, p. 5).
Castells (2005) also argues convincingly that the advancement of ICTs influenced the transformation of social structure over recent decades. Despite this, he suggests that society shapes technology based on its needs, and not the opposite. Moreover, he states that society’s new structure, built on ICTs, was the result of other social and political factors: ‘I have conceptualized the network society as the social structure resulting from the interaction between the new technological paradigm and social organization at large’ ( p. 3).
While Dijk believes that networks are as old as humans, explaining that information and communication in the present and in past centuries made it possible to talk about a networked society, he argues that a networked society is ‘a modern type of society with an infrastructure of social and media networks that characterizes its mode of organisation at every level: individual, groups/organizational and societal’ (Dijk 2012, p. 48).
Shifting from vertical methods of communication that depend on one-way communication to the horizontal multi-user communication method has created what Castells (2000b) refers to as the ‘network society’. He puts forward the argument that ‘social context’ is the third element of the interaction process between the human brain and machines. For him, new electronic communications systems will not change the character of communications alone; culture will also have an impact. This is because of its ‘potential interactivity’ and role in integrating all communications media. The new ‘culture of virtuality’ to which he refers is mediated by several political, social and business interests and policies, and has emerged from new communication systems.
This argument may be most applicable in domestic social movements, as ties within these are much more structured, dense and strong among activists, when compared to ties between transnational cross-border activists. That is not to say that movements are only created by personal ties. Shared values, goals, aims and participation in the same activities can create varying levels of linkage between movement members. Diani (2003) stated that: ‘individuals may also be linked through indirect ties, generated by their joint involvement in specific activities or events, yet without face-to-face interaction.’ (p. 7)
While indirect ties can be established through participation in collective action, it can also be argued that collective identity or feelings of belonging can increase during on-the-ground actions. Interviews with the activists studied imply that participating in events increases feelings of collective identity among core activists.
For his part, Diani (2003) notes that organisations form major nodes in networks of movements and that ties between organisations can exist in the form of information exchange and combined mobilisation of efforts. On a transnational organisational level, Smith (2002) argues that it is cost effective and provides access to greater resources when transnational social movements join in coalitions.
As much as individual participation in movements is important, relations between organisations and between individuals and organisations are crucial to understanding the structure, ties and sustainability of a movement’s network.
Here it is essential to point to ICTs as factors that add value and assist in the construction of networks among the groups that form movements, their counterparts and allies. Based on this understanding, it is clear that the Internet, for example, complements the face-to-face efforts of networking and alliance building and cannot effectively substitute for them.
This section examines the primary framework, characteristics and end goals of the transnational solidarity movement.
It has been argued that, since the 1960s, many social, cultural and geographical changes have impacted the organisational environment for social movements. New forms of network have spread across borders as a result of the transfer of power from state to market and multinational corporations. One development which has consequently taken place is complex internationalism, ‘which provides both threats and opportunities to ordinary people, to organised non state actors, and to weaker states’ (Della Porta and Tarrow, 2005, p. 2).
Non-state actors and organisations carrying out transnational collective action at a global level have been classified into four types: international non-governmental organisations, transnational advocacy networks, transnational coalitions and transnational social movements (Khagram et al., 2002).
In examining transnational social movements (TSMOs), Smith (1997) defines the term as a subset of social movements that operate in more than two states. She refers to the increasing numbers of these kinds of movement and the expansion of worldwide institutions. TSMOs reflect the main issues of conflict in the global political realm, as most perform in areas involving defence of human rights, as well as environmental, justice and economic cases (Smith, 2002). While globalisation has encouraged the growth of transnational activism, Tarrow (2005) also found that ‘internationalism … offers a framework, a set of focal points and structure of opportunities for transnational activists’ (p. 3).
Factors other than structural and organisational ones may have an impact on the role of transnational movements, as this kind of movement is more common around issues with limited political opportunities at national level (Smith et al., 1997), and the closing off of local opportunities sends activists into the global arena. While it is important to examine the structures afforded by domestic opportunities, it is also necessary to examine the structures of transnational opportunities (Khagram et al., 2002). Transnational movements are not always able to frame a unified approach. Nevertheless, according to McCarthy (1997), human rights represented one of the most successful unifiers in this regard.
Other descriptions of transnational social movements (Maiba, 2005) imply that their frameworks are not necessarily global. Their actors might communicate across two countries only, while a global movement includes actors from more than two continents.
However, Della Porta and Tarrow (2005) suggest that the most important organisations that have emerged as a result of the development of transnational movements focus on issues such as global justice, peace and war or what they call ‘transnational collective action’, which they describe as ‘coordinated international campaigns on the part of networks of activists against international actors, other states, or international institutions’ (p. 2).
As with social movements, identity building is essential for transnational social movements, as it is vital for the ability to carry out collective action and has a positive impact on the ability of movements to sustain and achieve desired changes: ‘TSMOs must advance strategic frames and foster group identities that motivate members to engage in collective action’ (Smith, 2002, p. 506). However, Smith also notes that boundaries created by geographical distance, limited shared experiences, different cultural backgrounds and transaction costs can complicate this process.
Transnational Advocacy Networks are another transnational form of collective action which, according to Keck and Sikkink (1999), ‘includes those actors working internationally on an issue, bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchange of information and services’. Similarly, Khagram et al. (2002) define the term as ‘sets of actors linked across country boundaries, bounded together by shared values, dense exchanges of information and services, and common discourses’.
Passy (2001) argues that actions taken by solidarity movements can be described as political altruism, involving groups acting on behalf of other groups and interests where the actors do not benefit from the intended social or political change. Baglioni (2001), on the other hand, distinguishes between two kinds of solidarity movement intervention in conflicts – the advocacy and the operational – stating that the former focuses more on political protection or principles, while the operational is mainly active in working in conflict fields through providing humanitarian aid.
In his working definition of the term, Hope argues that:
Although each form of collective action at the national and international levels requires a different definition in terms of the scope of its action and aim, similarities among them can be noticed through examining their methods of networking, actions, and use of available resources such as interactive new media, including the Internet and its social media sites.
Each theme in this thesis is examined within the communication process of the movement, shaped by and taking place mainly on the Internet. Networking, collective action, framing process and mediation are all addressed significantly in different chapters. However, we need to look at these themes as interplaying factors that interact and shape the movement in relation to the Internet as a whole.
Benford and Snow’s work on the theory of the framing processes including frame articulation and amplification guides the analysis. Three chapters cover the framing processes of the movement from two angles. The first identifies possible reasons behind the re-introduction and growth of the resistance frame in the movement’s online platforms. In doing so, it looks at the political and historical factors that contribute to the appearance of this frame; it also refers to other Internet-related factors that facilitated this appearance. The other two chapters analyse the motivation and articulation of the movement’s frames that are dominated by the human rights agenda, in relation to on-the-ground collective action.
In the discussion sections at the end of chapters 4 to 7 there are considerable references to related empirical studies to enrich the analysis and to compare findings, particularly in relation to the framing processes. These include Voltolini’s (2015) study that focuses on a different non-governmental organisation role in framing and formulating new frames to influence the EU policy makers in relation to the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, and Ben Moussa’s (2013) study that discusses frame articulation and amplification within the solidarity movement in relation to Morocco.
Tarrow’s conceptualisation of political opportunity relates to the efforts of social and political movements to change policies and systems and engage in the political processes. In this thesis, the opportunities relate to the movement’s efforts to amplify its media messages on advocacy, particularly through the online web, and especially during rising crisis in Palestine.
Since the emergence of digitally based electronic devices, users have enjoyed the most interesting aspect of the newly created technology, which is an increased level of interactivity. From computers through mobile phones to digital TVs, the more interactively based technology made it easier for users to become involved in the production of an outcome. In other words, users are no longer receivers only, with a low ability for interaction, but can be active in creating an outcome themselves.
In contrast to traditional media, where the order of presentation is fixed, the user can now interact with a media object. In the process of interaction, the user can choose which elements to display or which paths to follow, thus generating a unique work.
While this section introduces the definition of new media, the thesis in general takes an analytical approach and focuses on online interactive platforms, better known as social media sites. As opposed to traditional or ‘old media’, new media in this thesis is defined from the perspective of online interactivity. That is to say, the nature of this media, particularly the Internet-based platforms in which users have greater scope for interaction with the content including the production of new content that can now easily be shared within Internet-based communities, is an important aspect that has an impact on the areas of mediation, mobilising and organisation.
Though interactivity, with all of its different definitions and various characteristics, is a feature of digital media, it also relates to other types of human engagement. Manovich avoids using the term ‘interactivity’ solely in relation to digital media, and Kress and Van Leeuwen (Thomas and Roda, 2005) stated that there is no communication without interaction.
Nevertheless, this interactive characteristic of new digital media has affected, to some extent, our way of communicating. It provides us with the ability to choose the content, time and norm of production. Furthermore, users are getting involved in the creation and shaping of content. Viewers/users who were passive receivers of TV, radio and newspaper products are now fully active users of the new interactive digital media.
The notion of the advanced interactivity of users has attracted many authors to try to define, describe and study it, yet they have failed to reach a unified definition. That is because it is a wide concept, shaping our perception and relation with communicated media. Looking at interactivity will reveal social implications if it is studied within the network communications frame (Bucy, 2004).
McMillan (Cover, 2006, p. 142) suggests that there are four main levels of interactivity: allocution, which requires minimum engagement; consultation, which can be interactive but with not much involvement from the user; registration, which is concerned with recording patterns of access; and conversational, which occurs while mimicking face-to-face contact through computer-mediated communication technologies.
Thomas and Roda suggest that digital interactivity should be discussed in relation to interactive hypertext, which they describe as ‘multidimensional’. This conceptualization of digital interactivity suggests that it is not a two-way horizontal method of communication only, but has a clear further dimension.
Multidimensional hypertext at its best takes advantage of and exploits the human tendency to construct narratives to make sense of the world, relying on individual human selection of appropriate stimuli, and human ability not simply to choose links but to create connections, rather than simply following pre-ordained paths.
The uniqueness of the Internet, as discussed by DiMaggio et al. (2001), comes from the space and opportunity it provides for people at a distance to communicate in several ways, publically or privately. Internet users can discuss and chat with each other without previous acquaintance. Having similar interests attracts people into online discussion much more than their geographical location, as the Internet eliminates geographical boundaries and makes it easier for an ‘online community’ to be virtually in one place.
Aouragh (2008) studied the Palestinian online context from an anthropological point of view. She argues in her thesis that:
In the case of Palestine this virtual space is shaped mostly by a continual reference to a particular place. The internet is a tool of communication and can be an alternative meeting ‘space’ where members of virtual communities meet on websites, chat rooms, online discussion lists, email, etc. However, this medium is not divorced from offline reality. It is a ‘space’ that has to be entered via computers, cables, and so on; these are placed in houses, or internet cafés that are located in cities, refugee camps, occupied land, a host country, and so on.
In his emphasis on how the medium affects the message transmitted, the communications theorist McLuhan (1964) argues that the medium is the message, i.e. that the medium that carries the message shapes the interaction between sender and receiver. In other words, as put by him ‘it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action’ (1964, p. 9).
It has been argued that the major development of ICTs has impacted not only on the media landscape, but also on social relations (Williams, 2003). This has had implications for many aspects of our lives, including political participation and social change activism. Holmes (2005) sees that one result of the advances in ICTs is the ability to associate beyond the boundaries of the nation state, and McQuail (2010) argues that digitalisation and the convergence of all forms of message in one medium are among the distinct aspects of the new media.
For Livingstone (1999), the Internet has new features that integrate interactivity with limitless content, which can reach different types of audience and cover the globe. McQuail (2010) explains that the new media created new opportunities and forms of publication and reception that challenged the old forms, adding that, for the audience role, there are
large possibilities for change, especially in the direction of greater autonomy and equality in relation to sources and suppliers. The audience member is no longer really part of a mass, but is either a member of a self-chosen network or special public or an individual.
Two decades ago, Neuman (1991) suggested that the new media, which promotes one-to-one communications, allows user control and an expansion of digital networks. Communications are becoming more horizontal, and the new media have provided opportunities for humans to go back to a community-centred society. In other words, digital communications provide further opportunities for horizontal communication, and new media have provided opportunities for humans to go back to a community-centred society.
The horizontal aspect here refers to a shift from the vertical forms of communication that arguably dominated analogue media (Mason, 2014) to digital media which allows masses to masses, as well as individual to individual, communication.
This is unlike the vertical messages which dominated the media during the period of the ‘industrial city’, in which there was little room for the public to express its vision. Livingstone (2009) suggests that, by using both the old vertical and the new horizontal communications, individuals in the new media environment are more engaged with content. Rainie and Wellman (2012) argue that the rise of social media changed the media environment and that ‘networked individuals have new powers to create media and project their voices to more extended audiences that became part of their social worlds’ (2012, p. 13).
This shift has not only created the new concept of the citizen journalist, but it has also enabled political activists to set up their own ‘news-stand’ to disseminate and exchange information, in their websites, social media accounts, blogs, etc. These activist stories could be conveyed in various forms, from text, to image and moving image. A crucial part of this new ability of individuals to enrich the content of the Internet is how activists’ beliefs and ideologies affect the way in which they form, write, edit and frame their stories.
The advanced level of interactivity which is among the distinctive aspects of new media is examined in this thesis through studying the contribution of the solidarity movement’s different components – i.e. the different groups – to solidarity discourse, narration and opinion formation on the web. These contributions that can be seen through examining the contents of the movements’ online accounts are a product of constant interaction with developing events in Palestine, and with the movement’s organisation of collective action.
In other words, interactivity in this thesis refers to the ongoing interaction between the movements’ members on the web through which they produce the contemporary mediation of Palestine by deployment of online content. This content reflects the ordinary victim frame that accords with the movement’s human rights dominated language, and the non-traditional resistance frame, which, this thesis argues, appeared because of the political context and was facilitated by the notion of interactivity.
Furthermore, this thesis aids understanding of interactivity, by shedding light on the new, non-traditional frames used by the student-led campaign. The campaign’s independence enables the students to produce and advocate different frames from their counterparts, as a result of their independent interaction with Internet content.
Tarrow (1996) argues that the basic properties of movements are collective challenge, common purpose, solidarity and the sustaining of collective action. Historically, the printing press, as well as campaigns and collective action, contributed to building solidarity among greater numbers of people and spreading ideas to new members of the public. He points out, however, that ‘national movements needed more than the “push” provided by print and association to develop; they needed the pull of a common target and a fulcrum of their claims’ (p. 61).
What shapes the structures of movements and their ability to seize political opportunities still needs to be examined. These are important strategic elements for activists to consider when constructing and implementing collective action. Tarrow (1996) emphasises that political opportunities encourage actors to transform possibilities into action. Political opportunities are seen by the scholars of mainstream social and political movements as the chance to intervene and change political structures.
Communication has always been key in the development of social movements, their modes of collective action and frameworks. As Mellucci (1995) argues, communication has made the focus of social movements much more cultural. Tarrow (2011) sees the impact of the Internet and ICTs as the most dramatic change in the organisation of social movements. He argues that the Internet has become a tool for organisers, a message-transmitting vehicle. For Castells (2012), the major change brought about by the advancement in ICTs is the way in which messages can now be mass communications or can be tailored to individuals. Messages can be transmitted to audiences, with the messages and receivers being selected by the sender. Schulz (2004) points to the ability to pick and choose messages received, based on need and interest, and the ability of political actors to communicate with masses or individuals. ‘Political actors, rather than having to adapt to the media logics, can bypass the mass media and use their own channels for directly communicating to the public or to specific target groups’ (2004, p. 95).
For activists, the highly interactive medium of the Internet has given them a place to assemble and to exchange information and experiences. The Internet has also added value to activists’ endeavours to deliver their message to their audience. Holmes (2005) says that ‘compared to broadcast forms of media, the Internet is said to offer free-ranging possibilities of political expression and rights of electronic assembly which encounter far fewer constraints, whether technical, political or social’ (2005, p. 9). Cyberspace, defined by Holmes as ‘any medium which encloses human communication in an electronically generated space’ (2005, p. 45), provides a virtual arena for individuals to communicate publicly and privately.
In addition, the Internet provides a successful solution to the high cost of transactions between TSMOs, which had complicated the process of cross-border activism as well as of locals collaborating and networking. Shirky highlights the significance of ‘social tools’ for collective action and group collaboration:
The cost of all kinds of group activity – sharing, cooperation, and collective action – have fallen so far so fast that activities previously hidden beneath that floor are now coming to light, we didn’t notice how many things were under the floor because, prior to the current era, the alternative to institutional action was usually no action. Social tools provide a third alternative: action by loosely structured groups, operating without managerial direction and outside the profit motive.
The advancement of communication technologies has had an impact on methods of assembling. For activists, friends, colleagues and family members, new media has facilitated communication and gathering. Ó Dochartaigh (2009) argues that ‘new technologies increase the mobilization potential of political groupings by bringing vast new audiences within broadcast range of even the most marginal and peripheral groups. This is of particular significance for transnational mobilization efforts’ (2009, p. 121).
These movements, which have a ‘hostile representation’ in the mass media, found that the Internet was a place to express what they believed to be a moral point of view that is in the interest of humanity (Salter, 2003). This kind of global communication allows activists to monitor and learn from the experiences of others and set ethical rules for their actions (Lipschutz, 2005).
Juris (2005) uses the example of the anti-corporate globalisation movement in the last decade, which has succeeded in mobilising protesters during economic forums and corporate representative conferences, as well in coordinating its efforts, through the use of technology.
Since the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, and through subsequent mobilizations against multilateral institutions and forums in Prague, Quebec, Genoa, Barcelona and Porto Alegre, activists have used e-mail lists, web pages, and open editing software to organize and coordinate actions, share information, and produce documents, reflecting a general growth in digital collaboration.
The term ‘activism’, which can be seen nowadays to mean mass protesting only, also includes activities such as lobbying policy makers and media representatives. Loudon (2010) points to the example of a South African society that advocates the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. The group uses ICTs, such as e-mails and mailing lists, to communicate with ‘elites, professional groups and media, as well as in the development of local and international movement networks’ (2010, p. 1069).
One of the advantages of interactive media is engagement in online discussions of political and social matters. Experiments have proved that using online and offline news alongside political discussion, face to face and through the Internet, increased political participation prior to the Iraq war (Nah et al., 2006). ‘These results stress the importance of online political discussion as a complement to face-to-face political discussion for political activism, especially when individuals oppose the actions of government and find themselves in the opinion minority’ (p. 240).
However, intensified use of social media for social and political advocacy and mobilisation has not always been seen as an entirely positive influence in contemporary political and social activism. For example, the renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky in a recent interview disregards the importance of the Twitter platform as a source of expanded news and information. He says ‘I don’t look at Twitter because it doesn’t tell me anything. It tells me people’s opinions about lots of things, but very briefly and necessarily superficially, and it doesn’t have the core news’ (Chomsky 2015, para 10) . The devaluing of the role of social media sites in political activism, as by Gladwell (2010) in ‘the revolution will not be tweeted’ article, may be argued as due to the overestimation of the role of these tools.
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