Current Issue
Next Issue
Call for Papers
About IRIE


MSN Search

Issue No. 018

Vol. 18 - December 2012
New ICTs and Social Media: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and Social Change
edited by by Christopher Coenen, Wolfgang Hofkirchner and José María Díaz Nafría

The internet is a revolution – there is no doubt and no discussion about it anymore. But is it also a revolution of a second order: a (digital) revolution that causes or at least fuels a (real world) revolution? Gutenberg’s technique newly invented in the beginning of the 15th century did so. The revolutionary ability to print books instead of copying them by hand potentiated about a hundred years later one of Martin Luther’s revolutionary basic ideas: the concept of ‘sola scriptura’ – superordinating the (personal) reading of the fundamental texts of Christianity over the magisterium ecclesiae exclusively executed by the Christian authorities of these days. In fact, the driving idea of this issue in a nutshell was and is the question: What could be the revolutionary concept in analogy to the sola scriptura that might be propelled to a break through by the revolutionary abilities of the internet (in probably less than a hundred years though).

This issue does not give a simple and ultimate answer to this question (like we can do with Gutenberg in retrospect). But it gives some very appropriate suggestions and inspiring approaches. ICTs appear to enable or at least support certain new forms of political organizations (thematically oriented, loosely coupled, quickly gathered, and allowing for anonymous affiliation). They appear to be very different to "classical" forms of political organization and are used for actions targeted not only at national and international but also at local levels. Do ICTs therefore facilitate an increase in revolutionary acts, revolts or acts of resistance as political measures? On the other hand, does this ease of use in activist contexts deprave the revolutionary act to clicking an ‘I like it’ button? Is cursoriness the prize political movements heavily relying on the internet have to pay for their speed of constitution in and through the net?

Against the backdrop of the discussions that have taken place since the 1990s, the impacts, shortcomings and potentials of the use of new ICTs and social media by political activists must be further scrutinized. Besides a variety of political uses in Africa, Arabia, Asia and Latin America, the recent developments in Europe and North America also justify a closer look at the role of ICTs in movements aimed at bringing about radical social change. The revolts in Greece, the indignant movement in Spain and Occupy Wall Street all developed as a reaction to political and economic measures and policies that were more typical of developing countries in previous decades; this allows for interesting comparisons, for example with regard to differences between movements which claim and those which defend rights.

One even if not ground yet record breaking implication we can state unerringly: These relevant and seminal questions have provoked and gathered more articles in a single IRIE issue than any other subject before. Or maybe it was the phenomenal work of our guest editors, their passion for the subject, their expertise in the field and/or their scientific network they contributed to this outstanding issue.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Christopher Coenen, Wolfgang Hofkirchner and José María Díaz Nafría for making this distinguished edition possible and hope that it will tie in with your scientific work to provide more advanced answers to the questions driving their promising research regarding the relationship of ICTs, revolution, counter-revolution and social change.

Sincerely yours,

the Editors.


Full Journal
pdf-fulltext (5.088 KB)

New ICTs and Social Media in Political Protest and Social Change
by Christopher Coenen, Wolfgang Hofkirchner, José María Díaz Nafría
Language: English
pdf-fulltext (469 KB)

The Human Right to Internet Access: A Philosophical Defense
by Kay Mathiesen
Language: English
abstract:   The United Nations has suggested that access to the Internet is a human right. In this paper, I defend the U.N.’s position against a number of challenges. First, I show that Vinton Cerf’s recent rejection of the hu-man right to the Internet is based on a misunderstanding of the nature and structure of human rights. Second, I argue that the Internet enables the right to communicate, which is a linchpin right, and, thus, states have a duty to see to it that citizens have access to Internet technology. Third, I argue that concerns that the Internet can be used to engage in oppression and imperialism do not show that there is not a human right to it. Rather, it shows that the right to the Internet must be understood as part of a larger system of human rights.
pdf-fulltext (96 KB)

Disconnecting digital networks: A moral appraisal
by Ulrik Franke
Language: English
abstract:   Governments who feel threatened are known to disconnect “their” digital networks from the rest of the world, attempting to limit communication by blocking domain names, by disabling telephone networks, and sometimes by trying to isolate an entire country from the Internet. Even though these censorship processes are far from transparent, previous research by Howard et al. 2011 has identified two major self-professed reasons why governments take such actions: (i) protecting political authority and (ii) preserving the public good. This article examines these reasons from the point of view of rights-based theories and utilitarianism to assess their normative force. Though exceptions exist, it is concluded that neither rights-based theories nor utilitarianism in general supports the disconnecting of digital networks to achieve these aims. This conclusion gains extra force as it is supported by two normally opposing normative theories.
pdf-fulltext (132 KB)

TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster and Social Media: A Chrono-logical Overview
by Kenji Saito
Language: English
abstract:   This article is a chronological overview and discussion of the public's use of social media in Japan in response to the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that occurred on 11 March 2011. Reactions have included defiance aimed at protecting children and protests against the government's nuclear policies. A mass media decline is apparent during the course of the events. However, there seem to be multiple levels of divides that have been preventing people from progressing beyond criticism to achieve effective activism. 
pdf-fulltext (125 KB)

Unintended Cyber Activism through Online Daily Practice in Korea
by Dong Hyun Song
Language: English
abstract:   This article examines the cultural and political anxieties caused by the embeddedness of ICTs and the internet in Korean society. These anxieties emerged in the aftermath of the 2008 Candlelight protest and reflect a struggle between the Korean government, Korean web portals and Korean internet users, reflecting the wider evolution of cyberspace in Korean society. This argument will be substantiated through the analysis of policy, interviews, and online participant observation.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)

Social media: The new opiate of the masses?
by Emad Khazraee, Kristene Unsworth
Language: English
abstract:   This study argues that the relationship between new information and communication technologies (ICT) and social movements should be done from a socio-technical perspective. In the present study, we broaden this perspective and use Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to better understand the relationship between social media (as a new ICT) and social movements. From the perspective of ANT, one cannot define unidirectional causal relationships between the social and the technical. New technical developments create opportunities to change the social order and in the meantime technologies are transformed and are adapted differently by humans. Preliminary findings examining the use of Facebook among Iranians, applying the aforementioned relational sociology perspective based on ANT, suggest that the role new ICTs play in social movements and social change is not linear and constant through time. The impact of new ICTs might be different considering different stages in a social movement timeline. In fact, there may be a stage where ICTs actually function as a sort of pressure-release value, allowing individuals to remain content within the status quo rather than choosing to pursue more radical goals. We propose the utilization of the two concepts of “durability” and “mobility”, from ANT literature, to better understand the potential of online social networking technologies for social change. We suggest three different time stages as short (emergence of movements), mid (development or decline of movements), and late stage (the movement’s continuation, survival or disappearance through time) to be considered in the study of relationship between social media and social change.
pdf-fulltext (140 KB)

The Internet´s role in the Bersih movement in Malaysia – A Case Study
by Melanie Radue
Language: English
abstract:   Everywhere in the media, people talk about the so-called “Twitter and Facebook revolution” in regard to the Green Revolution in Iran or other new social movements which demand democratization in their countries and use the Internet for communication and mobilization. Libertarian advocates of the Internet state that the Internet has democratizing effects because of its reputed egalitarian, open and free technological structure for communication processes. Especially in countries in which the media is under strict control by the government, these characteristics are emphasized as stimulation for political liberalization and democratization processes. This essay critically examines the alleged democratizing effect of the use of the Internet on the Malaysian society exemplified on the social movement Bersih. The Bersih movement demands free and fair elections in Malaysia, often described as an ethnocratic and “electoral authoritarian regime”. The objective of this study is to demonstrate the dependency of such possible effects on context.

Framing an Online Social Movement: How Do the Leadership and Participants of the Egyptian 6th of April Youth Movement Frame their Facebook Activism?
by Manaf Bashir
Language: English
abstract:   The talks about the horizontality of Internet activism and the advent of social media applications have drawn great attention recently where leadership, organization and coordination are no longer tasks of a movement’s leadership, but also the general participants. This content analysis research attempts to show how the Egyptian 6th of April Youth Movement framed its own activism and what this multiplicity of actors-based framing meant to social movement discourse. The significance of this study lies in its potential to contribute to the understanding of diverse frames by leaders and participants, with the latter rapidly emerging as new agents of social movements. The findings show that the leadership and participants used similar cause, motivational and consequence frames (the three social movement framing tasks), but the leadership used these frames more frequently than the participants and had a larger influence than the participants in the overall framing of the 6th of April Youth Movement. 

More than a Facebook revolution: Social Movements and Social Media in the Egyptian Arab Spring
by Luis Fernando Baron
Language: English
abstract:   Public opinion leaders and activists characterized the Egyptian “Arab Spring” of January 2011 as a “Facebook Revolution”. They highlight the intrinsic power of social media as an influencing factor for social change. Undeniably, social media played important roles in that revolution process. However, these roles cannot be disconnected from the socio-political contexts. This paper discusses the use of social media, particularly of Facebook, by the April 6th Youth Movement (A6YM), a decisive actor of the Egyptian protests. It is based on the analysis of two Egyptian newspapers and one American newspaper, between 2008 and 2011. We propose that a) social media provided alternative mechanisms for political expression and organization, b) social media contributed to the genesis and consolidation of the A6YM and to the establishment of youth political identities, and c) the combination of “bits and streets” amplified not just the movement’s mobilization but the degree of opposition experienced by the Egyptian regime. 

Transnationale Netzöffentlichkeiten als neue politische Öffentlichkeiten – Das kritische Potential digitaler Medien am Beispiel arabischer Online-Plattformen
by Christina Schachtner
Language: German
abstract:   Even in the first few weeks of the so-called "Arab Spring" in January 2011, digital media were identified as being essential instruments for organizing the political protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet digital media had already started to play a political role as arenas of discourse in which topics such as democracy, minority rights, gender and religion could be debated at least two to three years earlier. A critical online public sphere arose which had a transregional and global focus right from the start, as reflected in the self-image of one network actor when he explained: "In real life I'm a Saudi guy living in Saudi Arabia. But online I'm multinational, I'm multigeographical". This article presents the results of a study entitled "Communicative publics in cyberspace" investigating digital platforms which had been initiated in the Arab world, which is also where most of the contributions come from; this analysis is backed up by interviews with network actors and bloggers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Following the concept of Nancy Fraser's transnational public spheres (2007). I analysed the normative legitimacy and the efficiency of the communicative authority of digital arenas of discourse in the Middle East, identifying which political practices led to social movements in the digital sphere and which characteristics of digital media contributed to helping digital arenas of discourse turn into places where political resistance can develop.  

Tecnologías de la Información, ¿motor de participación o de dominación?
by Enrique Javier Díez Gutiérrez
Language: Spanish
abstract:   In recent years, discourses about the democratising potential of the Internet and social networks have proliferated. The theoretical spectrum in which these discourses are located range from the consideration of the Internet and social networks as a complement to the procedures and techniques used by representative democracy (as a "digital democracy"), to their potential to generate new forms of citizenship as part of a move towards a new direct and participatory democracy of a horizontal nature. The analysis described here explores the extent to which the Internet and social networks are changing the relationship between gov-ernments and citizens, and whether they do in fact constitute another means of constructing citizenship and democratic political participation, through social mobilisation, moving towards a sense of strong, direct democracy and even the possibility of participatory self-government.  

La transgression discursive en Egypte à travers les inscriptions murales: le graffiti sur les réseaux sociaux, un nouveau champ de contestation.
by Mohammad Abdelhamid
Language: French
abstract:   L’objectif principal de cette recherche sera d’étudier les inscriptions murales en Egypte après la révolution de 2011. Le tag, le graffiti et l’art de rue n’avaient quasiment aucune visibilité dans le pays avant cette période de fortes instabilités politiques, quand soudainement ils apparurent à tous les coins de rue. Ma thèse interroge une thématique particulière à savoir la naissance d’un nouveau public, au sens de Dewey c’est-à-dire un public actif bataillant pour sa liberté. Un nouveau public est naît en tant que producteur d’un nouveau champ de protestation dans la rue, laissant une marque pour publiciser son opinion. Puis viennent à la vie d’autres publics qui assistent à l’émergence de ces nouveaux objets et parfois même les postent sur l’internet. La plupart du temps, ce n’est pas l’artiste qui fait la démarche de publier une photographie de graffiti mais un activiste ou un citoyen lambda. Et c’est là que l’étude prend un tournant bien plus intéres-sant. En tant que sémioticien, le travail portera sur l’analyse des graffiti sur les nouveaux murs, c’est-à-dire sur l’internet et plus particulièrement Facebook, où le graffiti accède à une plus large visibilité. Les réseaux sociaux octroient un nouveau sens au graffiti qui n’était pas originellement prévu par l’artiste. La nature locale de l’œuvre se voit d’un seul coup transformée en un message global accessible de par le monde.  

Ciberparticipación en Buenos Aires: ¿los sitios de redes sociales como espacio público?
by Natalia Garrido
Language: Spanish
abstract:   This paper will discuss the concepts of deliberation, public space, and the role of new information and com-munication technologies (ICT) in the light of the major social and political transformation processes from the recent protests, particularly since 2011, in different parts of the globe. We also refer to changes in Argentina in the last decade and, then, analyze, in particular, youth social political participation in Buenos Aires and the social appropriation of ICTs engaged for this purpose today. Finally, we will reflect on the limits and potential of certain forms of cyberarctivism of Kirchner youths.  

Debilidades, Amenazas, Fuerzas y Oportunidades (DAFO) en las redes sociales. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) in Social Networks)
by Julián Marcelo
Language: Spanish
abstract:   As well as a first step in strategic planning within production realm, a SWOT analysis of a system-process-project in relationship with its environment is often carried out. Correspondingly, the different types of social networks can also be regarded as socio-technological environments used by social groups in the development of different projects; each of them with its own Strengths and Weaknesses in the use of such net-works, which in turn entail generic and specific Opportunities and Threats to these groups. Furthermore, each social network, seen as a set of techniques and users, adopts forms of communication which enable/encourage the emergence, consolidation or disappearance of certain organizational models, for instance, with a different degree of horizontality, hierarchical, permeable or manipulated by the groups. These models are analyzed using organizational schemes, as particularly studied by Mintzberg who considers their design parameters and contingency factors. The paper deepens the analysis of deviations risks in the very complex systems-processes-projects which can be originated by the users of social networks – though with a high degree of uncertainty –, as well as their contribution feeding back the development of types and forms of the own social networks. Moreover, special attention is focused on synergies of different intensity in the acceleration of real changes within such social networks and their generated relationships, and particularly towards the likely creation of new systems of relations (in material and intellectual production, distribution, etc.) in all fields of economy, sociology, politics and culture.  

Elecciones Generales y redes sociales en el caso de España, 2011. (General Elections and social networks in the case of Spain, 2011)
by Bruno Castillejo & Dimitrina J. Semova
Language: English
abstract:   General Elections of November 20, 2011 marked a turning point in the use of social networks in Spain for political purposes: on the one hand, was the first time the major parties decided to use social networks in their election campaigns, and on the other, all studies show that small parties won on this field. Given that “the smalls” reached unexpected good election results, therefore we must examine the question of a possible relationship between votes won and presence in social networks. It is also important that the vast majority of messages against politicians came from users participants in the 15-M Movement (“The Outraged”). From their personal accounts they proposed different hashtags attacking the two major political parties: the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE). 

Occupy the Heterotopia
by James Anderson, Kiran Bharthapudi and Hao Cao
Language: English
abstract:   In this essay, Foucault's concept “of other spaces” – or, heterotopia – is used to examine the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in the context of systemic crisis. Neoliberalism is marked by innovations that amplify and accelerate contradictions, unfolding the false utopia of finance capitalism. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) helped hyper-financialize the economy, enrich banksters and extend inequalities. Conversely, high-tech developments allow for decentralized decision-making and more direct democracy, paralleling the ethics of OWS. New ICTs compress TimeSpace, opening doors for empathic connections, generating conditions for elevation of collective superstructural consciousness. This paper explores how these conditions create – and are recreated by – heterotopic spaces. Drawing on Foucault's method of heterotopology we throw light on the potential of OWS to prefigure another world, analyzing endeavors to promote cooperative autonomy, and raise consciousness in and through mediated environments, always contested, ever in flux, and inevitably over-(but never pre-)determined.  

The Vital Non-Action of Occupation, Offline and Online
by D.E. Wittkower
Language: English
abstract:   Using an Arendtian framework, I argue that we can understand distinctive and effective elements of the #OWS movements as forms of non-action related to prior strategies of non-violence, the propaganda of the deed, and coalitions of affinity rather than identity. This understanding allows us to see that, while the use of social media in the movement does not provide the same affordances for building and maintaining power as physical occupation, and while online community clearly cannot substitute for physical community in many relevant and consequential ways, Facebook does nonetheless provide a platform well suited to maintaining power through these distinctive forms of non-action.  

Opportunities of Change: An Economist’s Perspective
by Peter Karl Fleissner
Language: English
abstract:   As contemporary scientific images of the economy by mainstream economists neglect historical changes, a method is needed to deal with the opportunities and possibilities of qualitative change, in particular in a period of evident crises. This paper sketches a methodology of reflecting the economy as an evolutionary/revolutionary process. There are two main reasons for that: The first is that scholars should think of reality in a more appropriate way, taking the fact into account that qualitative changes of the type of the economic reproduction process happened in the past and there is no reason that they will not also happen in future, the second, that new political movements demand a better life for all, not only for one per cent of the people.  

Netactivismo en las protestas y procesos de cambio social. Caso de estu-dio: alzamiento popular en Oaxaca, México
by Tommaso Gravante
Language: Spanish
abstract:   In this paper we propose an analysis of net-activism practices, and how they influence the cultural change process of protestors in the citizen riot of Oaxaca (Mexico) in 2006. The approach adopted in the research is “bottom-up”, hence just analyzing the movement itself. This aspect is both methodological and theoretical. In the analysis of the net-activism’s practice, we focus on the emotive dimension of protestors. The analysis of the emotive components allow us to explicate the initial motivations of collective actions, and how new media are linked with citizen empowerment.  

¿Innovar o “maquillar”? La incorporación de las TICs a los procesos político-administrativos.
by Josep Mª Reniu
Language: Spanish
abstract:   What criteria should guide the process of incorporating ICTs into political realm? Are ICTs, per definitionem, an instrument that always generates positive effects for political activity? Our reflection aims to influence the necessary and essential process of analysis prior to the introduction of ICT in the field of political pro-cesses, focusing primarily on the delimitation of its effects. In this sense it highlights the need to assess the added value of introducing a technological solution in the political process prior to do it, what will validate or not its desirability. There is, in this sense, the excessive use of "make-up" technology of political processes, that is, the absence of real & practical innovation.  

ICTs, Values and Social Change: The Case of Canadian Democracy
by Robert Rattle
Language: English
abstract:   Internet and communication technologies (ICTs) are revolutionising how people communicate and connect. While these have catalyzed calls for increasing societal change, social messages, not the technologies, motivate these actions. This paper will use the case study of Canada and the application of ICTs to argue why they are no less likely to support social change in modern economies than any previous technology. Drawing on examples of federal policy changes in Canada, the paper will argue ICTs and social media can be used to suppress democracy, undermine science and expand social impacts, even where they are intended to specifically address those problems. The paper will then discuss the roles of values in social change to argue that ICTs and social media are influenced by larger societal forces and that these are often better predictors of outcomes than the application of any one technology for social change.  

Psychotechnologies of Digital Diplomacy
by Natalia Grincheva
Language: English
abstract:   The study outlines the problematic framework of the emerging field of digital diplomacy in the social, cultural, and economic dimensions through a close reading of Stiegler’s philosophical concept of the techno-culture. The research intends to raise important questions regarding international communications in a new light of phenomenology of collective individuation. Stiegler’s philosophical conception of contemporary politics under the condition of globalized cultural and economic capitalism is one way to explain the dramatic changes in diplomatic relations taking place on the global arena at the beginning of the new century. Stiegler’s techno-cultural project has significant implications for digital diplomacy as a practical discipline and can be successfully utilized to improve its future development based on the more productive engagement with social, economic, and political issues in a theoretical context. The study tries to deepen the understanding of the political and economic mechanisms in the international communication and diplomatic activities complicated and challenged with the advance of digital technologies in the global capitalism system.  

The Digital Battlefield: Controlling the Technology of Revolution
by Gwyneth Sutherlin
Language: English
abstract:   Recent conflicts and revolutions have foregrounded a new battlefield where information and communication technology (ICT) will play a crucial role. The producers of ICT frequently use it as a tool for defining and implementing strategies aimed at achieving stability and democracy. While the traditional battlefields remain in upheaval, manoeuvres on the digital terrain do not progress in parallel. This paper will examine the foreign policy implications of the pervasive cultural bias of the ICTs connected to revolution and stabili-zation efforts describing how this bias shifts power away from the populations using the technology and toward the actors controlling the programs and codes. The ICTs deployed for conflict management and democratization are plagued by cultural bias which disenfranchises users, thereby diminishing the technolo-gy’s potential for use in participatory actions by removing authorship and contributing to information gate-keeping by the creators of the technology which tend to be European or American. 

An Integral Perspective of Social Action: Imagining, Assessing, Choosing (Onto-epistemology of Networks)
by Rainer E. Zimmermann
Language: English
abstract:   Starting from a formal and abstract perspective, the concept of networks is introduced with a view to possible connections to other fields of the sciences and to practical applications. The structural hierarchy of forms is identified expressing the conceptual organization of our observable world. In the case of social networks, it can be shown that they exhibit a characteristic type of self-reference, a result of their special relationship to the conditions of the human modes of cognition and communication. As to a possible derivation of strategic attitudes, it can be shown that a re-vitalization of the ancient concept of kalokagathía could turn out to be helpful in tackling present everyday problems. Hence, choosing the perspective of an explicit network paradigm entails a new reconciliation of aesthetics and ethics, respectively, including multifarious implications for a suitable foundation of praxis within pertinent crisis management. 


 Home ] [ Current Issue ] Next Issue ] Archive ] Call for Papers ] About IRIE ]

Copyright © 2013 International Review of Information Ethics - all rights reserved
Privacy Policy, Legal Statement and Impressum
Last Update: 13/03/10