twitter & tear gas
book is out – twitter and tear gas
My book is out—with a creative commons copy! I hope few of you buy it—so publishers can do this for other
I ask a few of you buy it, but if I make a single penny more from sales, I will donate it to refugee support.
Social movements need to convince people, the powerful only need to confuse them – great convo on tech mediated activism this am w @zeynep https://t.co/KTQNUSmXEv
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/JulieSeaSuth/status/865646581168484352
1 hr audio
9 min – you get your big moment a little before you’re ready
10 min – marches don’t work for everything .. even with massive legitimacy.. not any proportional follow thru on .. what do we do next.. (occupy).. follow thru minuscule compared to potential you thought w size of it
12 min – one suggestion i might have.. try to see yourself in terms of those in power
15 min – needs to be threat to their (those in power) fears in terms of infrastructure
16 min – the power.. think of it like a signal.. communicating capacity to do more..
ie: gazelle.. jumping in place.. arbitrarily.. signaling.. i have strong muscles.. chase some other weaker creature.. protests can be quite powerful in signaling something.. ie: airport protests.. helped change a lot of things.. until then wasn’t clear.. so much support for rights of refugees.. there is a constituency
19 min – protests are also important to tell the world something.. ie: airport.. was most effective anti terrorism moment in recent history.. world thought.. wow.. americans are not just bigots..
20 min – for apps.. want it to make things easier.. but if protesting.. want it to get harder.. ie: if easier.. legislature not scared.. doesn’t signal to legislature that you are worth fearing.. not scared of someone just texting a bot.. more hallow because it’s easier.. so use digital tools for things they are good for.. but easy isn’t how you signal..
ads till 25 min
30 min – we’re in san fran.. you can get funding of 50 mill for something that pours water a little better
33 min – if don’t have a decision making strategy for what’s coming up next.. in protest.. get what i call a tactical freeze..
33 min – end up chasing the moment.. repeating.. so people in power see ie: you’re good at holding marches...
35 min – forms of collective decision making.. come together and make decision in participatory way.. people go on reddit/twitter/fb.. and try to make a decision.. but they’re not built to coalesce to a decision..
power gets made from local.. but we need collective decision making tech at scale too..
when in a meeting.. you want meeting to end.. whereas fb whole design is to keep you there.. we’re trying to hold meetings in places unsuitable to hold meetings and come to conclusions… what are the tech solutions to help us have these convos at scale w/o getting into bickering.. trying to do that now ie: loomio sprung up after occupy.. but have to find a new way of decision making.. in 21st cent..
36 min – a lot of people call themselves the resistance.. how does it make decisions on what’s next.. need to evolve tactics over time.. now have no mech to collectively decide what is needed to do right now..
if people think this kind of energy is going to be forever.. history tells us not.. will slowly get used to new normal.. and we’re already seeing the edges of that..
39 min – 21st cent way of censoring .. is drowning out effectiveness with overload.. true and false..
40 min – what we need more.. better gatekeepers.. et al
rather – gershenfeld sel
41 min – wanting to find a way to assert the authenticity
if social movement.. need to convince people to do something.. if in power.. just need to confuse them..
42 min – in 21st cent.. can’t block link between people and info.. what you want to do is demonize the medium.. break link between getting info and ability to act..
51 min – one sentence advice: build infrastructure.. go local.. meet with people.. collective decision making
notes/highlights while reading book
i had begun to think of social movements’ abilities in terms of ‘capacities’… and their repertoire of protest, like marches, rallies, and occupations as ‘signals’ of those capacities..
egyptian youth and new york youth, different in many ways, also sounded similar themes in discussions: antiauthoritarianism, distrust of authority, and desire for participation
the park (gezi) had a sharing economy where nothing was purchased and nothing was sold. people exchanged whatever they had and received whatever they needed. many protesters told me that these money-free exchanges were among the most pleasurable, fulfilling aspects of their gezi experience.. t
there is nothing pleasurable about being teargassed, but the experience of solidarity and altruism within communities engaged in collective rebellion was profoundly moving for people whose lives were otherwise dominated by the mundane struggles fro survival and the quest for money
if i squinted and ignored that the language was turkish, i felt that it could have been almost any 21st century protest square: organized thru twitter, filled w tear gas, leaderless, networked, euphoric, and fragile..
what i call ‘tactical freeze’ the inability of these movements to adjust tactics, negotiate demands, and push for tangible policy changes, something that grows out of the leaderless nature of these movements .. and the way digital techs strengthen their ability to form w/o much early planning, dealing w issues only as they come up, and by people who show up
in the mountains of chiapas, i learned a zapatista saying: ‘preguntando caminamos’ it means ‘we walk while asking questions’ it is in that spirit that i present this book t
once this large group is formed, however, it struggles because it has sidestepped some of the traditional tasks of organizing..
could be a good thing if we let go
but the movements have few means to resolve their issues or make decisions
and/or space/time/resource to decide which issues/decisions matter
these techs were not merely basic tools; their new capabilities allowed protestors to reimagine/alter the practice of protests and movement building on the path that they had already been traveling but could finally realize
sometimes, networked online political action is derided as ‘slacktivism’ or ‘clicktivism’ terms that suggest easy action requiring little effort or commitment
i have also seen movement after movement falter because of a lack of org depth/experience, of tools or culture for collective decision making and strategic long term action
hlb.. but beyond decision making.. strategizing et al
it turns out the answer to ‘what happens when movements can evade traditional censorship and publicize and coord more easily’ – not so simple
unless it is – a nother way
in u s .. same week as gezi protests erupted, ed snowden revealed .. massive us govt surveill program..
whereas a social movement has to persuade people to act, a govt or a powerful group defending the status quo only has to create enough confusion to paralyze people into action t
new forms of censorship based not on blocking info, but on making available info unusable..
movements making own history.. but in circumstances and wi tools, not entirely of their own choosing
main goal of book: provide empirically grounded, rich conceptual anal of mechs that operate in the networked public sphere and that impact… movements
in 3 sections:
1\ making a movement: …censorship broadly as the denial of attention thru multiple means
2\ a protestor’s tools: … case in which fb’s real name policies almost tripped most influential page of (yet to come) egyptian revolution.. and algos might have smothered emergent movements.. like blm.. while promoting feel good (and worthy) charity drives
3\ after the protests: .. capacities and signals theory of social movements that guides all the analyses in this book
part 1 – making a movement
ch 1 – a networked public
political scientist benedict anderson called this phenom of unification ‘imagined communities’.. people.. come to think of selves as part of group thru shared consumption s of mass media.. (rather than fam et al)
the shift from face to face communities to communities id’d w cities, nation-states, and now a globalized world order is a profound transition in human history.. because we have been born into their imagined community, it can be hard to realize how much our experiences, our culture, and our institutions have been shaped by a variety of techs.. esp those that affect the way we experience time and space
it should be understood that there is no single, uniform public sphere t
cities can also alter how we interact by gathering people in large numbers and creating places for interaction outside of private spaces. thus, the public sphere was facil’d by rise of spaces like coffeehouses and salons, .. not family members… mingle.. discuss .. *issues that concerned everyone
* well.. maybe .. but i’m thinking not.. that’s why/how we got to here.. science of people et al
we also have methods of interpersonal communication that can easily connect many people who are not in same physical space, or even people who do not know each other at all
or people in same space who know each other but couldn’t communicate truthfully w/o tech
writing, for ie, is amog the earliest techs that changed relationship between our words and the passage of time
for good and bad
before writing.. people relied on memory in passing on knowledge or stories..affected type of content.. ie: novel/encyclopedia can exist only w writing
writing not only convenience; rather, affects power in all its forms thruout society..
she could not find a way to cross this boundary in the offline world, so she went on twitter
facebook wasn’t the first site to which activists were drawn, but ti was the first site that reached large masses
in 2009 only 28 000 people on fb in tunisia.. by end of 2010.. 2 mn..
i asked them what had sustained their political work before the revolution and teh widespread global attention. many cited the global voices org.. it kept me going.. they were the peple who were listening to me when nobody was.. i might have given up if it weren’t for them
the ignition of a social movement arises from multiple important interactions – among activists attempting to find one another, between activists and the public shpere, and among ordinary people finding new access to political content matching their privately held beliefs..
this broadly erroneous understanding of the relationship of peole to the internet, along w over simpliication of how it affects social movements, stems from a fallacy that has long been recognized scholars, and one that has been dubbed ‘digital dualims’ th eidea that the internet isa less ‘real’world.. – ie: evgeny morozov
while internet characterized as politically impotent, also seen as place for econ activity.. consumers.. since arab spring.. regime after regime forced to recognize that a freewheeling, digitally networked public sphere poses a threat to entrenched control..
role of digital connectivity cannot be reduced to the % of a nations’population that is online. digital connectivity alters the architecture of connectivity across and entire society weven when much of it is not yet connected..
only a segment of the population needs to be connected digitially t oaffect the entier environment
fb changed the picture significantly by opening to he masses the networkd public sphere that had previously been avialable only to a marginal, self-selected group of people who were already politically active
fb adopted rapidly…because it fulfills a basic human desire: to connect w family and friends
fb had become too useful for too many in the genral population to be easily outlawed, but also too politically potent to ignore
weak ties may create bridges to other clusters of people in a way strong ties do not.. fb makes is much eaier for people to stay connected w others thru weak ties
wael ghonim and – we are all khaled said page on fb – 2010
2011 – tahrir square.. (wael’s page) led to the ouster of mubarak
jan 25 had happened every year.. 2011 was diff.. larger.. but too.. people who showed up in tahrir .. weren’t just your friends..
not just large.. but showing where they stood..
in coord and in sync w one another
for many repressive govts , fostering a sense of loneliness among dissidents while making an ie of them to scare off everyone else has long been a trusted method of rule. social scientists refer to the feeling of imagining oneself to be a lonely minority when it fact there are many people who agree with you, maybe even a majority, as ‘pluralistic ignorance’. pluralistic ignorance is thinking that one is the only person bored at a class lecture and not knowing that the sentiment is shared, or that dissent and discontent are rare feelings in a country when in fact they are common but remain unspoken
pluralistic ignorance (dang.. i thought zeynep penned it)
what digitally networked public shperhere can do in many instances: help people reveal their (otherwise private) preferences to one anothe rand discover common ground..street protests play a similar role in
showing people that they are not alone in their dissent.. t
even in the absence of repression, pluralistic ignorance plays a role simply because we like to belong..
ch 2 – censorship and attention
fb (2004) twitter (2006) iphone (2007).. social mechs.. they change the operation of a key resource: attention..attention is rarely analyzed on its own; a significant oversight given its importance.t
@michaelerard – attention
attention is oxygen for movements.
in 21st cent and in networked public spehre.. attention as a rexource allocated/acquired on local/national/transnational scales and censorhip as a broad term for denial of attention thru multiple means
in this complex new regime in the 2010s, i watched a single tweet inspire a few college students to form a citizen media network tha tchallenged the established mass-media giants.. what followed.. using mostly sm.. the coutnry’s biggest protest in decades.. the gezi park protests of 2013
in 1990s kurdish conflict spread and claimed 40 000 lives.. presented as – govt was fighting terrorists and all those who died were terrorists…
such pressure on the media from govt officials and corp owners is common around the world..
his family had been reduced on the news to terrorists in a bombing of supposedly little significance..
2013 – gezi park – was to be razed… legistlator stopped bulldozer (1154).. people start showing up and sharing pics.. juxta’s.. penguin vs what was happening.. penguin would come to symbolize censored media
ch 3 – leading the leaderless
much of modern life is similarly dependent on complex infrastructures held together by people who often toil in obscurity
using sm and dgitial tools, protesters can org at a large scale on the fly, while relying on a small number of peole to carry out work that previously required much infrastructure and many people
most tasks were taken care of by horizontal orgs that evolved during the protests, or by unaffiliated individuals who had simply shown up, alone or in groups of friends
although many members of thee ngos where active in the protests, very little seemed to be accomplished by using the ngos’ traditional hierarchical org…instead.. to take care of tasks, people hailed down volunteers in the park or called for them via hashtags on twitter or whatsapp messages to their own social networks.
overall, this digitally enhance capacity allowed a movement that came to being with zero prep beforehand and with little/or o institutional leadership, to pull off.. largest spontaneous demo/occupation in history of modern turkey – a country w little history of such movements – and to sustain it for weeks.
the desire of modern protesters to operate w/o formal orgs/leaders/infra can be traced at least back to the 60s.. new digital tech did not create this but allows protesters to better fulfill pre existing political desires..
this model of networked protests – adhocracy – tasks by ad hoc manner by whoever shows up and is interested.. t
the small group started by tweeting their message to prominent egyptian twitter users w high follower counts, .. a common way to talk to people on twitter, even those who do now follow you..
a common misconception about twitter is that one must already have a high follower count to gain attention.. in fact, two key features for twitter enable anyone with compelling content to generate a whirlwind of attention
in contrast, fb is designed more for communication by mutual consent.. you mostly talk to people who have agreed to be your fb friends..
the first thing they needed was attention, a crucial resource for activists
much of the building of trust happened in this backchannel, out of public view..
esp for younger activists today, it may be hard to imagine how movements were org’d in the past, w/o sm/phones/laptops/spreadsheets.. but the visible result, the march, seems familiar and understandable. that conflation of past and contemp protest events is misleading. they are diff phenom that arise in diff ways, and most important, they signal diff future paths..
what gets lost in popular accounts of the civil rights movement is the meticulous and lengthy org ing work sustained over a long period that was essential for every protest action
the chief organizer of logistics for the march on washington (63 – i have a dream speech – happened w/o incident) was bayard rustin, a name less well-known than mlk or rosa parks, but that of a man who had spent his lifetime mobilizing people for political causes. he may see to have been an unusual choice for the role: black man arrested for being gay in a time when his sexuality was a crime, a form communist.. devoted pacifist who had spent ww2 in prison as a conscientious objector
rustin played a role in encouraging and deepening king’s convictions about the use of nonviolence..
not first march that year.. not first time mlk recited i have a dream.. just like rosa parks was not first person to be arrested for resisting segregation.. in fact.. 1955 not even her first arrest.. civil rights movement was not a quiet, obedient group led by an infallible mlk.. it was a lively band of rebels..
rustin knew that w/o a focused way to communicate.. much could go wrong.. so ie: insisted on best sound system.. – 16 000 instead of 1-2000 usually used for marches.. system sabotaged night before.. attorney gen robert kennedy and burke marshall.. arranged for technicians from army signal corps to dismantle and rebuild overnight.. worked w/o a hitch.. all participants could hear what was going on.. hear instructions.. feel connected the whole march..
no computers.. so most of clerical tasks were performed w paper forms and 3×5 index cards
the young organizer charged w overseeing transportation (had to take people in and out of city in one day.. too many to house in washington.. plus danger because of hostility toward black people) worked to hard during 8 wks prios.. she fell asleep day of march.. missed whole march.. and king’s speech.. but the transportation worked perfectly..
third the ease w which current social movements form often fails to signal an organizing capacity powerful enough to threaten those in authority
undertaking the tasks that are required for org, logistics, and coordination together over time has benefits i call ‘network internalities’
sometimes doing seemingly pointless or unimportant work gives groups the capacity to do more meaningful things under other circumstances t
the initial tactic that brought people together is used again and again as a means of seeking the same life affirmation and returning to their only moment of true consensus: the initial moment when a slogan or demand or tactic brought them al out in the first place..
on tactile freeze in tahrir square.. once mubarak resigns.. the square did not have a structure to negotiate with the newly announced military council or even to deliberate among itself.. difficult for those who stayed to claim same legitimacy.. in end.. most people left in a few days.. starting the multiyear process that would indeed culminate in a full return to a military rule as brutal as mubarak’s or even more so.
part of experience of a tactical freeze stems from the fact that many of these networked movements appear leaderless.. this is a technological and cultural phenom..
leaderlessness greatly limits movements’ capacity to negotiate when the opportunity arises
their values were already aligned with the mistrust of representation (elections) that was widespread in global movements elsewhere…
suggestions that came up had no way of gaining legitimacy unless activists voted w their feet and flocked all at once to something new.. but the unstructured, freewheeling internet environment made this difficult because there was no way to stop the free flow of recriminations and accusation s of selling out that seemed to occur daily online
iranian protesters told me that they faced similar moments when most of the movement lacking the ability to make a new decision seemed stuck at wanting to repeat the last tactical move..
exceptions.. greece and spain..broke from movement and started political parties..syriza and podemos
it’s important to remember that the lack of institutionalization and the lack of leadership are not just happenstances or mere by-products of tech.. they are deeply rooted political choices that grow out of a culture of horizontalism within these movements.. that are enabled by current info tech t
ch 4 – movement cultures
using the place of their rebellion as a form of identity.. anyone could be a part of the community if they shared that spirit
the longevity and durability of these networks means that know-how, especially infrastructural know-how, can be shared across time and place
this shared protest culture and politics of 21st cent networked protests has a material basis rooted in friendship/solidarity networks that have been built over decades of travel, digital connectivity, solidarity, friendship, and even strife. by design, there are few formal orgs in this landscape. their absence obscures the lines thru which this culture flows, but they are quietly familiar to those w/in
why do people protest in the first place
why do so many protest camps set up libraries.. libraries seem to be one of the most typical fixtures of these protests
the sense of rebellion that is felt at a protest and the work that people perform in protests are inseparable
protesters want world to change.. but protests are also.. locations of self-expression and communities of belonging and mutual altruism
this relationship between belonging and individual expression is a key component of protest participation
the expression side of protest is a significant part of the reward that protesters seek (explaining why some protest even when risk or great energy needed)
gezi protesters i interviewed often mentioned the presence of the library as a symbol of how the park was diff from everything wrong with ‘out there.’ libraries are core symbols of an ethic of non-commodified knowledge.
(libraries) encapsulated the spirit of the protest: that people can and should interact with one another and exchange ideas in a relationship not mediated by money
there is nothing ordinary about handing over a piece of paper and receiving valuable material goods in return. yet that transaction – handing over money or sending credit – hides this complex social relationship and makes it appear to be a simple exchange. marx called this act of hiding social relations in monetary exchanges ‘fetishism’ because using money in return for the commodity – the item being purchased – blinds the buyer and the seller to the deeper social nature of the exchange that makes the whole transaction possible.
many people are drawn to protest camps because of the alienation they feel in their ordinary lives as consumers. exchanging products w/o money is like reverse commodity fetishism: for many, the point is not the product being exchanged but the relationship that is created, one that is
an expression of their belief that money is not necessary to care for one another… the conspicuous lack of money is less about resources than about taking a stance regarding the worth of human beings outside monetary considerations..
under ordinary capitalism, people also exchange gifts and valuable items to signify their feelings, but they do so w/in discrete, small circles.. embedded in reciprocal relationships. in protest camps, the pursuit of unencumbered, often anonymous giving to one another and to the community is an exchange that is explicitly not reciprocal. hence most protest camps i visited or people told me about, there was always a surplus of donated s .. because people wanted to give..
huge.. this is what we’re missing.. the disengagement from made up money (any form of measuring transactions)
people are good – was a sentiment voiced many times to me in gezi park. i’d have never imagine people could be so good – i was repeatedly told..
in that one sentence (greater love hath no man than to lay his life down for his friend), the mayan lay priest had captured the core of what creates that ‘beloved community’: the brotherhood and sisterhood of people who sacrifice for one another w/o expecting money or favors in return
this affirmation of belonging outside money relationships and of the intimacy of caring for people is the core of what motivates…. that longing also explains many other aspects of networked antiauthoritarian protest movements, ..
the intense horizontalism and participatory practices ingrained in these protests.. because they are what the protesters feel are missing in their lives.. have complex effects on how movements process…can seem nonsensical or baffling because they are time consuming, tedious, and difficult. one nuanced academic book that explain the power of participatory methods carries the ironic title: *freedom is an endless meeting, francesca poletta explains.. participation correlates a strong buy in and a sense of belonging.. it builds … the most serious weakness.. esp those that prioritize/fetishize **consensus above all, is that they are often unable to resolve even minor disagreements..
*public consensus always oppresses someone – begs we disengage from thinking we have to be in consensus even/esp for freedom’s sake
assemblies are gatherings that use horizontalist meeting techniques and consensus to conduct business… this means that the discussion continues till everyone agrees on the course of action
? i think in 2017.. we can be beyond that..
these ‘occupy hand signals’ had become common in these assemblies, a method for people to indicate support or dissent w/o clapping. there were hand signs to indicate dissent/agreement/request-for-clarity.. and other sentiments
someone who had been on the ground later said that ‘there were 400 for and 2 against’ lewis speaking
see.. we can do better.. than public consensus.. [always oppresses someone].. who decides if 2 or 10 or 50 is too many against.. let’s just decide.. 1 is too many
the facilitator paused. ‘are there any blocks’.. occupy’s consensus based model included giving people the right to block – to hold up a decision if even one person objected.. there was one objection..
and what about those who don’t speak up..
the facilitator *then decided that the group was divided and that there was no consensus. therefore, he said, i propose we continue with the **agenda, denying john lewis the right to address the assembly
*in the amount of time john could have spoken.. none the less.. and there was no block allowance for the dissenters who spoke in that time..
it was an exercise of implicit power.. because they lack formal means of resolving disagreements, often the most aggressive person, or simply the one holding the bullhorn, can push his/her own preference to a de facto decision. rather than participation, the result is exclusion
one’s in back didn’t get to speak.. (only whites in front).. the debate over letting lewis speak had consumed over 10 min..probably more time than lewis would have spoken.. despite all the talk of participation and leaderlessness, the facilitator wielded an enormous amount of power; he was the only person speaking at least half the time and he made significant cecisions while acting like the community made them
if assemblies so burdensome.. why do so many movements adopt these methods of decision making..?
the ‘mic check’ creates a counterbalance to this heightened individual participation (sm) by providing a moment where everyone repeats.. it makes the assembly a place where strangers gather into a unified voice – at least for a moment..
the assembly format excludes most people with jobs/children/responsibilities/illnesses/travel-challenges.. et al
voluntary public speaking as a mode of decision making is another impediment to participation because people wiling to speak up, esp in a challenging way in public, tend to be from privilege backgrounds..
so yes.. there’s that.. but deeper.. the decision they are trying to make.. perhaps.. are irrelevant in the first place.. ie: deciding between spinach or rock.. (who decided what they would be making decisions about..? was that a consensus via 100%?) .. rather than living.. making 24/7 decisions.. everyday (aka: facil ing whimsy)
a protest, if nothing else, is a community
(after section on jo freeman ness and on bowling green ness) – some kinds of community may be in decline, but the search for community and belonging is, if anything, on the rise.
2 basic needs ness
it is thus unsurprising, though striking, that community building may be among the most important functions that a protest march or a persistent occupation serves.. form quickly.. but quite intensely active because of the existentially rousing conditions under which they emerge
likened to 1999 earthquake in izmit turkey (zeynep’s childhood town) – 17 000 deaths
if you examine a protest camp, it becomes apparent that in many ways, it resembles the formulation ‘paradise in hell’ that rebecca solnit has proposed for the communities that spring up in post disaster situations and defy the norms of ordinary life
people losing sight via tear gas…just during the initial uprising in tahrir square, in jan/feb 2011, nearly a thousand people lost their lives..but even there, many described the protest as the best days of their lives
obviously, protesters are not pining for death or threats, but rather for the interruption of ordinary life they experience under conditions of mutual altruism
rebellion is a place for extraordinary communities, however brief or lengthy they may be..
(on how protest brings diverse people together) – they always keep us apart, and that is how they oppress us both
plurality and diversity are explicitly sought and celebrated and understanding ‘the other’ thru an empathic moment of rebellion is a core value
a community that the protesters both yearned for and drew strength from… digital techs are integral to this type of community
digital media allow us individual expressiveness.. digital media enhance the visibility of a cause and can assist the breakdown of pluralistic ignorance.. but what is less noticed is how connectivity also supports a sense of camaraderie and community – even a hashtag storm can create a sense of belonging…. digital tools also allow the protest to feel bigger than the location or the boundaries of an occupation camp.. umbrella that envelops the protest and at same time reaches out to people.. potentially mns, who feel they are part of the movement.. sometimes online riskier.. offline (teargas) online (surveillance)
their profound alienation from ordinary politics is inseparable from their commitment to protest, and this affects all levels, from the top to the bottom
a celebration of rebellion, community, and diversity far beyond the emotions of people located in one park or square
part 2 – a protester’s tools
ch 5 – technology and people
(on john perry barlow’s utopian vision of no race et al w internet).. technology rarely generates absolutely novel human behavior; rather, it changes the terrain on which such behavior takes place. think of it as the same players, but on a new game board.
or.. if we try a nother way.. the players are different. they are themselves.. rather than masked men..
huge.. not flippant.. rev of everyday life ness.. waking up people
ch 6 – platforms and algorithms
mubarak’s govt did not grasp the power that the ability to document, communicate, and coord via sm placed in the hands of ordinary people
nowadays the function of gatekeeping for access to the public sphere is enacted thru internet platforms’ policies, algos and affordances. in some ways, this has empowered movements by reducing their dependency o traditional mass media and their editors. in other respects, the current digital communications gatekeeping ecosystem has been reduced to a very few but very powerful choke points. social movements today are largely dependent on a very small number of cop platforms and search engines (or more accurately, on search engine, google)
a competitor to these behemoths would need to be massively financed and would still be at a *huge disadvantage given the enormous amount of data about users’ habits these companies have already collected..
unless (and i’m assuming so) .. that data is not us
self-talk as data.. whole new game (actually.. life)
fb’s policy on names and its method fo enforcing its rule have entangled many movements and activists in its web..
ghonim chos to remain anonymouse as the admin of the page.. focus attention & protect family
couple months before uprising.. fb abruptly deactivated the ‘we are all khaled said’ page.. speculation of pressure of egypt govt.. but fb confirmed fictitious name was ‘a violation of our terms’… just like that.. thru internally decide naming policy, fb had censored one of the most important spots for political gathering in egypt, at height of political activity.. reactivated after courageous egyptian woman living abroad offered to allow her real name
meant she risked permanent exile from her native country and reprisals against members of her family
why some still use non real names.. fb’s real=name policy.. implemented thru ‘community policing’.. co acts only if /when something is reported
the most important sm platforms for social movements, fb and twitter, and ..youtube.. owned by google .. have significantly diff terms of service… in the more freewheeling twitterverse, fairly little is banned by terms of service. although twitter has been making some of its rules stricter (or at least applying them more strictly). …
fb on the other hand has stricter rules and is more trigger-happy in deleting content for terms of service violations.. ie: naked girl 1972 – pulitzer prize.. pm of norway posted as well.. and fb took that down.. then finally back up
youtube.. some of the videos were horrifying, but, as the activist told me, ‘that was the only way we could get the word out’ – misconduct of the police or the army..
fb page of mayor of majority kurdish city in the region was banned even though almost 400 000 people had ‘liked’ his page before it was taken down..
how rare it is to find someone who understands that the order of posts on her /his fb feed has been chosen by fb…how much influence the platform wields..
caused about 340 000 additional people to turn out to vote in the 2010 us elections
the emotional contagion study
fb like ness.. fits w .. ad friendly disposition…
so my friends not clicking like button for stories about ferguson… so algo was not being told this was important.. but easy to give thumbs up to ie: als bucket challenge.. so that rose
this can cause the algo to bury the story even deeper in an algo spiral of silence..
same with google rankings .. et al
story able to rise on chronological twitter.. after 3 mn tweets. the national news media started covering the story too.. it’s worth pondering.. if w/o twitter reverse chron stream… unmediated by algo gatekeeper, the news of unrest/protests might never have made it onto the national agenda..
double challenge.. if content a social movement is trying to disseminate is not being shared widely, the creators do not know whether the algo is burying it, or whether their message is simply not resonating..
hard to study any of this directly because data are owned by fb.. or in case of search ..google.. these are giant corps that control and make money from the user experience, and yet the impact of that experience is not accessible to study by independent researchers.
upworthy for ie has ended up producingmany feel good stories, since those are easy to like and thus please fb’s algo..
algo gvoernance, it appears, is the future and the new overlords that social movements must grapple with.
the networked public sphere is nota flat, ope space w no barriers and no structures. sometimes, the gatekeepers of the networked public sphere are eve more centralized and sometimes even more powerful than those of the mass media, although their gatekeeping does not function in the same way
ch 7 – names and connections
reddit’s reputation system is called – karma.. karma is rep’d thru pts users can earn as other redditors upvote linked/comments.. karma can also be lost thru downvotes.. reddit users can also ear ‘reddit gold’ .. a gold star symbol displayed next to their name.. other redditors purchase this symbol to give to fellow redditors.. – called gilding
reddit also has regular features that attract attention from outside the site.. ie: many public figures… take part in .. ask me anything.. sessions..
unpaid volunteers monitor almost all reddit forums.. management generally sticks to a hands-off approach
2 ie’s of unsavory subreddits that grew quite large: creepshots and jailbait – women/young girls photos.. lasted 4 yrs
this sordid ie shows that rules of community formation in offline spaces also work online, that digital affordances shape the ground rules under which they operation, that reputation has an impact on human behavior online and offline, ..
twitter and reddit for ie allow both pseudonyms and the *accrual of reputation
*what does that even mean.. accrual of attention..?
stranger on a train effect: sometimes open up more to anonymous strangers.. than to people see around them everyday
tricia want – looked at… way ‘personal relationships are built thru favors’ (encouraging keeping track of mutual obligations). reciprocity is an important element in all cultures
? is it..? i don’t think so in human nature..
this is a huge..
they could explore a sense of self and belonging and had their perspective ow what was acceptable move beyond societal norms.. (anonymous online convos)
part 3 – after the protests
ch 8 – signaling power and signaling to power
what makes a protest more than a ‘focus group’? (bush not deciding policy based on focus group)
large #’s protest.. still many who don’t.. nixon called this support ‘silent majority’
most successful revolutions involve only a small % of the population
so.. why do some impact and others don’t….? the role of repression/violence in countering social movements is crucial to all discussion of movement efficacy and impact, and should never be overlooked..
strength of social movements lie in their capacities: to set the narrative, to affect electoral/institutional changes, to disrupt the status quo
these signals.. more complex than indicators like headcounts or number of protests
capacity as a concept comes from field of human development… i adapt term from.. amartya sen’s capability approach.. sens wants development scholars to
focus less on easily measurable outcomes that do not necessarily reflect the ‘beings and doings‘ of humans, t
by which he means their opportunities to obtain ed and live a healthy life, to be productive, to live well and to do things the care about..
in the context of social movements, a capacity approach means evaluation the movement’s collective ability to achieve social change,
rather than solely measuring available benchmarks..t
though the protest itself provides visibility and unity, the steps required to org the protest are a stronger signal of a group’s underlying capacities..
i focus on 3 crucial capabilities of social movements from the pov of power: narrative capacity, disruptive capacity, and electoral and/or institutional capacity
narrative: ability to frame story on own terms to spread worldview
disruptive: ability to interrupt regular operations of system of authority
electoral/institutional: ability to keep politicians from being elected… unless they adopt /pursue policies friendly to sm’s agenda or ability to force changes in institution thru both insider/outsider strategies
these goals – getting attention and convincing people of the veracity of particular narratives – are among core acts of all movements and infuse every state of a social movement’s life
issues important.. stance legit
narrative capacity is thus a movement’s capacity to get attention and to appeal on its own terms to eh broader public for redress of its grievances… ability to articulate a voice, get its voice heard, and have it responded to as legit
then goes into money and control of media for getting word out
an alt party can gather support more easily when there is little loyalty to existing political parties that are seen as ineffective or captured by the powerful
successful use of the tactic (disruption) requires a delicate balance among challenging authority, bearing the costs of challenging authority, and making a case for the legitimacy of the protest..
in short, disruptive capacity is a movement’s ability to interrupt business as usual with the aim of getting attention , making a point, or making it untenable for those in power to continue as in the past, and to sustain such disruption over time.
disruptive capacity is powerful but also carries the highest risk of backlash (bree newsome as ie). disruptive capacity, properly interpreted, also includes the ability to bear the costs of either the backlash or the consequences that are doled out by the authorities – abilities which are also indicative of the underlying capacity
signals, which may be rooted in true capacity or be exaggerated bluffs, are direct or indirect signs that indicate what a person (or a movement) is capable of doing and is likely to do
you don’t need to develop a lot of capacity to be able to just talk about having it (cheap talk)
cheap talk can generate interest and worry for the powers that be, but costly signals are more likely to be taken seriously
ai wei wei defiant tweeting.. costlier as a signal, in terms of risk and consequences, than many of the antiwar marches i attended in person in the us. although the physical act of typing is much easier than walking,
ability to get attention and frame issues used to be controlled mostly by the mass media and their gatekeepers. unsurprisingly, many activists spent a great deal of energy trying to acquire mass-media attention
often, stunts do help get attention but may interfere with the movement’s control of the narrative that results
activists wanted to see whether inequality and skewed accumulation of wealth could be challenged at their global hq, wall st.
the call to gather in ny led to a movement that would sweep the world, resulting in protests in 80 countries and almost 1000 cities and involving mns of people. but first, the movement had to be heard and not be ridiculed. this was not easy and might never have happened w/o the power of sm to balance the ridicule or silence of traditional gatekeepers, esp in the mass media
here was a popular protest (pilots, postal workers, michael moore, et al), an emergent movement that addressed one of the most important fault lines developing western nations, between super rich and rest of pop.. we are the 99%.. located at heart of a media-rich environment. it should have been major news. but it was not.. if hadn’t been for fb twitter livestream..
obscurity is among the biggest obstacles to movement success
ny times didn’t cover for first 8 days.. when finally made it in paper.. was framed by headlined as confused..
the article this time gave more voice to he protesters, but there was still little coverage of the issue they were protesting: inequality.
many movements face this dilemma: the mass media provide them w attention only when there is a confrontation or violence, or when conflict with the police is involved..
as the 21st cent progressed, i watched – an many scholars systemically documented – how media coverage shifted to focusing on these tiny groups w/in the larger protests and further smothered substantive discussions of the topics (ie: tiny group of violent protestors vs broader movement of nonviolence)
activists were able to craft their own narrative and to resist being trivialized. eventually their framing was picked up by sympathetic journalists.. ie: nicholas kristof..
however, despite its impressive ability to change the convo, occupy had little or no direct electoral impact in the immediate aftermath..
perhaps begs we find a nother way.. that makes electoral impact irrelevant..
no substantive policy changes in next four years, as of 2016, inequality had only gotten worse (in us at least)
it had no effective means to make decisions to do anything else, or any strategic capacity for shifting tactics. it did not signal an electoral, institutional, or disruptive threat to power..
let’s go deeper – combining complex orderliness and uncertainty.. ie: leap to 7 bn free.. short bit
it is much easier for a few loud voices to paralyze digitally scaled -up movements that emphasize horizontalism and prize’ consensus’ that it is to move them forward thru tactical shifts
depends on tactical shifts .. ie: how ginorm small they are.. (same with defn of consensus)
about a year later, occupy partially resurrected itself as an aid group during the aftermath of hurricane sandy…
occupy’s most direct engagement w the electoral sphere would come many years later, in 2016, after bernie sanders.. would launch a seemingly quixotic challenge for presidential nom
on tea party of 2009 (by right..driven by obama presidency and feeling that govt was taking their money and giving it to undeserving people thru taxes et al) – more than 1/2 mn people nationwide … 800 000 individuals in more than 500 rallies..
protests serve many functions, and one of them is to demo to to others that a belief is widely held and to break ‘pluralistic ignorance’ – the notion that a private belief is held in isolation rather than shared by many others... t
occupy and the tea party were both org d w/o formal structures and neither had official leadership
the activists (tea party) had encyclopedic knowledge of the political process by which policy gets made/implemented…..master of the legislative process and arcane party rules…. focused intensely on process and how to block or shift it to their liking
in 2016 a candidate who matched the tea party base’s sensibilities, donald trump, won the republican nom
a movement almost entirely online: sopa and pipa – would have required major platforms and internet service providers to block copyrighted material.. more than mere anti-copyright infringement provision.. it threatened to restrict online free speech… a broad ill-defined mandate that might well have made it impossible to have an open internet..
gained momentum..w many bloggers, including me, joining a single-day blackout… but battle to stop bill intensified when the big internet cos – google, tumblr, wikipedia – joined in … getting people to dial congressional rep s.. minds were changed quickly (in congress).. bill died quick death..
these protests are a very good ie of why looking at outputs (calls, protest size, tweets, or number of signature on a petition) w/o looking at the underlying capacity producing those outputs (internet giants facilitating such calls/tweets) can be misleading
when phone calls are brokered via google/tumblr, they do not necessarily signal a broader movement capacity (although this does not seem to have been apparent to members of congress during sopa/pipa vote).. rather, coming from ‘big internet’ it signals elite disunity and the willing ness of large silicon valley co’s to visibly flex their political muscle.. elite unity or disunity is a major factor in whether protests successfully change policies or have other impacts..
quite likely that a sop/pipa type protest, .. phone calls generated in a process led by tech giants, may not be as scary to congressional staffers the next time around.. less likely to see protest as signaling rise from below of a potent uncontrolled political force…
begs we go beyond electoral/congressional ness..
on turkey closing internet – forcing private networks.. (giving up surveillance but curtailing wider convo)..
it appears that an unfettered convo is considered to be a bigger risk than lack of surveillance capacity t
understanding protest actions as signals, rather than looking at just their labels, brings clarity to the consequences of movement actions
ch 9 – govts strike back
sometimes silence speaks loudly… there as absolutely no reason for the govt to remain quiet
(wondered what might have happened in 80s coup if internet.. now 2016 – got to see) i would watch as a govt known for imposing restrictions on the internet itself used the internet and digital connectivity to thwart an illegitimate attempt to topple it
govts have made great advances in devising more sophisticated methods to neutralize those who would use the internet digital tools against them, and even to use it to mobilize populations for their own interests.. … this chapter examines these new dynamics, ranging from new modalities of censorship to using online info as a means to maintain control to how surveillance operates in practice
on mubarak in 2011 shutting off internet: 1\ couldn’t do it in silence/secrete 2\ no connection drew more people to streets 3\ now could circumvent block
4\ draconian move increased global/domestic attention…
keep in mind that attention, not info per se, is the most crucial resource for a social movement t
suddenly protesters had even more of it.. streisand effect (2003 – tried to take down 6 photos of malibu villa – backfired)
begs gershenfeld sel
to be effective, censorship in the digital era requires a reframing of the goals of censorship not as a total denial of access, which is difficult to achieve, but as a denial of attention, focus, and credibility..t
to produce resignation, cynicism, and a sense of disempowerment among the people..t
by: inundate w info; sow confusion/fear/doubt; harassment
rather than attempt to break the first link, info dissemination, censorship thru info glut focuses on second link, weakening the agency that might be generated by info
as people search for a heuristic to vet info, trusted indviduals often emerge as gatekeepers on sm, but w/o the support of recognized institutions they can be even more vulnerable targets than institutional media
just as attention is underappreciated as a resource for sms, distraction/ignorance are underappreciated as methods of repression thru denial of attention
(china as leader in govt knowing how to suppress) – 2014 – occupy central (because govt was going to screen 2017 nominees) … after students used umbrellas to protect themselves from the tear gas and pepper spray, some journalists dubbed the protests the ‘umbrella movement’
on spray et al enraging more attention.. (gezi: woman in red dress; occupy: 4 young women; uc davis: line of students sitting down; … shame on you.. world is watching).. umbrella movement on this track too.. tons of students.. libraries.. wishes on sticky notes.. clean streets.. but after burst.. took a diff/slower turn.. seemed to be a deliberate strategy on part of govt.. oct 3 2014 – some ‘locals’ .. ‘triad gangs’.. attempted to beat up students.. arrests.. then quiet again.. then oct 15.. further scuffles w police/protesters but didn’t get out of hand..
then oct 21.. unfruitful meeting.. then nov 10.. area cleared.. w little resistance.. protest had lost much of its initial energy (ie: govt waiting it out).. it (occupy central) unable to effectively respond to the govt’s countermeasures ..
chinese govt managed thru tactical patience and deliberate shunning of attention to diffuse the protest’s energy
this is huge.. fractal of last 100s of yrs.. ie: on hold ness.. puts us and keeps us asleep
on chinese censorship not being on criticisms of govt.. rather on any potential to encourage collective action.. so esp.. if w/in single geographical area.
for topics that they (chinese govt) deemed important enough to create a threat, their remedy was straightforward: distraction
w/o attention, info means very little
what is more striking in the 21st cent is that the disinformation campaigns are not necessarily carried out to persuade people or to make them believe any particular set of alleged facts. instead, the goal is often simply to overwhelm people w so many pieces of bad/disturbing info that they become confused and give up trying to figure out what the truth might be – or even the possibility of finding out what is true
sense w/in people that the truth is simply unknowable… leads to paralysis of action
epilogue: the uncertain climb
(on printing press) – if you were gutenberg or a cardinal of the catholic church around the 1450s, you might have boasted about how this invention was going to greatly empower the catholic church. at the time, the catholic church was in the business of issuing indulgences – notes promising for a price, a reduction of time spend in purgatory …
moveable type and the printing press were a way for the catholic church to almost literally print money w the mass production of standardized indulgences.. gutenberg’s first datable printed doc was one of these indulgences, not a copy of his now famous bible…… indulgences in the 1510s .. finance the building of saint peter’s basilica in the vatican..
instead of serving catholic church.. rebels use press to mass publish pamphlets challenging church’s control ushering in protestant reformation.. most famous pamphlet – martin luther’s 95 theses.. fiery denunciation in part of selling of indulgences and sign that printing press would be a major weapon.. in 1517.. luther went viral..
the dissemination of these ideas set the stage for centuries of religious war and for the creation of new nations, new ideas, and the emergence of modernity
barely a decade into a global upheaval in tech, communication and connectivity, the new state of affairs already appears deceptively familiar
our understanding of tech superficial.. and advantages can be used by anyone.. changing dynamic
sm aided arab spring.. also destroying it
the lack of trust in elites and gatekeepers is story with deep roots and a long history
like the printing press and the industrial revolution, this historical transformation in digital connectivity and computing is a complex, dialectical processes with no clear teleology, no predetermined outcome or preset group of winners/losers..
perhaps the best approach is not to seek unified overarching answers, but to id and delineate mechs and dynamics intro’d by these new techs
the emergence of the digitally networked public sphere has not necessarily intro’d new fundamental social mechs – humans still behave like humans
or not.. wilde not us law
zeynep – that’s what i’m seeing as huge potential.. getting us back to us
dig techs have however, drastically altered the conditions under which these mechs operate on social movements.. ie: homophily: tendency people have to connect/interact w others they perceive as fundamentally similar to selves.. and pluralistic ignorance: tendency potential dissidents have to feel isolated/marginal
these are crucial mechs for community formation in general – homophily for the ties that bind, pluralistic ignorance for policing the boundaries
nowadays, such processes, thru which people find/signal to one another to *reveal previously private opinions, form communities, and create polarization w other communities are all also done online thru digital connectivity. a process that was difficult before has no become common; **one result is that this sort of process need not have the results , like revolution, that it had in the past
* or to start having authentic ones.. (wilde not us law)
**another – beyond our wildest dreams/cravings.. that we could become eudaimoniative surplus..
jo freeman – examines how informal and seemingly horizontal style of organization can lead to the tyranny of a few..
jo freeman ness
herbert simon wrote in 1971 – in an info rich world the real scarcity is in attention, and the key question is how ‘to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of info sources that might consume it’
sm platforms are designed for inefficient allocation of attention.. t
thus freeman’s secret movement elite can morph into a micro celebrity movement elite, based on the manufactured struturelessness of the sm attention econ
true.. or not.. up to us
what started as a space of free expression and free assembly has increasingly become a danger to social movement activists who find themselves targeted, their private info leaded as a means to intimidate them, and their voices drowned out or distorted by ad friendly algos.. at the same time, movements based on ethnosupremacy/extremism also spring to live online as those on the fringe find one another and set their own narrative.. push boundaries of acceptable discourse
activist must go where people are, and network effects mean that once a platform gathers a larger user base, it effectively shuts out competition
commercial online spaces that provide a few tools for org strength and decision making but make it easy for f ew people to dominate convos have become the hegemonic activist tools..
repression has always been one of the most important challenges movements face… digital techs have also added a new dimension to what the powerful can attempt to repress/demobilize…
the lack of *broad agreement about who is and expert or what constitutes expertise, combine w lack of usual indicators of expertise provided by gatekeeping institutions makes it easier for those in power to induce political paralysis thru confusion/doubt
*did we ever have that..? was that not pluralistic ignorance ness..?
whoa.. this is huge.. why we haven’t yet.. (gotten to global equity).. we have to let go of our assumptions of expertise.. assume we are all currently intoxicated with not us ness.. 7 bn need to wake up.. start over.. begin being.. a nother way
some movements,… have turned to engaging the electoral institutional sphere.. which they had long avoided..to leverage their influence in that sphere as well (ie: blm; bernie; podemos; syriza;..)
loomio – to facil decision making – in 2014 – 60% use via podemos
ie’s of using loomio/podemos.. councils.. restructuring debts..
we have the means to go deeper than that..
prediction was difficult.. we will keep walking.. and keep asking questions..
rather.. facil 7 bn curiosities/questions.. as the day
preguntando caminamos.. asking as we walk.. we make our path.. questioning it as we go.. t
indeed.. let’s do that.. ie: a nother way
i first though she had consciously evoked the phrase, but then i realized that she might have been too young to have known any detail about the zapatistas.. i was about to bring it up, but hen i changed my mind...t
it was important to learn from the past, no doubt. but maybe it was better to keep walking forward and to keep asking questions t
huge.. huge.. let’s do this..
Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) tweeted at 7:39 AM – 20 Aug 2017 :
Most Western left has never faced full violence of the state. I wish we taught the 1930s. It wasn’t lack of street fighting. The opposite. (http://twitter.com/zeynep/status/899264562922434561?s=17)
Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) tweeted at 7:42 AM – 20 Aug 2017 :
Advocating strategic, long-term thinking isn’t from naiveté or not being radical enough. Romanticizing short-sighted tactics is the naïveté. (http://twitter.com/zeynep/status/899265282690174976?s=17)
Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) tweeted at 7:45 AM – 20 Aug 2017 :
I’ve protested my whole life. Protests have real power. But realism and long-term thinking about linking them to deeper organizing is key. (http://twitter.com/zeynep/status/899266212361895936?s=17)
Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) tweeted at 7:49 AM – 20 Aug 2017 :
Plainly: historically, anything that looks like street brawls helps fascists consolidate power. “Many sides” is their core tactic. Works. + (http://twitter.com/zeynep/status/899267159762849792?s=17)
Nick Ashdown (@Nick_Ashdown) tweeted at 4:03 AM – 1 Nov 2019 :
Serbian and Bulgarian-made military-grade tear gas grenades are putting holes through protesters’ skulls in Iraq. https://t.co/y4ju9LLosb (http://twitter.com/Nick_Ashdown/status/1190207650350456832?s=17)