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The Occupy movement and the Arab Spring have brought global attention to the potential of social media for empowering otherwise marginalized groups. This book addresses questions like what happens after the moment of protest and global visibility and whether social media can also help sustain civic engagement beyond protest.



Introduction: Social Media and Civic Engagement

Introduction: Social Media and Civic Engagement

Social media have been praised for their potential for facilitating civic engagement. At a time when one of the most difficult problems facing democracy in the Western hemisphere is the decline in citizens’ participation in politics (Dahlgren, 2009), this potential has been vested with hopes that social media can help reinvigorate extra-parliamentarian political participation — i.e. participation beyond the rights and obligations of liberal citizenship (e.g. voting) — and thus strengthen democratic accountability at national and international levels (e.g. Castells, 2013; Van Laer & Van Aelst, 2010). These accounts have highlighted new possibilities for bottom-up, self-organizing participation such as direct democracy and for bypassing mass media gatekeepers and taking action to address issues directly. At the same time, sceptics have pointed to challenges social media pose to extra-parliamentarian political participation. These accounts have highlighted the dominance of commercial interests, individualization, non-committal participation — or ‘clicktivism’ — and security and censorship (e.g. Dahlgren, 2013; Gladwell, 2010; Juris, 2012; Uldam, 2014).
Julie Uldam, Anne Vestergaard

Formal Modes of Civic Engagement and Cooperation with Institutional Actors


1. Online Activism, CSR and Institutional Change

Business has many influences on society and increasingly society aims to have more, and more direct, influence on business as well. A steady stream of research speaks to these business-society interactions, including the widespread attention to stakeholders and the way they influence, and are influenced by, business organizations (cf. Sharma & Henriques, 2005), or to questions of whether corporations could be regarded as ‘corporate citizens’ and what that would entail (Matten & Crane, 2005). With the apparent retreat of states from many markets, research increasingly highlights issues of governance and private politics (Baron, 2003), looking at how corporate behaviour could and should be governed and who should be involved in doing so.
Frank G. A. de Bakker

2. Why Some Political Opportunities Succeed and Others Fail: Bridging Organizational Levels in the Case of Spanish Occupy

The ‘Occupy’ protests provide numerous examples of new social movement organizations based on a complex, multilayered ecosystem heavily supported by social media and its ability to connect heterogeneous social networks. Studies of these type of organizations have stressed not only the importance of new media tools as a mobilization channels but also the influence of the Free Culture Movement on the genealogy, in terms of its composition, agenda, framing, and organizational logic (Fuster-Morell, 2012). Studies of the Occupy movements’ activities have shown the importance of the online tools for new forms of mass mobilizations, for example (Borge-Holthoefer et al., 2011). Mobilizations become different in their nature: they are faster, can connect previously unlinked people, and are spontaneous (Bennett, 2003). However, few studies have looked into organizational characteristics beyond the online processes and their effect on mobilization. This article investigates how new forms of organizations characterized by being complex and multilayered networks select their organizational objectives and turn them into political matters. We ask how these organizational goals emerge, how they are selected, organized and ultimately impact the political arena.
Itziar Castelló, David Barberá

3. Responsible Retailing in the Greek Crisis? Corporate Engagement, CSR Communication, and Social Media

In June 2012, in the midst of much uncertainty in the political and business world of austerity-stricken Greece, seven supermarkets decided to embrace the cause of supporting Greek products as foregrounded by the citizen movement ‘We Consume What We Produce’.1 The retailers took to the cause by promoting the movement through posters, banners, and plastic bags — one of the promotional strategies with which corporate entities (retailers) engaged in order to ameliorate consumer confidence. In a shifting terrain of trust and legitimacy, citizens turned to the marketplace for support; in a comment to the Facebook site of a supermarket, a citizen exclaims: ‘Do whatever you can with your offers, because these sold-out politicians plan to exterminate us. Make your offers real offers, in order to provide us with the possibility of survival. Thank you’. As wages, pensions, and employment were continuously slashed, the human fabric of sustenance and economic subsistence became explicitly entwined and torn throughout. The traumatic reconfigurations of the Greek political system and culture directly impacted the market, causing an adaptation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication to the crisis setting. CSR communication is understood here as a type of global communication which defines and describes the ways in which Multinational Corporations (MNCs), but also national and local businesses attempt to communicate their responsibility towards their location and context.
Eleftheria J. Lekakis

Informal Modes of Civic Engagement, Enacting Alternatives and Sustaining Involvement


4. Technologies of Self-Mediation: Affordances and Constraints of Social Media for Protest Movements

Despite the many critiques (Cammaerts, 2008), it also has to be acknowledged that, in line with some of the more optimistic accounts, social media and so-called Web 2.0 applications have played both an instrumental and a constitutive role for activists worldwide in their efforts to disseminate social movement discourses, to mobilize for direct actions online as well as offline, to coordinate direct action, and to self-mediate acts of resistance potentially leading to movement spill-overs. In this chapter I seek to provide a conceptual framework to make sense of the roles that social media play for protest movements and the interplay between affordances and constraints inherent to social media. The affordances, I will argue, map onto what I call a set of self-mediation logics, which in turn correspond to Foucault’s Stoic technologies of the self: disclosure, examination, and remembrance.
Bart Cammaerts

5. When Narratives Travel: The Occupy Movement in Latvia and Sweden

In autumn 2011, the Occupy movement emerged as a global phenomenon with camps all over the world. Since then it has changed considerably. The encampments have disappeared, but a number of working groups — such as Occupy Sandy, a group mainly active in New York City and New Jersey supporting communities that suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 — have developed specific causes loosely related to the initial Occupy movement (Kellner, 2012). These changes are to be expected over time; however, the movement also changed as a result of travelling to different localities around the world. In that sense, it provides an example of transnational activism linking different places across the globe characterized by various political contexts (Cohen & Rai, 2000). In this context, Occupy as a movement has often been considered a global protest network consisting of nodes linked by the communicative infrastructure of blogs, digests, and social networking platforms (Castells, 2012; Cohen & Rai, 2000; Sassen, 2011). This approach to analyzing Occupy highlights the importance of specific media practices for the movement’s internal identification, organization, and mobilization.
Anne Kaun

6. Corporate Management of Visibility: Social Media and Surveillance

Social media have been welcomed as arenas with the potential to provide civil society with increased possibilities for debating and publicizing business-society relations and holding corporations to account by ‘potentially increas[ing] the importance of individual citizens relative to corporations and their (functional/formally organized) stakeholders’ (Whelan et al., 2013: 778). However, what tends to be overlooked is the fact that the proliferation of social media also provides corporate actors with new possibilities for monitoring social movements that they consider a potential risk. Government surveillance of activists is well-documented in both scholarly research and the media (Juris, 2005). At the intersection of social movement and media studies, particularly, government monitoring of activists and protest activities in the wake of the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization in 1999 has been examined (e.g. Eagleton-Pierce, 2001; Juris, 2005; Kahn & Kellner, 2004), as well as the exposure of several undercover officers from London’s Metropolitan Police who infiltrated activist groups across Europe, primarily in the climate justice movement.1 However, corporate monitoring of social movements remains significantly under-researched (Lubbers, 2012; Pickerill, 2003). In surveillance studies, recent research has started to critically address corporate organizations’ uses of the predictive capabilities of ‘big data’ from social media for identifying issues, contexts, events, and groups that could potentially damage their reputations (Andrejevic, 2014; Trottier & Lyon, 2012).
Julie Uldam

7. From Creation to Amplification: Occupy Wall Street’s Transition into an Online Populist Movement

Within recent years, an array of public protests has swept across the globe with remarkable force, from the Arab Spring and the Spanish Indignados to Occupy Wall Street and the recent uprisings in Ukraine and Thailand. Besides constituting convenient platforms for citizens to express frustration and discontent with the established system, these movements seem to signal a shift in the way we conceive of public participation in politics. Instead of participating through conventional means, these protest movements allow citizens to bypass traditional institutions of liberal democracy, and influence political processes through extra-institutional activities (West, 2013). As a consequence, several scholars have suggested that we broaden our conception of democracy to encompass this novel type of political participation (e.g. Angus, 2001; della Porta, 2013; Maeckelbergh, 2009; Zukin et al., 2006).
Emil Husted

8. Nurturing Dissent? Community Printshops in 1970s London

Born of a particular conjunction of community activism, cultural critique, and technological possibility, self-managed ‘community printshops’ were set up in cities across the UK between the late 1960s and mid 1970s. The motivation to provide much-needed print resources for activists was accompanied by the aspiration that direct access to the means of print-media production could also foster social and political empowerment. They were part of an emergent phenomena of politically motivated ‘alternative left’ printshops that included poster collectives, printing co-operatives, and ‘resource centres’, and which appeared in numerous cities. This general occurrence was not particular to the UK; similar workshops were established in other parts of Europe and North America in the same period (Cushing, 2012). Although there was variation in the UK use of the term ‘community printshop’, it mostly referred to a printshop that was (a) ‘non-commercial’; (b) had a connection to locally based activism (community’ being partially associated with geography); and (c) encouraged ‘user-participation’. It is this general definition that I will be using. As will become evident, the manner and extent to which each of these three factors played out varied both between printshops and within their individual existences.
Jess Baines


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