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This book introduces four waves of upsurge in digital activism and cyberconflict. The rise of digital activism started in 1994, was transformed by the events of 9/11, culminated in 2011 with the Arab Spring uprisings, and entered a transformative phase of control and mainstreaming since 2013 with the Snowden affair.



Introduction: Four Phases of Digital Activism and Cyberconflict

This book introduces four waves of digital activism and cyberconflict. Digital activism began in 1994, was transformed by the events of 9/11, peaked in 2011 with the Arab Spring uprisings and then entered a transformative phase of control, mainstreaming and co-optation, accentuated by the Snowden revelations in 2013. Digital activism is defined here as political participation, activities and protests organized in digital networks beyond representational politics. It refers to political conduct aiming for reform or revolution by non-state actors and new socio-political formations such as social movements, protest organizations and individuals and groups from the civil society, that is by social actors outside government and corporate influence. Cyberconflict is defined as conflict in computer-mediated environments and it includes interactions between actors engaged in digital activism to raise awareness for a specific cause and struggles against government and corporate actors, as well as conflicts between governments, states and corporations. The rationale for distinguishing these phases is based solely on political effects, rather than technological developments.
Athina Karatzogianni

1. Origins and Rise of Digital Activism (1994–2007)

I place the birth of digital activism in virtual knowledge communities, particularly those used to create alternative software products engaging in peer production, as starting with the free/libre/open software movement. They descended from the first hackers of the 1960s: the first dreamers of the power to divert technology from its original purpose to extend it and make it do the impossible.
Athina Karatzogianni

2. The Third Phase (2007–2010): Spread of Digital Activism

I place the start of the third phase in 2007 with the Estonian cyberconflict because it pointed to the deficiency of the international community to regulate cyberconflict and to create mechanisms for defining and reacting to cyberattacks conducted against a state, especially one linked to NATO and the EU, and in a sensitive geopolitical area. Keeping the socioeconomic implications in mind, the real impact of the Estonian cyberconflict operates on multiple political levels. It was initially speculated whether the attacks were by the Russian government, Russian diasporic communities, or more likely ethnic Russians in Estonia. It is also a problem, even when the guilty party is confirmed, to decide whether to treat cyberattacks as ‘real’ military attacks. The other problem it pointed to is how to understand the differences between cyberprotest, cyberterrorism, and cybercrime.
Athina Karatzogianni

3. The Fourth Phase (2010–2014): Digital Activism Invades Mainstream Politics

The WikiLeaks revelations in my view became the symbol of the mainstreaming and popularization of digital activism in the public sphere, and this is why I view this as the start of a fourth phase in digital activism. WikiLeaks was in a sense a continuity for online collaborative communities, such as the FLOSS movement, as was explained in the first chapter. I started thinking about how affect theory could contribute to the study of the first reactions to the WikiLeaks revelations when I was preparing a chapter for the edited volume we published with Adi Kunstman in 2012. I am reusing material from that chapter here (Karatzogianni, 2012). By using affect theory, which I explain in depth in Section 4.4, I sought to enrich cyberconflict theory beyond the identity, media representations, discourse, conflict analysis, and resource mobilization elements I utilized in previous studies.
Athina Karatzogianni

4. The Future of Digital Activism and Its Study

With the rise and spread of digital activism and cyberconflict, a proliferation of linked research subjects has emerged. This kind of breadth involves the following areas:
Athina Karatzogianni


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