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Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research

Networks, Movements and


Technopolitics in Latin America
Critical Analysis and Current Challenges

Edited by Francisco Sierra Caballero


and Tommaso Gravante

A Palgrave/IAMCR Series

IAMCR
AIECS
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Global Transformations in Media
and Communication Research – A Palgrave
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Francisco Sierra Caballero
Tommaso Gravante
Editors

Networks, Movements
and Technopolitics
in Latin America
Critical Analysis and Current Challenges
Editors
Francisco Sierra Caballero Tommaso Gravante
University of Seville Universidad Nacional Autónoma de
Seville, Spain México
Mexico City, Mexico

Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research – A Palgrave


and IAMCR Series
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Foreword—The Era of the Both

It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you, reader of Networks,


Movements & Technopolitics in Latin America to these first pages of
the book. I can only tempt you to continue reading this book, in any
way you deem fit, as I believe that it will be a pleasant and enriching
experience.
I believe this book raises a set of significant questions about our con-
temporary world, and stimulates an in-depth reflection about participa-
tion, activism, social movements and democracy. One issue, I believe,
merits our special attention. This is the paradox of the growing levels
of participation in a variety of societal fields and the decreasing levels of
control over the levers of societal power. Often, this paradox is mediated
and “solved” through a defense (or a critique) of either utopian or dys-
topian perspectives, where this dys/utopianism is sometimes related to
communication technologies, or in other cases to citizen or civil society
powers, or to state or company powers. I believe we need to heed this
paradox much more as a paradox, as a seemingly contradictory statement.
We need to take both components of the paradox serious, acknowledge
that there is a history of coexistence combined with a present-day inten-
sification, and scrutinize how they dynamically and contingently relate to
each other. In other words, we need to gain a better understanding of
how we now live in the era of the both.
If we apply a Longue Durée approach (Braudel 1969) to the establish-
ment and growth of democracy, we can hardly deny that we have come a
long way. Of course, the history of our diverse democratization processes

v
vi  Foreword—The Era of the Both

is characterized by continuities and discontinuities, dead-ends, contra-


dictions, and horrible regressions. But what Mouffe (2000: 1–2) called
the “democratic revolution” “led to the disappearance of a power that
was embodied in the person of the prince and tied to a transcendental
authority. A new kind of institution of the social was hereby inaugurated
in which power became ‘an empty place’.” Even if we zoom in on the
twentieth and twenty-first century, it is hard not to see the differences
with the past. It is equally hard to ignore that the history of more than
200 years of democratic revolution has brought us more participation, in
a variety of ways and levels.
Of course, it makes sense to clarify what I mean with (more) partici-
pation, as this is a slippery notion—an empty signifier—given meaning
by two structurally different and competing approaches (see Carpentier
2016, for a more detailed discussion). What I have labeled the socio-
logical approach defines participation as taking part in particular social
processes, which is a very open and broad perspective, that tends to con-
flate interaction and participation. We find this approach, for instance,
in the field of cultural participation, where a museum visit is defined as a
form of participation. The second approach towards participation—the
political studies approach—uses a more restrictive perspective, defining
participation as a process of power-sharing in particular decision-making
processes. Interaction, however socially and politically relevant it is, then
becomes distinguishable from participation, allowing for a more fine-
grained analysis of participation. To return to my museum visit: In the
political studies approach, attending a museum is seen as a form of art
access, allowing for interaction with cultural artefacts and other texts, a
particular cultural institution, and other visitors. But, as the museum visit
does not allow a visitor to co-decide on the creation, or display, of these
cultural artefacts, or on the policies of that cultural institution, it is not a
form of participation. This second approach, which is also the one I pre-
fer, allows us to notice and validate practices that do allow for (arts) par-
ticipation, as they have been, for instance, developed by the community
arts movement (Binns 1991; De Bruyne and Gielen 2011). Somehow,
the work of Boal (1979) also comes to mind…
Even if we take the second approach as our guide, with its more
narrow definition of participation as power-sharing, we still have to
acknowledge that the democratic revolution has brought more par-
ticipation, even though a more qualified and careful analysis becomes
Foreword—The Era of the Both   vii

necessary. Here I want to refer to Jenkins’s words: “This is in part why


I see participation more and more in relational rather than absolute
terms—a matter of degree rather than of difference. So yes, all culture
is in some sense participatory, but the more hierarchical a culture is,
the less participatory it becomes. I am today more likely to talk about
a shift towards ‘a more participatory culture’.” (Jenkins in Jenkins, Ito
and boyd 2015: 22) If we look at the histories of media participation
(Ekström, et al. 2011; Carpentier and Dahlgren 2014), we can identify
several key moments where citizens’ communication rights have been
structurally strengthened, discursively (e.g., the development of the con-
cept of communication rights in the first place) and materially (by the
increased availability of communication technologies).
Of course, this evolution towards more participation has not remained
restricted to the media field. Also the relationships between citizens and
their political leaders, between employees and employers, and, more in
general, between ordinary people and the fluid assemblage of societal
elites, has changed over the past decades, sometimes in societal fields that
would not immediately come to mind. Take, for instance, the domain
of health, where patients have become more empowered in the past
decades, with the development of patient rights and other legal frame-
works (e.g., euthanasia laws) as a result. If we aggregate these participa-
tory practices across the many different societal fields in which they are
located, we can find support for the idea that power has become more
decentralized, and that this decentralization is sometimes accepted, and
even institutionalized, and in other cases can be wrestled from societal
elites by a combination of tactics, struggles, resistances, disobediences,
and activisms.
Of course, I do not want to imply that these changes have led to
societies that are characterized by omnipresent power balances and
equalities, where leadership, expertise and ownership have become fully
democratized, where difference is acknowledged and respected, with-
out it resulting in the capacity to dominate others. Full participation,
as Pateman (1970: 71) labeled it, or maximalist participation as I pre-
fer to call it, has not been achieved on a large scale, even though there
are some maximalist participatory Temporary Autonomous Zones (Bey
1985) throughout the world. I also do not want to imply that the pre-
sent state of democracy, with its minimalist levels of participation, has
not been paid dearly, with the pain, blood and tears of the generations
that came before us, and is still costing contemporary generations a lot in
viii  Foreword—The Era of the Both

order to maintain the current participatory intensities. And finally, I also


do not want to claim that the democratic revolution is a merely linear
historical process, that will necessarily and unabatingly continue through-
out time, eventually bringing us at the gates of a participatory heaven.
Whatever has been gained, can still be lost. To use Enwezor et al.’s
(2002) words: Democracy is unrealized, it is an horizon that is never
reached, and that serves a crucial purpose as ideological reference point.
But there is also no guarantee that we will continue heading towards this
horizon, as we might have set out on a course towards a much darker
future.
This darker side merits our attention, also because it is not situated
in a distant future. Arguably, the (stronger) presence of minimalist par-
ticipation coexists—in the era of the both—with a series of undemo-
cratic forces, that centralize power. Here we should keep in mind that
war and violence are opposites of democracy. Some of the armed con-
flicts, and the structural violence they encompass, have caused intense
suffering, but also structural disruptions of democratic practices. Armed
conflicts, such as the war in Afghanistan, the civil wars in Iraq and Syria,
and the drug war in Mexico—to mention only the most bloody armed
conflicts of today—create large enclaves where democracy is suspended,
and where participation ceases to be a prime concern, as it is replaced by
mere survival. But these undemocratic forces do not remain contained to
the enclaves that I have just mentioned (and to the many other medium-
intensity conflicts, for instance, on the African continent). Not only are
many countries from the northern hemisphere military involved in these
armed conflicts, these conflicts are also imported and transported to
other parts of the world, where the involved states (in the northern hem-
isphere), their populations, and foreign fighters (often labeled terrorists)
become involved in a downward spiral of discrimination, oppression,
violence, destruction, and death. One component of this process is cap-
tured by Agamben’s (2003) argumentation that we are living in the state
of exception, where civil and human rights are curtailed in the name of
security. Another component is the rise and mainstreaming of antago-
nistic xenophobic, racist, and nationalist ideologies in democratic states,
combined with calls for strong leadership, that pave the way for populist
and authoritarian regimes, for the legitimation of corruption and other
forms of unethical behavior, and for the politics of fear (see, e.g., Wodak
2015).
Foreword—The Era of the Both   ix

This also has theoretical consequences for our thinking about par-
ticipation, because it raises questions about the instrumentalization
of participation and the hijacking of participatory techniques by non-
participatory forces. How to handle situations where authoritarian and
intrinsically undemocratic leaders use participatory tools to manufacture
consent—a concept I borrow from Herman and Chomsky (1988)—
or to mobilize populations for undemocratic purposes? What to think
about radical right-wing groups (Caiani and Parenti 2013) that use the
online to live out their nationalist and racist fantasies in ways that make
use of participatory techniques, at least accessible to the members of
these groups, and to those who are ideologically aligned with them? As
argued elsewhere (Carpentier 2017: 96), this brings us to the distinc-
tion between procedural and substantive participation, which is inspired
by the difference between procedural and substantive democracy, or
between “rule-centered and outcome-centered conceptions of democ-
racy” (Shapiro 1996: 123). In parallel with these concepts, we can
distinguish between procedural and substantive participation, where pro-
cedural participation refers to the mere use of participatory techniques,
while substantive participation refers to the necessary embedding of
these participatory techniques in the core values of democracy, especially
those of human rights and (respect for) societal diversity.
If we return to the role of communication technologies in the era of
the both, we have to acknowledge that they are an integrative part of the
two constitutive components of this era of the both. This book, with its
ambition to move beyond the online/offline divide and to avoid the trap
of digital utopianism, which artificially separates the “virtual” from the
“real,” allows us to reflect better about how communication technolo-
gies, more than before, span the both. Surveillance technologies coexist
with sousveillance technologies, black propaganda with dialogical com-
munication, media legitimations of war and violence with pacifist mes-
sages, celebrations of bigotry with respect for diversity, sealed-off media
empires with maximalist participatory media platforms, spirals of silence
with practices of voice, symbolic annihilations with the politics of pres-
ence, media-induced amnesia with deep-rooted historical awareness, the
defense of the status-quo with the loud propagation that another world
is possible.
This leaves us with two final questions: What is the role of the criti-
cal intellectual in the era of the both, and can we avoid the scale being
(further) tipped into (what I consider to be the) wrong direction? The
x  Foreword—The Era of the Both

era of the both is characterized by increasing levels of diversity, but this


diversity also includes the uncanny combination of the democratic and
the undemocratic in one glocal assemblage. Which tactics should be
deployed by those actors who are committed to what Mouffe (1988:
42) has called the “deepen[ing of ] the democratic revolution” and what
Giddens (1994: 113) labeled the “democratisation of democracy?”
These are questions that merit more attention than what I accord them
here. But to give a fraction of an answer: I would like to argue that there is
a strong need for the deployment of a double tactic, or better, two sets of
tactics. One set of tactics consists out of the radically critical and radically
contextualized analyses of the current problematic state of representative
liberal democracy—one interesting example is Van Reybrouck’s (2016)
critique of elections, but many others exist, and many more are needed—
and the equally problematic state of the capitalist economies entangled
with our representative liberal democracies. The second set of tactics is
more difficult to put into practice, as it is a more generative approach,
grounded in the critiques that result from the first set of tactics. This sec-
ond set of tactics consists out of the further development of a participa-
tory-democratic ideology. This ideology needs to articulate a participatory
communicational ethics, a strong commitment to agonism—or in other
words, to the democratic taming of conflict without denying it—and clear
articulations of democratic leadership, democratic ownership, and demo-
cratic expertise (see Carpentier 2017), among many other elements.
In an intellectual landscape where critical intellectuals are dispersed
throughout many regions, institutions, academic disciplines, and other
frameworks of intelligibility, collaboration becomes a requirement. For that
reason, I would argue that this double tactic has to be grounded in a global
and multivoiced project that uses the strategy of modularity, where sub-net-
works of intellectuals collaborate within their disciplines and fields, in order
to build ideological modules grounded in their expertise, in combination
with interdisciplinary articulatory practices that connect and integrate these
different modules into one counter-hegemonic participatory-democratic
project (see Carpentier 2014 for a more developed argument). This book,
with its broad geographical span, with its commitment to intercontinental
dialogue and with its search for ways to deepen democracy and to intensify
contemporary participatory levels, is, in my very humble opinion, one of
the contributions towards the establishment of this new republic of letters.

Nico Carpentier
Foreword—The Era of the Both   xi

References
Agamben, Giorgio. (2003). State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago
Press.
Bey, Hakim. (1985). T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological
Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Brooklyn: Autonomedia.
Binns, Vivienne (Ed.). (1991). Community and the Arts. History, Theory,
Practice. Australian Perspectives. Leichhardt: Pluto Press Australia.
Boal, Augusto. (1979). The Theatre of the Oppressed. London: Pluto.
Braudel, Fernand. (1969). Écrits sur l’Histoire. Paris: Flammarion.
Caiani, Manuela, Parenti, Linda. (2013). European and American Extreme Right
Groups and the Internet. Farnham: Ashgate.
Carpentier, Nico. (2014). A call to arms. An essay on the role of the intellec-
tual and the need for producing new imaginaries, Javnost–The Public, 21(3),
77–92.
Carpentier, Nico. (2016). Beyond the ladder of participation: An analytical
toolkit for the critical analysis of participatory media processes, Javnost–The
Public, 23(1), 70–88.
Carpentier, Nico. (2017). The discursive-material knot: Cyprus in conflict and
community media participation. New York: Peter Lang.
Carpentier, Nico & Dahlgren, Peter (Eds.). (2014). Histories of media(ted) par-
ticipation, CM, Communication Management Quarterly, 30.
De Bruyne, Paul & Gielen, Pascal (Eds.). (2011). Community art: The politics of
trespassing. Amsterdam: Valiz.
Ekström, Anders, Jülich, Solveig, Lundgren, Frans, Wisselgren, Per (eds.) (2011)
History of participatory media. Politics and publics. New York: Routledge.
Enwezor, Okwui, Basualdo, Carlos, Bauer, Ute Meta, Ghez, Susanne, Maharaj,
Sarat, Nash, Mark, Zaya, Octavio (Eds.). (2002). Democracy unrealized:
Documenta 11_Platform 1. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz.
Giddens, Anthony (1994) Beyond left and right: The future of radical politics.
Cambridge: Polity Press.
Herman, Edward S., Chomsky, Noam. (1988). Manufacturing consent: The polit-
ical economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon Books.
Jenkins, Henry, Ito, Mizuko, boyd, danah. (2015). Participatory culture in
a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics.
Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.
Mouffe, Chantal. (1988). Radical democracy: Modern or postmodern, Andrew
Ross (Ed.). Universal Abandon? The Politics of Postmodernism. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, pp. 31–45.
Mouffe, Chantal. (2000). The democratic paradox. London: Verso.
Pateman, Carole. (1970). Participation and democratic theory. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
xii  Foreword—The Era of the Both

Shapiro, Ian. (1996). Democracy’s place. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


Van Reybrouck, David. (2016). Against elections: The case for democracy.
London: The Bodley Head.
Wodak, Ruth. (2015). The politics of fear: What right-wing populist dis-
courses mean. London: Sage.

Nico Carpentier is Professor in Media and Communication Studies


at the Department of Informatics and Media of Uppsala University. In
addition, he holds two part-time positions, those of Associate Professor
at the Communication Studies Department of the Vrije Universiteit
Brussel (VUB—Free University of Brussels) and Docent at Charles
University in Prague. Moreover, he is a Research Fellow at the Cyprus
University of Technology and Loughborough University. His most
recent book is The Discursive-Material Knot: Cyprus in Conflict and
Community Media Participation, published by Peter Lang in 2017.
Contents

1 Introduction 1
Francisco Sierra Caballero and Tommaso Gravante

Part I  Technopolitics: A Theoretical Framework

2 Digital Media Practices and Social Movements.


A Theoretical Framework from Latin America 17
Francisco Sierra Caballero and Tommaso Gravante

3 Tracing the Roots of Technopolitics: Towards


a North-South Dialogue 43
Emiliano Treré and Alejandro Barranquero Carretero

4 E-Democracy. Ideal vs Real, Exclusion vs Inclusion 65


Andrea Ricci and Jan Servaes

5 Technopolitics in the Age of Big Data 95


Stefania Milan and Miren Gutierrez

xiii
xiv  Contents

Part II Dissident Technopolitics Practices in Latin America:


Critical Analysis and Current Challenges

6 The Brazilian Protest Wave and Digital Media: Issues


and Consequences of the “Jornadas de Junho”
and Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment Process 113
Nina Santos

7 Social Networks, Cyberdemocracy and Social Conflict


in Colombia 133
Elias Said-Hung and David Luquetta-Cediel

8 Communication in Movement and Techno-Political


Media Networks: the case of Mexico 147
César Augusto Rodríguez Cano

9 #CompartirNoEsDelito: Creating Counter-Hegemonic


Spaces Online for Alternative Production and
Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge 177
Jean-Marie Chenou and Rodulfo Armando
Castiblanco Carrasco

10 #OcupaEscola: Media Activism and the Movement


for Public Education in Brazil 199
Ana Lúcia Nunes de Sousa and Marcela Canavarro

Index 221
Editors and Contributors

About the Editors

Francisco Sierra Caballero is Senior Researcher and Professor of


Communication Theory from the Department of Journalism at the
University of Seville, Spain. He is also Director of the Interdisciplinary
Research Group on Communication, Politics and Social Change
(www.compoliticas.org) and Editor of the Journal of Studies for Social
Development of Communication (REDES.COM) (www.revista-redes.
com). He is President of the Latin Union of Political Economy of
Information, Communication and Culture (www.ulepicc.org). He has
written over 20 books and more than 50 scientific articles in journals of
impact. Furthermore, he has been professor at prestigious universities
and research centers in Europe and Latin America.
Tommaso Gravante  is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for
Interdisciplinary Research in the Sciences and Humanities (CEIICH),
National Autonomous University of Mexico. More generally, his work
explores the role of emotions in social movement and protest, and col-
lective action and social change. Tommaso is author of Cuando la gente
toma la palabra. Medios digitales y cambio social en la insurgencia de
Oaxaca (CIESPAL, 2016).

xv
xvi  Editors and Contributors

Contributors

Alejandro Barranquero Carretero is Assistant professor at the


Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication in
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid where he teaches research method-
ologies, theory, and history of communication. His research lays at the
intersection of communication, citizenship and social change, includ-
ing insights to communication for social change, community and citi-
zen media, communication strategies by NGOs and social movements,
and critical perspectives on media literacy. He is the president of the
Research Association in Community, Alternative and Participatory
Communication-RICCAP (www.riccap.org) and permanent member
of the research group Dialectic Mediation of Social Communication
(MDCS) at Universidad Complutense de Madrid (www.ucm.es/mdcs).
Marcela Canavarro  is Journalist, media-activist and Ph.D. candidate in
Digital Media (University of Porto). She has a Master in Communication
& Culture (UFRJ) with expertise in Technologies of Communication.
She researches information diffusion on social networks for politi-
cal mobilization, with focus on the so-called Journeys of June (Brazil,
2013). In this research, she crosses digital and traditional methods such
as network analysis, computational processing of Facebook data and
questionnaires. She is also part of the research group Communication
Networks & Social Change at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute
(IN3) at Universitat Obierta de Catalunya (UOC) and collaborates with
Inesc-Tec (U.Porto).
César Augusto Rodríguez Cano is Professor at the Department of
Communication and Design, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana uni-
dad Cuajimalpa in Mexico City, and holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political
Sciences from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He was
a Postdoctoral Researcher at Universidad Iberoamericana and a Visiting
Graduate Researcher at University of California Los Angeles. His
research has focussed mainly in studying political culture on social media,
cyberactivism, new media ecology, and digital methods with special inter-
est in Social Network Analysis.
Nico Carpentier is Professor in Media and Communication Studies
at the Department of Informatics and Media of Uppsala University. In
addition, he holds two part-time positions, those of Associate Professor
Editors and Contributors   xvii

at the Communication Studies Department of the Vrije Universiteit


Brussel (VUB—Free University of Brussels) and Docent at Charles
University in Prague. Moreover, he is a Research Fellow at the Cyprus
University of Technology and Loughborough University. His most
recent book is The Discursive-Material Knot: Cyprus in Conflict and
Community Media Participation, published by Peter Lang in 2017.
Dr. Rodulfo Armando Castiblanco Carrasco is an independ-
ent researcher and occasional professor at the Social Sciences at the
Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas, Bogotá, Colombia. He
obtained his doctoral degree in social anthropology from University of
los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia. His research interests are in the fields of
digital anthropology, hacktivism, appropriation of technology in global
south, education, and pedagogy.
David Luquetta-Cediel, Ph.D. Anthropologist, Doctor of Social
Sciences. Principal investigator in several projects with regional and
national impact. He is currently a full-time teaching researcher in the
Social Communication—Journalism Programme of the Autonomous
University of the Caribbean and the leader of the communication and
regional research group in the same department.
Dr. Jean-Marie Chenou  is an Assistant Professor at the Department of
Political Science at the University of los Andes, Bogotá Colombia and a
member of the Centre for International Studies. He obtained his Ph.D.
in Political Science from the University of Lausanne. He is specializing in
Internet governance and the regulation of digital markets.
Ana Lucia Nunes de Sousa is a Ph.D. student in communication and
journalism at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain)/Federal
University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and is a CAPES (Brazil) scholarship
student. She also has a degree in social communication, a postgraduate
degree in hypermedia and in creative documentary, as well as a Master’s in
communication and culture. Her research and professional experience focus
on community media, audio-visual, the Internet and social movements.
Miren Gutierrez (@gutierrezmiren) is a Professor of Communication
and Director of the postgraduate program “Data Analysis, Research
and Communication” at the University of Deusto, Spain. She is also a
Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute of London,
where she develops data-based research projects around development
xviii  Editors and Contributors

issues, and at DATACTIVE of Amsterdam. She is also a trainer at the


Thomson Reuters Foundation. Her work explores how people take
action, mobilize and organize via software and data. She holds a Ph.D. in
Communication Sciences of the University of Deusto.
Stefania Milan (stefaniamilan.net) is Associate Professor of New
Media at the University of Amsterdam, and Associate Professor (II) of
Media Innovation at the University of Oslo. She is also the Principal
Investigator of the DATACTIVE project (StG-2014_639379), explor-
ing the evolution of citizenship and participation vis-à-vis datafication
and massive data collection (data-activism.net). More generally, her work
explores the intersection of digital technology, governance and activ-
ism. She holds a Ph.D. in political and social sciences of the European
University Institute. Stefania is the author of Social Movements and
Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013),
and coauthor of Media/Society (Sage, 2011).
Andrea Ricci holds a Master’s degrees in European Studies from the
College of Europe and a Ph.D. on Information and Communication
Sciences from ULB in Brussels. His professional and academic interests are
related to the role of communication and (open and secret source) intel-
ligence in fields like crisis management, conflict analysis, risk analysis, early
warning, scenario analysis, political mobilization, terrorism, and propaganda.
Elias Said-Hung, Ph.D. Researcher, consultant and Scrum Master
Consultant with over 10 years professional experience in social media,
digital media and ICT in education. Currently a Lecturer in the
Education Faculty of the International University and a consultant at
Con-Tacto Humano.
Nina Santos is a Ph.D. candidate in Communication at Université
Panthéon-Assas. She has a Master in Communication and Contemporary
Cultures, at Universidade Federal da Bahia (Brazil) and a Specialization
in Communication and Politics, at the same university. Also has been
working and researching in the field of political communication,
e-democracy, political campaigns, social media marketing, social media
monitoring since 2008.
Jan Servaes, Ph.D.  is Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal “Telematics
and Informatics: An Interdisciplinary Journal on the Social Impacts
of New Technologies” (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/tele), and
Editor of the Lexington Book Series “Communication, Globalization
Editors and Contributors   xix

and Cultural Identity” (https://rowman.com/Action/SERIES/LEX/


LEXCGC), and the Springer Book Series “Communication, Culture
and Change in Asia” (http://www.springer.com/series/13565). Servaes
has taught International Communication and Communication for
Social Change in Australia, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, the USA, The
Netherlands, and Thailand, in addition to several teaching stints at about
120 universities in 55 countries. Servaes has undertaken research, devel-
opment, and advisory work around the world and is the author of jour-
nal articles and books on such topics as international and development
communication; ICT and media policies; intercultural communication;
participation and social change; and human rights and conflict manage-
ment. He is known for his “multiplicity paradigm” in “Communication
for Development. One World, Multiple Cultures” (1999).
Emiliano Treré is Lecturer at Cardiff’s School of Journalism, Media
and Cultural Studies (UK), and Research Fellow at the Center of Social
Movements Studies of the Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy). He has
published extensively on the challenges and the myths of media tech-
nologies for social movements and political parties. He is coeditor of
“Social Media and Protest Identities” (Information, Communication &
Society, 2015), “Latin American Struggles & Digital Media Resistance”
(International Journal of Communication, 2015), and “From
Global Justice to Occupy and Podemos: Mapping Three Stages of
Contemporary Activism” (tripleC, 2017). His book is forthcoming with
the Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics.
List of Figures

Fig. 8.1 Occupy Wall St. Page Like Network, elaborated


by the author 156
Fig. 8.2 #YoSoy132 Page Like Network, elaborated
by the author 157
Fig. 8.3 Spanish Revolution Page Like Network, elaborated
by the author 158
Fig. 8.4 Mídia Ninja Page Like Network, elaborated by the author 159
Fig. 8.5 #YoSoy132 Sample Mega-Network, elaborated by author 161
Fig. 8.6 #YoSoy132 Mega-Network, elaborated by author 163
Fig. 8.7 Centro Prodh Mega-Network, elaborated by author 164
Fig. 8.8 #YoSoy132 Mega-Network by Category, elaborated
by the author 166
Fig. 8.9 Centro Prodh Mega-Network by Category, elaborated
by the author 167
Fig. 9.1 Media coverage of Diego’s case, created by the authors 178
Fig. 9.2 Comparison of sentencing for different crimes.
This example compares sentencing for smuggling with
the sharing of knowledge on the internet, created
by authors 185
Fig. 9.3 Comparison of sentencing for different crimes.
This example compares sentencing for smuggling with
the sharing of knowledge on the internet, created
by authors 185
Fig. 9.4 Snapshot of the Twitter hashtag #CompartirNoEsDelito
(August 2016) and identification of some key players,
created by authors 186

xxi
xxii  List of Figures

Fig. 9.5 The important role of the Electronic Frontier Foundation


in the global campaign (Visualisation of English language
web pages mentioning Diego’s case that link to the EFF.),
created by authors 188
Fig. 9.6 Comparison between the EFF and FK campaigns, created
by authors 189
Fig. 10.1 1—WUNC display on Hub pages’ top-50 videos 211
Fig. 10.2 2—WUNC display on Satellite pages’ top-50 videos 211
Fig. 10.3 Hub pages show high indegree. This graph considers
the 112 nodes that constitute the giant component
of the 1-degree network. That means 68.7% of the total
network (nodes size = indegree; nodes colors
manually = hub pages in black and others pages in gray) 213
Fig. 10.4 Connectedness and Unity: hub pages play a relevant role
in linking nodes at the 2-degree network’s giant component,
which gathers 476 nodes (93.5% of the total network).
Graph: directed network; gephi layout = Force Atlas 2;
size nodes = indegree; nodes colors = strongly-connected
ID (black represents the most connected nodes while
lighter grey indicates the least connected nodes in the giant
component). Data collected in October, 21, 2016 214
Fig. 10.5 Giant component’s most cohesive core (2-degree network).
Network cohesiveness: some of the hub pages appear
amongst the 51 nodes (10% of the total network) left
in the giant component, when the highest k-core possible
before the network completely disappears is applied
(k-core = 9). Data collected in October, 21, 2016 216
Fig. 10.6 O Mal Educado’s 3-degree ego sub-network (103 nodes)
gathers 63.2% of the total 1-degree network (103 nodes)
and 87% of all links, showing its relevance for information
diffusion 217
List of Tables

Table 8.1 #YoSoy132 Mega-Network pages, elaborated by author 162


Table 8.2 Centro Prodh Mega-Network’s communities and topics,
elaborated by the author 168
Table 10.1 Satellite pages’ and Hub pages’ videos on Facebook
(summary) 202
Table 10.2 Data sets attributes/Facebook public pages data retrieved
with Netvizz 203

xxiii
CHAPTER 1

Introduction

Francisco Sierra Caballero and Tommaso Gravante

All knowledge is traversed by social construction and mediation.


Research agendas, together with the basic methods and epistemologies
that shape knowledge regarding society and nature, are as a rule condi-
tioned by the potential awareness and historical development of produc-
tive forces. Yet, in some cases, these conditioning factors are relative, as
can be observed for instance in communicology. Two illustrative exam-
ples of this logic are the Internet galaxy and technopolitics. Although
despite living in the era of intelligent multitudes, studies in this regard
are still rather thin on the ground.
Scientific project funding policies that sideline studies based on a critical
vision of the social appropriation and use of digital networks, from the point
of view of their impact on processes of social empowerment and change,

F. Sierra Caballero 
Departament of Journalism I, Universidad de Sevilla, Office D7, Americo
Vespucio s/n Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Seville, Andalusia, Spain
e-mail: fcompoliticas@gmail.com
T. Gravante (*) 
Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Sciences and Humanities
(CEIICH), National Autonomous University of Mexico, Torre II de
Humanidades, 6º piso, Circuito Interior, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación
Coyoacan, 4510 Ciudad de México, Ciudad de México, Mexico
e-mail: t.gravante@gmail.com

© The Author(s) 2018 1


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_1
2  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

set a research agenda that is paradoxically unproductive or, at the very least,
lacking in sociological imagination. This is especially the case when rethink-
ing the mediations that those using the digital ecosystem experience nowa-
days, at a moment when, as in the case of Latin America, many political
experiences and processes are taking place.
However, there is a memory of the practices and a theory and
research responsive to those experiences of cultural subversion and
resistance which, in due course, would fuel the paradigm of the phi-
losophy of liberation. To give just one example from a critical his-
torical approach, it is worth recalling the dialogue and innovation
that Latin America experienced throughout the 1960s and 1970s
with alternative communication, which recognizes the diversity of
voices and actors, gives voice to the normally voiceless and, thanks
to its praxeological vision, respects mediation as a constituted and
constituent process of popular cultures. The inspiration of new per-
spectives and productive knowhow on the leading edge of knowledge
regarding the appropriation and use of new technologies for local
development, fostered by the pioneers in Latin American communi-
cation research, articulated—in line with the demands of subaltern
collectives and ancestral wisdom in the development of communitar-
ian and democratic forms of inserting cultural representation systems
and devices—transformation processes that nowadays, of course, have
persisted in the contemporary forms of intervention and social revi-
talization of the so-called “technopolitics”. Although the aim of this
introduction is not to offer a history of participatory communication
that illustrates and gives meaning to modern-day cyberactivism, it is
nonetheless worth noting the importance that heterodox and creative
interpretations, which endeavored to follow other paths and courses
denied, by omission or will to power, by communication as domina-
tion, have had in Latin America.
From this viewpoint, community communication is the autonomous
field of production that articulates voices for an emancipatory purpose
as a counter-hegemonic opportunity for social change, in resistance to
the antagonistic critique based on group or collective organization, unity
and empowerment. By the same token, technopolitics should be under-
stood—in the logical framework of this book—as a transformative and
decentralizing mediation grounded in the democracy of the code as a
pooled construction of possible reality on the basis of digital culture and
collective co-creation.
1 INTRODUCTION  3

Understanding Technopolitical Ecologies: Main


Perspectives and Key Lessons
The digital revolution has modified and redesigned conceptually the
conventional media system by shaping new forms of production and
organization of information mediation. The mutations that introduce the
“Internet galaxy” into the new social morphology are particularly visible
in the perturbations and interruptions of social activity which affect cul-
ture. These reticular and centrifugal transformations of the new cultural
ecology go a long way to enabling the political subject of post-modernity
to permeate reality itself, customize the world, appropriate possible and
real worlds of interaction with his or her imagination, and design new
rationales of local participation and development.
The basis of participatory democracy harnessing new information
technologies now recognizes the existence of a new information eco-
system that articulates what Oskar Negt calls the “oppositional pub-
lic space” (Negt 2007). In the new media culture, the communication
process has broken free from the time/space coordinates described by
Descartes at the dawn of modernity, with broadened forms of experi-
ence that transcend the local horizon of events. Furthermore, the spa-
tialization of time in the Web anticipates a new conceptualization of the
“local”. In this regard, Castells talks about a new spatial logic based on
information flows versus the logic of social organization rooted in the
history of immediate localities and territories. The new model of urban
development, the space of immaterial flows of the organization of social
practices, disassociates the experience of the physical space by making
both virtual simultaneousness and fragmented timeless space possible.
Such transformations become particularly evident in, and have an espe-
cially strong impact on, urban planning and particularly citizen participa-
tion and political deliberation.
The cyberspace introduces new habits and relationships as regards the
conventional forms of social ties, in addition to modern practices and
symbolic representations. As Echevarría has rightly pointed out, although
the technical issues relating to the access to information on the Internet,
as well as to its circulation and safe and rapid transmission, are impor-
tant, reflecting on the Web as a new civic space is a far more pressing
matter. The shaping of a new telepolis is, in this respect, the main chal-
lenge that the communication research agenda should meet. The breach
of internal and external limits of cities and territories, the integration
4  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

and confusion of the public and private spheres, traditionally conceived


individually in discourse and in modern political communication, not
only promotes new cultural trends of organization and human sociality,
but also the creation of a new space of identity and political participa-
tion through different electronic forms of interaction and information
exchange.
The culture of surfing, of communication crisis, of migrations and
hybrid and decentralized cultural mediations, both polyvalent and
diverse, has transgressed the cultural laws of proxemics, of territory
and frontiers, of the ways of identifying the self and the other, of the
cosmopolitan and of the local, to establish gradually, and once and for
all, a transversal and constructive logic—autonomous, if you will—of
the production of cultural differences. And this transgression has come
about in terms of a new form of space/time organization of experience,
of feeling and of meaning, which has necessarily taken interculturality—
namely, acknowledgement of the other, of otherness as identity—and
the assumption of a culture of dialogue as its guiding principles. This
involves, of course, an unprecedented cultural shift that highlights col-
lective memory. Nowadays, the Web is becoming the space or environ-
ment/memory of popular culture. But, as Héctor Schmucler cautioned,
the escape velocity poses a problem between memory and communica-
tion insofar as they are characterized by contrasting elements: instan-
taneousness, simultaneousness and on the brink, the timelessness of
communication versus the duration, persistence and slowness of memory.
To dwell upon the contribution made by NTIC to memory and
democracy requires, first and foremost, modifying analytic strategies,
questioning research methods and techniques, integrating disciplines
and study prospects, and shifting the perspective in a productive and
ecological sense. The complex contexts of cyberspace and technological
networks call for reflexive critical research and a new theoretical frame-
work capable of describing and understanding the technical conditions
of the post-modern electronic world through an endogenous and gen-
erative approach to the complex technoworld of the new media, since
only a second-order observation will allow us to design new mediation
processes.
In this context, more than a play on words, the metaphor of the web
describes an imaginary process that attempts to convert social actors
into dream weavers, architects of the material, symbolic and sociopo-
litical processes of the city. Hence the relevance, as has already been
1 INTRODUCTION  5

reasoned, of deploying a generative research culture that contributes to


develop collective appropriation processes of communication technolo-
gies and knowledge, thus broadening information culture by means of
a dialogic, emancipating and productive communication conception of
cyberculture.
Along these lines, the media activism propounded by the new tech-
nopolitics with cyberspace culture shares a complex idea of communica-
tion, according to which the scope of telematic networks, the promotion
of autonomous intervention groups and the design of community pro-
jects on the basis of the language of links constitute the pillars of pro-
ductive cooperation of the new social contract, as well as a platform for
constructing democratic local communication by multiplying three dis-
tinctive strategies of alternative communication: firstly, a collective and
liberating reflection on communication practices; secondly, a dialogic
culture of consensus-building; and lastly recognizing multiplicity and
difference.
Conceived as a strategic dimension for rebuilding cities and revitaliz-
ing citizenship and governability, the application of new technologies to
the participatory democracy implicit in the processes of collective mobili-
zation and action of contemporary technopolitics opens up new spaces of
coexistence. These are created by social networks in city neighborhoods
and districts in order to define a new framework of social relations which,
from an ecological perspective, makes an oppositional public space pos-
sible as a complex participatory context pluralistically built in recogni-
tion of the multiples voices and actors comprising it. This would make it
possible to recover the word, the communication practices established by
the citizens themselves, so as to define a new development model based
on their self-assurance to express their opinions, put forward proposals
and reach agreements; in short, to transform their participation in politi-
cal life through a commitment to the community and social harmony.
According to this philosophy, the innovation and social creativity poli-
cies relating to the new media underscore the relevance of participatory
action research as a program of autonomous projects in which commu-
nication is directly and transversally linked to local development in all its
phases, endeavoring at all times to identify the possibilities for co-deter-
mination, for outreach and social change and for defining and stating
the desire for a policy of self-governance, of autonomy in the global net-
work. This can be seen in the Mexican, Brazilian and Colombian prac-
tices and processes presented in this book.
6  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

In Latin America, the processes of cultural hybridization and of reor-


ganizing the symbolic universe, the product of a market whose globaliz-
ing progression is relentless, has generated out of necessity new forms
of establishing cultural identities by fragmenting group discourses in the
intersection between the massive, the cultured, and the popular. Hence,
the need to understand the meaning of that space, or world of life, in
which new social movements perceive that there is a need to take action
against forms of social control deriving from an exacerbated techno-
logical rationalization, above all taking into account that cultural iden-
tity is a crucial factor for understanding and cognitively controlling the
environment.
In this sense, participatory communication in mobilization processes
can, on the one hand, help social movements to build identity and gener-
ate differences and symbolic integration. On the other, dialogically speak-
ing, technopolitics can also enable networks to generate shared dialogues
and meaning between competing groups, since in this theoretical frame-
work social movements assume the configuration of the area, or social
network, in which a collective identity is built, negotiated or recomposed.
Accordingly, the new social movements can be defined as networks for
shaping meaning, generators of public spaces of management, of presen-
tation and recognition, and as self-made movements whose “significant
practices are imbued with affective values and can be expressed regardless
of the formal structure of society” (Ramírez 1996, p. 33).
In Latin America, the technopolitics of social movements strives to
guarantee the democratization of the social media in order to create a
space where subjects can exercise their rights and obligations, instead
of reward system between transmitters and audiences based on com-
mercial logic. Here, to participate means placing the main actors in the
communication circuit on an equal footing. Communication is under-
stood as the real relationship established between two or more people,
by virtue of which one involves the other or both participate together.
Communication presupposes participation, joint possession, sharing
with the other, making subjects a stakeholder in something. As Redondo
points out, “Communication cannot be defined without resorting to
the concept of participation which implies extending something to
another, all of which forms an integral part of communication. At the
risk of sounding idealistic, the term “participation” expresses a synthesis
of unity and duality in the communication process” (Redondo 1999, p.
185).
1 INTRODUCTION  7

If alternative communication can be defined in relation to the appro-


priation and use of the conventional media, whose perspective is subor-
dinating and counter-hegemonic, rather than alternative communication
in its restrictive sense, here it would be more appropriate to talk about an
alternative to communication. From this perspective, the democratiza-
tion process of communication that technopolitics proposes in the region
would, to paraphrase Alfaro, be committed to a new model of articula-
tion sustained by the capacity for dialogue, negotiation and exchange,
creating and legitimizing public spaces of shared social and community
interests for broadening and discussing new development horizons.
True enough, achieving a greater organizational potential would
directly lead neither to development nor to social transformations in
favor of a better territorial balance. However, the self-organization of
social movements in networks, the construction of institutions open to
the community fabric and, lastly, placing communication and culture at
the service of local promotion and development, are independent aspects
that establish, as a priori conditions, the possibilities of political, eco-
nomic and cultural autonomy at this level and which perceive new cul-
tural and subjective conditions in contemporary politics.
The development and consolidation of social movements represent,
as a matter of fact, an expansion of the citizenry’s personal and collec-
tive autonomy, transcending the delegation of objectives and functions
in favor of a participatory appropriation of public spaces from the experi-
enced to the conceived. This is achieved, without subordinating one level
to another, by means of dialectic integration in a higher level of social
awareness and responsibility of the joint activities that local institutions
pursue in the community setting.
The rejection of rigid hierarchies and the defense of direct democracy
within small, decentralized groups is in fact the essence and peculiarity
of technopolitics and the process of collective mobilization as networks
submerged in daily life. The defining characteristic of the functioning
of social movements is precisely their reticular articulation, since as a
result of cross-links at all levels the activities of each group and differ-
ent collectives develop jointly sharing similar objectives, given the late-
capitalist requirement of transversality. In this respect, social movements
can be considered as a “cross-linking of networks”, similar to a spring-
like object with multiple free-flowing and ambiguous frontiers, open
to change and the personal participation of subjects in the definition of
knowledge for action and collective functioning with other social groups.
8  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

In a way, any social movement is an internal and informal participatory


research-action mesh or network supported by the culture of the group
and the social promotion of its members as the main social change-mak-
ers. Thus, social movements foster awareness-raising in order to discover
their own possibilities and resources collectively, on the basis of virtual
tools, spaces and rationales of enunciation that make hyper-developed
technology possible.
With technopolitics, human groups and collectives can exchange
experiences and compare discourses and targets for action. Yet it is pos-
sible that collective experience and knowledge transfer never actually
occurs between them. As Ardoino remarks, the whole question is to
know whether the imaginary that praxis produces conjointly in and with
networks can lead to a ritual innovation of change and to the transforma-
tion of individual and collective imaginaries through intervention, since
access to the analysis of relations of production makes the social nuances
of domination more understandable—intellectually speaking—although
this does not guarantee in advance the transformation of the context
analyzed or the inter-group dialogue in pursuit of consensus. In this
regard, it should be noted that, historically, the experiences of alternative
or transformational communication have been formally and ideologically
(for discursive purposes) classified as an autonomous process of socially
designing all the possible and necessary mediations. It is the represen-
tational perspective that has prevailed, that of the content or ideology
of mediation and, despite its importance, to a lesser extent its logic or
structure. Hence, the failure of many participatory communication expe-
riences and projects in the region should come as no surprise.
In point of fact, a perspective all but restricted to an information concept
or imaginary of the processes involved in the construction of the public
sphere currently prevails in the analysis of the participatory social innova-
tion experiences of technopolitics. Thus, the concept of self-management
has been deformed and reduced by the state and capital to a regulatory
conception of domesticated social cooperation, conceiving the praxis of
subjects immersed in such dynamics as a mere process of delegated partici-
pation in which a few decide and others participate sporadically, needless to
say. Moreover, the concept of appropriation has been negatively suggested
as a practice against private ownership, as an antagonistic form of socializing
third-party assets converted into resources available to the community as a
whole. Both commonly accepted meanings have nothing to do, however,
1 INTRODUCTION  9

with the struggles and cultural fronts of resistance that exist, persist and
offer democratic alternatives to the instrumental rationality of the technop-
olitics of our time.
Notwithstanding the predominance of a sedentary reasoning in com-
municology incapable of suggesting other possible forms of social pro-
duction in mediations with old and new technologies, experiences of
social appropriation and self-management are still being understood, due
to the cognitive gaps, as chinks in the armor of liberal and state capi-
talism. The practical experiences of self-management promoted by activ-
ists, militants or specific political groups have frequently been observed
and analyzed, above all by scholars, forgetting, omitting, the small cracks
that each day break pre-established cultural codes and traditional power
relations that are often difficult to define from a revolutionary orthodox
perspective, when they have not been directly considered as irrelevant
objects of study in social communication.
From the point of view of the rationales inherent to digital culture,
now more than ever we are aware that it is necessary to define new
matrixes and our own way of thinking on the basis of a productive
approach capable of breaking with the binary and externalized rational-
ity of media activism as a mere process of appropriation, resistance and
political opportunity. In Latin America and the Caribbean, as with the
15-M movement in Spain, we have noted that there are different politi-
cal practices all but ignored by traditional leftwing parties and even more
so by scholarship, despite the knowledge that these types of practices
point to the emergence of another narrative and organizational model of
the common weal.
So, under the aegis of the COMPOLITICAS research group (www.
compoliticas.org), we have created the “Technopolitics, digital culture and
citizenship” working group (CLACSO) and the TECNOPOLITICAS
network of social thought and activism (http://www.tecnopoliticas.org/).
It is satisfying to see how these efforts are no longer isolated initiatives.
Political and social movements, such as some of the research groups and
authors included here, have become fully aware of this shift in the way
that part of a new generation of social activists talk about and do politics.
In other works, that mastery of technique (soundness) for emancipatory
purposes is possible, that there cannot be social change without coherence
(rigor) in the ways of informing and debating. And that any alternative
politics depends, in Gramscian terms, on a bit of democratic pedagogy.
10  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

The Performative Function of the Media


in Latin America

In Latin America, the digital era has been characterized by decades of


neoliberalism, marked by the dismantling of public infrastructures and
the extraction of common assets in favor of national and transnational
corporate interests. In media policy, this has been reflected in three main
aspects. Firstly, the dominance of the private sector and the control of
audiovisual media by the main transnational telecommunications opera-
tors have led to a lack of channels for public visibility and representation.
The media landscape this has produced is unfavorable (or barely favora-
ble) to the population’s interests and the opening of channels for pub-
lic dialogue. Secondly, thanks to the wide-reaching communication for
development experiences built up in the region since the 1970s, citizens
have engaged with social movements, rich in experiences, commitments
and reflections. So, empowerment processes—ranging from protests to
other forms of social resistance—have become easier with technology and
digital culture. Thirdly, this period has also been characterized through-
out the region by the emergence of a new cycle of resistances, struggles
and subjectivities which, unlike the classic struggles of the 1970s, have
been able to question the traditional forms of understanding and doing
politics.
Since the uprising of the indigenous communities in Chiapas in
1994, the dispute over codes, information and knowledge has proven to
be central to current sociocultural mediation practices following in the
wake of the digital revolution. Therefore, technopolitics represents a
field of research focusing on the models that are assumed by this battle
over meaning, how these models are defined by the appropriation and
use of new digital tools of representation—on-line and off-line—and,
among other things, how digital media form part of an integrated pro-
cess of providing new codes and new meanings for the public and social
spheres in Latin America. These are only some of the issues that have
been broached here with an eye to imparting practical knowledge of the
connections between social movements and media technologies, and
their complexity.
The experiences of the Zapatista communities in Chiapas constituted
one of the first times in history that the Internet was used as a means of
protest and to support a social struggle which was unique in its rhetoric
and global in its antagonistic expression. However, while the movements
1 INTRODUCTION  11

supporting the Zapatista cause paved the way for media activism in a
context of social conflict, only 10 years later the massive dissemination
of low-cost technology and the Internet made it possible to use social
media as a component of social protest. Examples include the webpages
that were launched during the people’s protests in Argentina in 2001,
with the aim of breaking the mainstream media siege; the Oaxaca insur-
gency in 2006; the use of Facebook and other social media platforms in
the “Penguins’ Revolution” student protests in Chile; the #YoSoy123
movement in Mexico; and the protests in Brazil and Venezuela in 2014.
The emergence of new appropriation processes and the use of new tech-
nologies by indigenous peoples on the continent to defend their territo-
ries and natural resources can also be observed. Cases in point include
the digital media used by the Mapuche people in Chile; the Wiwa indig-
enous communities in Colombia; the communities of the Peruvian
rainforest, the Chaco Boliviano, North Cauca in Colombia, and the
Neuquen Province of Argentina, etc. Mention should also be made of a
recently created Cuban blogosphere which is using the digital network
in an attempt to reproduce and build new autonomy processes based on
the values of the 1959 Revolution.
These experiences, like many others, have not only strengthened
forms of urban and rural community integration and social mobiliza-
tion on the continent, but have also helped to radically transform forms
of collective action. Gradually, step-by-step, they have begun to weaken
the institutional bases of the centralized, hierarchical model of the
Latin American political representation system, and in recent years have
inspired new transformations in the continent’s public policy landscape,
with particular focus on technological sovereignty, free culture and citi-
zen participation. These processes have intensified above all over the past
few decades, due to a great extent to the fact that in the context of glo-
balization the raison d´être and actions of social movements take on a
whole new meaning and decisively gain in structural importance, thanks
in no small measure to the Internet galaxy.
The aim of the first section of this book is to understand the differ-
ent scenarios and challenges regarding the power relations deriving from
new digital technologies and the social processes of which they form
part. To this end, the authors propose a theoretical framework developed
by researchers from different countries that conceptualizes the different
mediation processes emerging between cyberdemocracy and the emanci-
pation practices of new social movements. In the first chapter, Francisco
12  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

Sierra and Tommaso Gravante suggest a theoretical and methodological


framework inspired by the critical tradition of participatory communica-
tion for social change as it has developed in Latin America. By focus-
ing on media practices and the mediation process paradigm, the authors
outline a proposal covering three pivotal aspects of the process of appro-
priating and using digital media or the so-called “net activism practice”.
The origin and evolution of the concept of technopolitics, which has
recently gained popularity among scholars and social activists in both
the North and especially the South, is the topic of Emiliano Treré and
Alejandro Barranquero’s chapter. They place the concept within the cur-
rent debate on media activism, digital resistance and the rationales and
dynamics of contemporary social movements. Jan Servaes and Andrea
Ricci show how the impact of new media on party politics or presidential
elections has hitherto evolved in cyclical waves, covering the emergence
of television, the development of global telecommunications, the birth
of the Internet and finally what is popularly known as the Web 2.0. The
chapter reviews a large empirical study of more than 1200 political party
websites (using the world’s largest inventory at the time of writing), per-
formed roughly 10 years after the advent of the World Wide Web. Its
findings corroborate the “politics as usual” thesis and provide evidence
that these sites are tools for exclusion rather than inclusion.
What proactive data activism has in common with investigative,
advocacy and citizen journalism of an analytic, political, collaborative,
and grassroots nature is the main theme of Stefania Milan and Miren
Gutierrez’s contribution. In this closing chapter of the theoretical sec-
tion, the authors address on social movement studies, alternative media
and journalism studies, as well as critical theory, in order to categorize
and examine proactive data activism initiatives and to explore the mobi-
lizing dynamics of data activism.
The second section of this book takes a look at a number of Latin
American practices and experiences that are, autonomously and using
self-management, creating other identities and social spaces on the
margins of and against the neoliberal system through the use of digital
technology. They are experiences in which technologies are a pretext
for rethinking and collectively rebuilding on the margins of and out-
side the state. There is a particular emphasis on collective writing about
common culture, assets and knowledge, as well as successes, failures and
challenges. Nina Santos opens this section with an analysis of the role
of social media in the organization of the different stages of and groups
1 INTRODUCTION  13

participating in the wave of Brazilian protests, from the “Jornadas de


Junho” in 2013 to the impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff in
2016. To analyze the specific role of social media, the authoress offers us
a comprehensive thematic and temporal cartography of the movements,
the transformations that led to the different stages of the protest, and the
role social media played in it.
If anything has marked the armed conflict in Colombia, then that has
been the use of violence as a political instrument. Elias Said-Hung and
David Luquetta Cediel’s chapter focuses on Facebook, particularly on
six groups and/or pages that address issues relating to the peace talks
in Cuba. Their analysis addresses the qualitative representation that each
had, depending on whether they were for or against the peace process.
In order to define the media players that reveal social conflicts and
the human rights situation in Mexico, César Augusto Rodríguez Cano
presents an analysis of the technopolitical media networks created by
activists, grassroots groups, alternative media and non-governmental
organizations in the Mexican context—a social phenomenon that the
author calls “Communication in Movement”.
For their part, Jean-Marie Chenou and Rodulfo Armando Castiblanco
Carrasco deal with the role of knowledge in society and the conditions of
production and dissemination of scientific knowledge in the digital era.
By analyzing a Colombian web campaign entitled Compartir no es del-
ito (sharing is not a crime) in 2014, the authors study the creation of
transnational virtual spaces of resistance, the map of online interactions
through indicators such as twitter hashtags and hyperlinks, the identifica-
tion of key actors, and lastly an analysis of their correlations.
Making the final contribution to this book, Ana Lúcia Nunes de Sousa
and Marcela Canavarro invite us all to dwell on the digital narratives
built by students demanding improvements and transparency in public
education, highlighting the role played by video activism practices. The
authoress’ hypothesis is that the network of Facebook pages conceived
by the students included a number of hub and satellite pages cooperating
constantly to share information.
To conclude, we would like to thank Nico Carpentier for his preface.
His conscientious contribution stresses the paradox between the grow-
ing levels of participation in a variety of societal fields and the decreas-
ing levels of control over the levers of societal power. Our thanks also
go to Claudia Padovani and Marjan de Bruin, the editors of Global
Transformations in Media and Communication Research, a Palgrave and
14  F. SIERRA CABALLERO AND T. GRAVANTE

IAMCR Series, who have supported us in this endeavor. We are also


grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their very useful and construc-
tive comments and to Martina O’Sullivan, publisher for Journalism,
Media and Communication at Palgrave Macmillan, and her staff for their
invaluable assistance in preparing this manuscript for publication.
We sincerely hope that the original contributions to this book will
allow us to move forward in the conflicts and emancipation processes
currently traversing the continent and, of course, contribute generally to
broaden our knowledge in this regard. This at least is the desire of the
editors.

References
Negt, O. (2007). L’espace public oppositionnel. Paris: Payot.
Redondo, E. G. (1999). Educación y comunicación. Barcelona: Ariel.
Ramírez, J. M. (1996). Las teorías sociológicas y la acción colectiva. Ciudades,
29, 28–40.
PART I

Technopolitics: A Theoretical Framework


CHAPTER 2

Digital Media Practices and Social


Movements. A Theoretical Framework
from Latin America

Francisco Sierra Caballero and Tommaso Gravante

Introduction
Citizen participation in Latin America using digital media is the result
of a long, continuous process of social appropriation of communication
technologies from the culture of subordinated groups. One of the classic
examples is the network of miners’ radio stations in Bolivia since 1949,
which represent one of the most outstanding examples of grassroots,
participatory communication in the world (O’Connor 2004). However,
this process of social appropriation of communication technologies has

F. Sierra Caballero (*) 
Department of Journalism I, University of Seville, Office D7, Americo
Vespucio s/n Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Seville, Andalusia, Spain
e-mail: fcompoliticas@gmail.com
T. Gravante 
Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Sciences and Humanities
(CEIICH), National Autonomous University of Mexico, Torre II de
Humanidades, 6º piso, Circuito Interior, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación
Coyoacan, 4510 Ciudad de México, Ciudad de México, Mexico
e-mail: t.gravante@gmail.com

© The Author(s) 2018 17


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_2
18  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

marked the difficult and contradictory fights for democracy in the region
in light of the lack of visibility channels in an exclusive system that is at
times virtually monopolised by the dominant mainstream media, both
analogue and digital (Sierra 2006). Regarding digital media, the upris-
ing of the indigenous communities in Chiapas in 1994 was one of the
first times in the world that the internet was used as a means of protest,
to support a social struggle, which was original in its rhetoric and global
in its expression of opposition. The Zapatista uprising of the Zapatista
Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional,
EZLN) was a symbolic and media-focused breaking point in Mexico
and Latin America. This was firstly because it coincided with the entry
into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement and secondly
because it gave the situation of the indigenous population visibility in the
media, as it was a group that had historically been excluded from tel-
evision (Sierra 1997, 1999). Later, the massive spread of low-cost tech-
nologies and the broad experience built up since the 1970s in the region
in community-based, grassroots communication aided the empower-
ment processes of the new media and digital culture for protests and in
all aspects of social life. This could be seen in student movements such
as #YoSoy132 in Mexico and the “Penguins’ Revolution” in Chile, and
the convergence between analogue and digital citizens’ media projects
operating in contexts of armed conflict such as in Colombia (Rodriguez
2008, 2011).
Starting with the alternative digital media experiences that have taken
place in the last two decades in Latin America, this chapter proposes a
theoretical and methodological framework inspired by the critical tradi-
tion of participatory communication for social change as it developed in
Latin America (McAnany and Atwood 1986; Beltrán 1974, 1993) and
the contributions made by the scientific community of the so-called
Latin American School of Communication—ELACOM1—(Sierra 2010;
León 2007, 2008, 2010). ELACOM, from the last decade to the pre-
sent, is the work programme which best symbolises and represents
the search for identity in Latin American thought on communication
(Marques and Gobbi 2000, 2004; Fuentes 1999). We also propose an
analysis focused on an approach from below that helps to better under-
stand media practices (Couldry 2004, 2012; Cammaerts et al. 2013)

1 In Spanish Escuela Latinoamericana de Comunicación.


2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  19

and the mediation process (Martin-Barbero 1993, 2006) in the Latin


American region.
The chapter is structured as follows. Firstly, we underline the lat-
est framework of collective action that has characterised the new cycle
of struggles in Latin America. Secondly, we outline our proposal, which
will consider three pivotal aspects of the process of appropriating and
using digital media. We will introduce the importance of the emotional
dimension in the process of appropriation, and how the protagonists give
digital media new meanings and uses, such as Do It Together, which are
the result of the cultural hybridisation in Latin America. Afterwards, we
explore how the bonds that are formed between the media and the pro-
tagonists reflect a “new” community of reference distinguished by hori-
zontal processes. Finally, we analyse how the net activism practice leads
the participating people to experience a process of empowerment. We
explore the potential of our conceptual framework based on some con-
crete examples drawn from secondary and primary sources related to
the Latin American struggles and movements that have been studied
by the authors in the last two decades (Sierra 1997, 1999, 2006, 2010;
Gravante 2016; Sierra and Gravante 2012, 2014, 2017). In the conclu-
sion, we discuss how the language and narratives of Latin American grass-
roots communication establish, as a result, the relevance of proposing
another “point of view” for communication studies in the Western world.
To summarise, our theoretical and methodological framework can
serve as an analytical lens that helps us better understand the performa-
tive function of media (Rodriguez 2001, p. 82), that is, how people use
digital media to re-create their identities, values, ways of life, cultural
practices, and forms of interaction that have at have not been perme-
ated by capitalist-driven logic. Examples of these actors include indig-
enous movements and urban grassroots movements, which together
question theories on the use of collective action and social conflict from
the point of view of the media and the representation of digital culture
(Treré and Magallanes-Blanco 2015). The historical context experienced
by Latin America will then be considered in order to rethink the con-
cepts of the public sphere and media citizenship (Sierra and Gravante
2012). The geopolitical and social background justifies the need to con-
sider conflicts and the role of communication in accordance with a new
epistemic framework and new thought that establishes a non-colonial
focus on the south (De Sousa Santos 2010a, b, 2014; Yehia 2007) and
an approach from below with a view to breaking away from the binary,
20  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

techno-centred rationality of media activism as a simple process of appro-


priation, resistance and political opportunity (Treré and Barranquero
2013).

New Media and Emerging Subjectivities in Latin America


After the expansion of the transnational network of solidarity with the
indigenous people in Chiapas in 1994 over the internet, the spread of
the World Wide Web and increased access to and use of digital technol-
ogy in the second half of the 1990s were celebrated by many activists
and scholars around the world—particularly in the USA and Europe—
as the advent of a “Renaissance 2.0”. According to techno-optimists,
new information technologies would give rise to a new humanism
that would lead to another possible (and utopian) world. In fact, the
start of the new millennium brought with it a change in world geo-
politics, and it was not caused by digital technologies. The violent
repressions enacted by the police and paramilitary groups on com-
mon, ordinary people who had participated en masse in demonstra-
tions against the meetings of large international economic institutions2;
the systematic co-opting of the more active individuals in collectives
and grassroots movements by protest professionals—the NGOs that
composed the Social Mundial Forum, left-wing parties and unions3;
finally, the new “national security” laws and priorities since the attacks
on September 11, 2001 that would identify all activism as a terrorist
threat led to (especially in Europe, Canada and the USA) the decline
of movements against the neoliberal policies that had characterised the
end of the 1990s. Meanwhile, in Latin America, besides the fall of the
anti-globalisation movement, a new cycle of resistance was beginning,
led by individuals and groups (peasants, indigenous communities, col-
lectives of homeless people, the unemployed, villeros, chavos banda,

2 A fundamental episode that marked the end of citizen participation was the repression

at the G8 protests in Geneva in 2001, with the murder of a young activist, Carlo Giuliani,
by Italian police.
3 This co-option also involved a group of hackers who had helped create dozens of pro-

jects and virtual networks, which were then absorbed by defence and military intelligence
departments through different companies for creating and managing espionage, surveil-
lance, and remote arms control software.
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  21

students, cartoneros, housekeepers, etc.),4 which outgrew the classic


studies of collective action and the traditional frameworks of politics
and the social sphere (Zibechi 2007, 2010a, b, 2012, 2014; Regalado
2010, 2011; Regalado and Gravante 2016). These social subjects, based
on the patchwork of everyday life (De Certeau 1984; De Certeau et al.
1980), in line with the Latin American tradition of popular and partic-
ipatory communication, produced multiple links with digital and ana-
logue media in their protests, such as the Argentina protest in 2001 with
the alternative media Red Eco Alternativo, Cono Sur, Indymedia, Red
Acción (Vinelli and Rodríguez Espéron 2008), and in the Oaxaca insur-
gency with the hybrid-digital radio station Radio Escopeta and Radio
Disturbio (Gravante 2016). Furthermore, as Jeffrey Juris had stressed
in his research about the emerging forms of tactical and alternative
media associated with the global justice movement in Spain (2008), the
social movement digital media experienced in Latin America share two
important, interconnected dimensions with the so-called anti-globalisa-
tion movement: the media activist networks’ structures have no centre,
their organisations are structured using a horizontal networking logic
(set of practices for political activities such as horizontal and anti-hier-
archical organisation, consensus-based decision-making, direct action,
self-organisation, self-managed and self-reliant projects, and so on);
the alternative media are characterised by prefigurative politics, in other
words, the media projects anticipate or enact an ‘alternative world’ in
the present. For this reason, and following Barassi and Treré’s analysis,
it is possible to explore the relationship between digital media, media
strategies and social movements’ tactics by considering everyday media
uses (2012).
So, the original experiences that emerged throughout the Latin
American region revealed, within this new framework of action, that the

4 Villeros are people who live in suburbs of large Latin American cities like Buenos Aires

or Santiago del Chile. These working-class barrios and neighborhoods are excluded from
all sorts of facilities in terms of education, culture, health, etc. Chavos banda are very young
people, generally from rural, poor villages, who live like beggars in urban areas such as
Oaxaca, Mexico City, Guadalajara. Cartoneros are people who make their living collecting
and selling salvaged materials to recycling plants. This movement began in Argentina in
2003 and has since spread to countries throughout Latin America. Most of these people
live under the shadow of the informal economy; they do not exist for nor are they repre-
sented by the ruling class.
22  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

process of appropriating digital technology was not limited to know-


ing how to use a computer or connecting to the internet, nor was it a
process that simply meant possessing digital technology. Instead, digital
media were part of an integrated process of providing new codes and
new meaning for the public and social spheres (Neuman 2008). In the
same way, other scholars (Barassi and Treré 2012; Treré 2012; McCurdy
2011; Mattoni 2012; Juris 2008), in their research on digital media and
social movements, stressed the need to rethink the relationship between
media and culture and move beyond functionalist approaches in order to
start to analyse media as practice, as Treré has pointed out: “[t]his means
taking into account not only ‘what people do’ with the media, but also
the sets of beliefs, ideologies, and understandings whereby practices are
ordered” (2012, p. 2363).
Starting from these media practice approaches based on Couldry’s
theorisation (2004) and on Martín-Barbero’s pivotal work (1993),
which urged for a shift away “from media to mediations”, we start
our proposal by exploring everyday practices of (digital and analogue)
media appropriation through which the protagonists play out resist-
ance and resilience against the hegemonic system. In doing this, the
fieldwork of our research experience has shown that an approach from
below is needed in this cycle of struggles that began with the outbreak
of protests in Argentina in 2001. It means, above all, placing the focus
of the study on the individual and his/her subjectivity, without separat-
ing the person from the collective. In other words, we need to look at
the ordinary, working people5 generally ignored by those in power and by
scholars. In fact, this proposal is not based on the experiences of hack-
tivists or members of the organisations that participated in the protests,
because of the understanding that fundamentally all social change is the
result of transformation only visible in the everyday actions of millions
of people (Holloway 2010). Therefore, taking an approach from below
involves analysing digital media experiences that are performed by ordi-
nary people in the cities or places where the fights are taking place and
that involve self-managed media, i.e., they are not the result of any initia-
tive or support from official organisations (parties, NGOs, unions, etc.).

5 “We, the ordinary, working people” was and still is the way in which the people of the

Water and Life Defence Coordination Group in Cochabamba, Bolivia, describe themselves.
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  23

Now that the new cycle of struggles that has characterised Latin
America has been put into context, and what we understand to be the
focus of analysis from below in our approach has been explained, the
following section will break down the first aspect of our theoretical and
methodological approach, focusing on tools to better understand why
ordinary people decide to appropriate a form of digital media, and how
that type of media is modified, adapted and given meaning.

Appropriation Processes
and Creative Resilience Practices

Analysing net activism practices from below means moving away from a
technology-focused perspective and concentrating on the processes that
occur between the form of digital media and its users, always bearing in
mind that the appropriation process is vitally linked to the social and cul-
tural fabric in which the form of media is developed, in terms of the eve-
ryday culture and the life experience of the subjects. In other words, it is
necessary to consider the appropriation and uses of technology as pro-
cesses of sociocultural mediation that go beyond establishing the video
technology (Orozco 1996, 2007) and the processes of sublimating and
creating myths linked to the birth of each “new” technology (Trerè and
Barranquero 2013).

Emotional Dimensions of the Appropriation Process


Over the last twenty years, studies of social movements and collec-
tive action have highlighted the role of emotion in studying protest.
There are numerous scientific contributions which show that includ-
ing the emotional dimensions as a variable in analysis helps to explain
the origin, development and success or otherwise of a social movement
(Jasper 1997; Polletta 2006; Flam 2000; Goodwin et al. 2001, 2004).
Furthermore, it is hard to find activities and relationships that are
more openly emotional than those linked to political protest and resist-
ance (Goodwin et al. 2000). It is unsurprising, then, that in net activ-
ism there should also be a reconsideration of a series of emotional and
cognitive processes that push common, ordinary people to appropriate
digital technology (Poma and Gravante 2013). Other research projects
in the communication field have shown that the rage and pain caused
by repression, anger against the ruling class, and the feeling of injustice
are created through processes like moral shock, the emergence of threats,
24  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

the identification of those responsible and the injustice frame, among


others, which determine the mediation model in conflicts (Gravante
2016; Sierra et al. 2016).
Analysing these processes makes it possible to understand the first
act of appropriation of digital media: why do ordinary people choose to
approach something that they were not familiar with before and create a
web portal, a blog, a radio station or streaming television? Furthermore,
thanks to the emotions that accompany small victories, solidarity, social
relationships, etc., it is possible to understand the learning process, how
technical difficulties are overcome and the use that is made of digi-
tal media. Analysing the emotional dimensions of net activism practice
in Latin American grassroots movements therefore shows how these
actions emerge and develop, following a pattern of pain-rage-determina-
tion-rebellion-freedom. They progress according to the social rationale
that has long been found in the discourse and practice of Zapatistas and
indigenous communities, which undoubtedly reveals a feeling and imagi-
nation that are different from the results of the social analysis of the new
cycle of protests in Latin America (Esteva 2014). From the 2001 protests
in Argentina, the people’s insurrection in Oaxaca in Mexico in 2006, and
the defence of the Mapuche people’s land in Chile to the latest protests
in 2014 in Brazil, one of the elements that has decisively determined col-
lective action is the feeling of rage towards the ruling class when people
see that the reality conveyed by the mainstream media does not coincide
with the reality that they experience in the streets. Unlike the protests
against austerity that have taken place since 2010, especially in the USA
and Europe, and the protests by organisations that compose the so-called
Global Justice Movement (in which pain and rage were framed in a cost-
benefit paradigm), grassroots protests carried out in Latin America by
subaltern classes are defined by righteous rage (digna rabia), as it is called
in Mexico: a feeling of indignation that emerges when people feel that
their dignity has been defiled, causing them to break away from their
condition as victims and shift towards another action.

Creative Use in Net Activism Practices


While analysing the emotional and cognitive processes that emerge from
social protests allows us to understand the use of digital media, the next
stage in comprehending the process of technological appropriation is
studying how the protagonists use these media and what meaning they
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  25

give to them. The process of appropriation is not merely reproduction,


doing a CTRL + C and CTRL + V of content, reading a manual or
downloading a guide from the internet. On the contrary, appropriating
a form of media represents—and makes possible—a minimum level of
freedom, initiative and other ways of creating meaning. The practice of
communication does not depend only on use but also, fundamentally, on
social forms embedded in people’s habitus. Therefore, the appropriation
of digital media is not only the ability to do something collectively, but
also the ability to redesign the tool and digital culture so that it fits the
protagonists’ diversified reality (Martín-Barbero 2002). As Orlikowski
has pointed out, in his research about the relationship between everyday
working life and technologies, appropriation and ‘technology-in-practice’
“include the meanings and attachments—emotional and intellectual—
that users associate with particular technologies and their uses, shaped
by their experiences with various technologies and their participation in a
range of social and political communities” (2000, p. 410).
In order to explore how people critically negotiate with technologi-
cal structures, it is interesting to see how the role of distinguished elites
or creators at scientific centres is not unheard of in the Latin American
media appropriation model but it is not hugely significant. It is a model
of appropriation, or rather an action that involves adapting, transform-
ing and actively receiving, based on a different code that belongs to the
people and brings with it enjoyment as well as resistance. Some examples
of struggles and resistance in defence of land and its natural resources
by countryside communities and indigenous peoples have emerged as
the response to extraction policies in Latin America, and are character-
ised by the creative use of new technologies. Experiences of the digital
media used by the Mapuche indigenous peoples in Chile, the indigenous
peoples of the Peruvian rainforest and the indigenous communities of
the Chaco Boliviano, among others, show that the use of technology
includes a process of adaptation, replacement and/or rejection; at the
same time it forms hybrids of analogue and digital technologies, of exist-
ing rural, community-based practices and emerging urban practices, and
of indigenous world views and the imaginations of a new generation of
digital natives. Finally, the appropriation process goes beyond the limits
of reproducibility and heteronomy, and is instead an act that breaks away
from the dichotomy of original/imitation, where there is innovation of
practices, meanings and sometimes tools.
26  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

Digital Media in Latin America: Do It Together!


The miscegenation (mestizaje) and cultural hybridisation of Latin
America (García-Canclini 1995) is the result of flows in which indige-
nous people blend with the rural, the rural with the urban, the folkloric
with popular culture and the popular with mass culture (Martín-Barbero
1993) and in this cultural front is where new identities are developed and
come in conflict (González 2001). Latin American cultural hybridisation
generates codes that are deeply desacralised, radically subversive and anti-
hierarchical, permanently distant from the values and visions of dominant
classes. The upshot of this is that to understand media practice and the
use and meaning of digital media in Latin America, it is also important to
consider digital media among the components of a community—organi-
sation, rules and principles that relate to physical and material space,
etc.—and the elements of communality—such as spiritual existence, ethi-
cal and ideological code, political, social, legal, cultural, ethical and civil
conduct, etc. (Díaz Gómez 2004). These parts are mixed together and
included in net activism in different ways, according to different expe-
riences, collective and individual histories, but always permeated by the
“Do It Yourself” culture. For example, the lack of technical resources in
urban experiences in Argentina was overcome by using trueque,6 that is,
by exchanging and installing parts from old computers to make “new”
PCs. In the Oaxaca movement, in Chile, and in Brazil crowdfunding was
also used. The lack of internet access for the indigenous Zapoteca com-
munities in Mexico when defending their land was overcome thanks to
the implementation of a wireless broadband internet network using a
UHF TV channel. In other words, the difficulties encountered during
the media experience were overcome largely thanks to solidarity bonds
developed during the protest, and self-taught, informal practices. “Do It
Yourself” does not include only the individual, but is instead a common
practice that essentially consists of an education process experienced by
all the protagonists. In these experiences, the “Yourself” in DIY becomes

6 Trueque is the exchange of material or immaterial goods or services for other goods or

services, and it is different from normal sale/purchase because money is not involved in the
transaction. It is a pre-Hispanic custom common in many Latin American indigenous com-
munities, and is now widespread in urban areas too.
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  27

“Together”, that is, the appropriation practice involves collective abili-


ties and DIY becomes Do It Together. In DIT, the roles and responsi-
bilities of the sender and receivers are blurred, and it is difficult to find
the line between those who make the media, those who are protesting
and those who sympathise with the struggles and receive the media. Do
It Together encourages the receivers to join the practice of self-publica-
tion (from comments, discussion forums and blogs to open publishing
of content, videos, etc.). In other words, it directly involves the audience
in the production and distribution of its own messages using transgres-
sive practices such as irony, humour, culture jamming, provocation, etc.,
in which the action is related to reflection, which can lead to a change
in people’s everyday lives (Freire 1970, 1976). Thanks to DIT, it is the
individuals who establish the interpretative framework on creative action
and power because they are not merely consumers/producers of consid-
erations belonging to others. Instead, they create their own reflections
with the aim of changing the ways of building their own lives. An exam-
ple of this is the recent construction of the Cuban blogosphere, which is
attempting to use the digital network to reproduce and build new pro-
cesses of autonomy based on the values of the 1959 Revolution.
In short, the process of appropriating digital media that takes place
during a protest is the result of a range of cultural and social mediations.
Therefore, any study of net activism cannot be limited to simply analys-
ing the structural elements; instead, it should focus on what Raymond
Williams called “the structure of feeling” (Williams 1973). The following
paragraph will discuss the elements that are believed to define the rela-
tionship between people and the digital environment.

Building Communities
The approach from below has led us to consider the appropriation of
technology as a social activity bound to the experiences of the protest’s
protagonists. Shifting away from techno-centric aspects makes it possi-
ble to consider how the appropriation of digital media is the social con-
struction of a public media space in which people create meanings and
identify with them. The bonds that are formed between the media and
the protagonists reflect a “new” community of reference distinguished
by horizontal communication between sender and receiver.
28  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

Digital Media as a Meaningful Space


Observing the physical places where the different digital media experi-
ences in Latin America took place (social centres, public computer cen-
tres, private homes, community centres, etc.) has revealed the popular
culture in the social setting (Martín Barbero 1993). In other words,
the space surrounding the digital media undergoes a process of identi-
fication by the users: from stickers proclaiming free software in Zapotec
language to photos of Che Guevara and Maradona, photos of children,
girlfriends, those killed by the police, even a magnet of Richard Stallman
with his GNU. This identification process is also reflected in the virtual
binary code too: logos on the websites, jingles that open radio and TV
­streaming programmes, personalised avatars in forums, etc. In the case
of the Mapuche people fighting for their land, for example, symbolism is
built and ranges from text and flags to images of religious power (Machi)
and political power (the lonco) (Godoy 2003). In all these experiences,
symbols serve as signs of appropriation, since this is how a space is
delimited and defined, and at the same time they indicate the personality
of the people and groups that create the digital media.
When we move into a new house, a process of appropriating the space
begins, i.e., there is a period in which we adapt and we wait for things
find their place. It is the same when people appropriate a form of digi-
tal media: the first step is “building confidence” with the new tool, act-
ing on the medium, mastering it and transforming it, creating the logo,
choosing the graphics and the domain name, with the aim of making
the media space “our own”. Creating these digital “geographies” also
involves forming a feeling of belonging related to building a community
and its collective imagination (Escobar 2008, 2010). Creating new pub-
lic media spaces involves producing cybercultures that create resistance
and transformation or introduce alternatives to dominant culture and
politics, whether virtual or real (Escobar 1999).

Digital Media as Temporary Autonomous Communities


In the appropriation model defined here, certain relationships and bonds
are developed between the media and its users, which include identifi-
cation, interaction, projection, personalisation, territoriality and privacy
aspects. When people appropriate a form of digital media they do not
merely develop a utilitarian relationship with it in order to, for example,
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  29

break away from the media siege of the mainstream media; they also
establish a relationship with the place where the communication takes on
meaning, and attempt to leave their own experiences, their own imprint,
behind (Pol Urrútia 1996, 2002). People project their personality—or
create another—through the media practice and interact with each other
and with others. Through these interaction processes, people give the
media space an individual meaning. When implementing digital media,
one of the first elements of the dialectic process which helps the people
and the media bond is choosing a name, i.e., the domain for the web
pages, blogs, etc. The choice of name reflects the desires and motivations
that led these people to become involved in the fight. This is the case,
for example, of the Revolucionemos Oaxaca (Let’s Revolutionise Oaxaca)
web portal of the 2006 protests, the Kimche Mapu (Wise People) radio
station or the Ñuke Mapu (Mother Earth) website of the fights of the
Mapuche people, the streaming TV station Rompeviento (Windbreaker),
and the Tarifa Zero (Zero Fare) website of the Movimento Passe Livre
(Free Fare Movement) in Brazil, etc. It can also be seen in the use of
hashtags7: #NãoVaiTerCopa, #YoSoy132, #BRevolução, #comunidad-
mapuche, #VemPraRua, etc. The result of the relationship established
with the form of digital media lets the protagonists redesign the real-
ity in which they live and reinvent a relatively autonomous media area
(Bey 1985) organised using its horizontal and anti-authoritarian prac-
tices that temporarily elude hegemonic structures of organisation and/
or social control. Therefore, as previously stated, the different aspects of
our approach are bound together. The relationship that is found within
a new community is bound to affective, cognitive and interactive pro-
cesses, and through these processes people give the space a meaning,
assigning the characteristics of their new community identity to the
media. Moreover, this new community “may also apply to more stable
issue advocacy networks that engage people in everyday life practices
supporting causes outside of protest events such as campaigns” (Bennett
and Segerberg 2012). An example of this can be seen in the Mexican
movement #YoSoy132 (Treré 2013; Gómez and Treré 2014), which val-
ued the features of a new subjectivity, a new citizenship open to dialogue

7 Significant data in Latin America on the use of the Twitter and Facebook social net-

works can be found only for the period after the Spanish language versions were launched:
2008 for Facebook and 2009 for Twitter.
30  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

and debate, collective deliberation and decision-making, with greater


capacity for autonomy and empowerment.
Finally, with the act of identifying and building this new, autonomous
media area, we find, among other things, processes for re-creating and
redefining values, beliefs and identities that lead the participating people
to become aware of aspects of reality that until that moment they had
not considered—or to change their perception of reality and act accord-
ingly. In summary, the people involved experience a process of empow-
erment. In the following paragraph, this last aspect of our approach is
analysed, i.e., how the media experience influences processes of empow-
erment and social change.

Acquiring Power
Empowerment is a process that fully emerges in the acts of identifying
with a form of digital media and re-creating values mentioned earlier.
This concept involves the individual and collective process of acquiring
power, not as “power over somebody” but rather the “power to”, as
potential (Dallago 2006). Naturally, when we enter a situation of social
conflict, the empowerment process covers aspects other than commu-
nication. In other words, both the experience of digital media and the
experience in the protest develop processes that go beyond reflections on
digital technology and citizen communication, etc.

The Development of “Another” Communication


From 1994 to today, the galaxy of digital media experiences in Latin
America has been responsible, among other things, for strengthened
forms of community integration and mobilisation in the subconti-
nent. As the forms and level of citizen participation among the popu-
lation have expanded, digital experiences and interactive networks have
helped to radically transform forms of sociability and have, at the same
time, gradually eroded the institutional bases of the centralising, hierar-
chical model of mediating social representations used by companies like
Televisa (Mexico) and Globo (Brazil), which are archetypical models of
the hierarchical system of controlling images and public discourse in the
region (Bolaño et al. 2012; Martínez and Sierra 2012). Thanks to the
broad experience gained since the 1970s in participatory communication
and local development (McAnany and Atwood 1986; Beltrán 1993), the
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  31

empowerment processes of digital media have led the protagonists not


only to think about the importance of having an autonomous form of
media for communication but also to reflect on how “another” type of
communication should be. This communication emerges from the needs
of citizenship, as claimed by indigenous movements.
Analysing the practices and experiences of the Penguins student pro-
tests in Chile and #YoSoy132 in Mexico has proven how citizen media,
more than simply a channel for protesting, should be able to create posi-
tive proposals about the opportunities that can be found within a society,
whenever these proposals come from the people and not from dominant
groups. The citizen media formed in the warring lands of Belén de los
Andaquíes in Colombia (Rodríguez 2008) illustrate how participatory
communication develops with a break away from dominant narratives
and views, which are replaced by images that symbolise people’s everyday
practices from a repressed world that needs to make itself known. Other
experiences like the insurgence media of Oaxaca indicate communication
as a commons, which belongs to the entire collective and, for that rea-
son, it is not subject to limitations on use or access (Gravante 2016).
In summary, “another communication” is not focused on individual
behaviour, but rather on the social, political and cultural contexts of the
groups themselves; it is communication that is developed through com-
munity participation and shifts the issue of power and decision-making
into citizenship. In the Latin American experiences, it appears that the
battle about code and communication is a true political battleground; as
regards the practice of net activism, citizenship projects its social imagi-
nation, producing a space for it to re-create the concept of political
practice.

The Emergence of a New Political Subject


One of the most important results seen in the analysis of net activism
is the transformation in awareness and conduct experienced by the pro-
tagonists and the transformation of people as social subjects. This process
gives rise to, mostly, a re-creation of political practice. In our approach,
we turn to the contribution made by Piven and Cloward (1977), which
is the most exhaustive and relevant to the object of study and context
discussed here. Piven and Cloward (1977) identify three aspects in the
process of transforming awareness and conduct, which are also found in
these Latin American experiences.
32  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

One of the first changes is a total lack of confidence in institutions, the


state and the entire political class, as well as the economic powers that
gravitate towards them. The consequence of this negative perception of
official politics is the construction of an identity of opposition between
citizenship and institutional politics, members of which are responsible
for disregarding society’s demands. From the outbreak of protests in
Argentina in 2001 to the 2014 protests in Brazil during the FIFA World
Cup, one (communication) practice carried out by protesters was under-
lining the division of the world into “us” and “them”. In other words,
they showed the existence of two opposing identities, “us” (the people,
the movement, etc.) versus “them” (politicians, bankers, businesspeople,
etc.). In this transformation process, people who before accepted the sta-
tus quo or who thought it would be very difficult to change the social
situation begin to actively demand change. Finally, we find the level of
effectiveness, i.e., the moment when citizenship that ordinarily was con-
sidered politically powerless begins to believe in its ability to change
things. The divide between “us” and “them” definitively deconstructs
the institutional spaces imposed by political power, making new spaces
emerge (which can include media spaces) which are characterised by
everyday actions, alliances with other experiences or social groups, etc.
These are the new spaces where subordinated groups develop another
way of doing politics, managing public matters and establishing their own
legitimacy, which is radically different from the legality and legitimacy of
hegemonic power (Thompson 1975). To conclude, the process of appro-
priating digital technology and the development and use of digital media
in mobilisation and collective action processes involve, along with the
protest experience, what Piven and Cloward (1977) call a new feeling of
efficacy in people, which is embodied in the emergence of a political sub-
ject that questions the representation codes of the dominant system.

Discussions and Conclusions
Latin America is, as we know, an area and geopolitical context born of
a culture of symbiosis and colonisation, migration and different cul-
tural miscegenation that has produced multiple mediations and creative
hybrids, which are necessary to understanding the relationship between
collective action and digital technology that characterises the social con-
flicts of the new millennium.
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  33

Certainly, the focus on different ways of seeing the world, interpret-


ing it and interacting within it have been an epistemic tradition in Latin
American thought since its origins. It has built new bases and styles of
discovering and representing the universe focused on community-based
forms inspired by the philosophy of liberation and the culture of resist-
ance that today should also be enriched by the recent emergence of
indigenous movements in a new rationale of intellectual engagement. By
acknowledging otherness and difference, Martín Barbero gives shape to
the idea of modernity in Latin America: a modernity that is unfinished,
in the eyes of the mainstream, and different or novel, in the eyes of the
alternative. From understanding identities and their struggles against the
flows of modernity to understanding receivers’ uses of the popular, of
alliances, appropriations and forms of resistance, there is an underlying
theory in the Latin American School of Communication (ELACOM)
that envisages a Latin American society based on the difference and
diversity of the media-connected social world rather than on debt or a
lack of progress in modernity. And today studies about the decolonisa-
tion of knowledge and power provide updates and transcend by provid-
ing new conundrums and/or questions.
This chapter’s starting point was media practices (Couldry 2004,
2012) and the mediation process (Martin-Barbero 1993, 2006) in Latin
America performed by the “non-citizens”, i.e., the “de-citizenised”
people who are losing their place in neoliberal society and have opened
their own spaces for communication and representation using a process
of struggles in which they establish themselves as political subjects. This
focus, which we have defined as an approach from below, has allowed us
to design a theoretical and methodological scheme for studying the prac-
tice of net activism, i.e., the process of appropriating and using digital
media in a social conflict situation, which, by transcending the techno-
centric dimension, focuses the analysis on people and real subjects.
The model of appropriating digital media that has emerged in Latin
America demonstrates the central nature of the experience of the peo-
ple, the community that is built around the media. Above all, it reflects
the importance of the meaning that they give their ways of acting and
knowing. This means that in Latin America the process of appropriat-
ing digital technology is, first and foremost, an act of strength that takes
place in an asymmetric system of distributing economic and cultural
currents. Digital media practices or so-called net activism are used by
34  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

people to claim a need, such as a lack of visibility channels, or to demand


something that was their own, such as the right to participate in deci-
sion-making processes. The model of technological appropriation that
has appeared in Latin America involves, therefore, the notion of domi-
nation and being dominated, hegemony and counter-hegemony. The
innovation in the use of digital technology cannot be explained without
understanding the lack of resources, the needs and the social demands
that motivate and feed the innovation, creativity and appropriation by
the dominated (Sierra 1997; Sierra and Gravante 2012). It is a practice
that is deeply embedded in people’s everyday lives, in their histories and
ways of viewing and understanding the world. Appropriation of digital
communication media is the result of affective, cognitive and interac-
tive processes, more than simply a matter of resources, functionality or
interfaces. The bonds that are created between the form of media and
the protagonists go beyond the utilitarian, and instead create a relation-
ship in which people give the digital media a meaning and characteristics
of their own identity at individual and group level. These relationships
reject a vertical structure: in fact they are developed from horizontal
solidarity networks, and the power of knowledge (or the domination
that is suggested in the absence of knowledge) is replaced by a com-
mon pooling of the ecology of knowledge. Net activism involves a pro-
cess of empowerment and a new feeling of effectiveness among people,
not only in their perception of communication but also in the re-crea-
tion of political practice. In this way, the digital media are transformed
into social spaces for a dissident culture and become a necessary labo-
ratory for social change. With this approach we aimed to demonstrate
the construction of consideration based on praxis as a chance to reflect
and develop a theory that, according to Ramiro Beltrán, starts with prac-
tice/action. We also intended to develop a qualitative methodology that
recognises the ability for action, reflection and the production of knowl-
edge by the subjects involved in struggles, resistance and media. In the
context of communication, therefore, scientific knowledge is appre-
hended by the emergence of other knowledge of grassroots cultures and
of Afro-Latin American and indigenous people in accordance with the
socio-analytical construction of collective knowledge as a rationale for
appropriating common local knowledge. Finally, the digital media experi-
ences in Latin America are characterised by ancestral and opposing forms
of the commons and worldviews rendered invisible by Cartesian ration-
ality and the colonial condition historically present in Latin America
2  DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. A THEORETICAL …  35

(Zibechi 2007, 2010a, b, 2012, 2014; Regalado 2010, 2011; Neuman


2008; Regalado 2010; Sierra 2010).
The rediscovery of their own features as empowerment for thought
and the Latin American context is reflected in Latin American critical
studies on communication as an affirmation of difference. But it is also
reflected as a questioning and antagonism of the norm and mainstream
thought of Western modernisation and the hegemonic positivist social
science in the North. Latin American critical studies on communica-
tion demonstrate, for example, with their emergence and critical decon-
structive power, that “thought about borders, margins (which is where
the language of power can be seen most easily) has been in the streets,
squares, people, marches with the population and also in the forums,
summits, discussion days, constituent assemblies over all these dizzy-
ing years” (De Sousa Santos 2010a, p. 5), questioning Anglo-American
hegemony. With the New World Information and Communication
Order movement (NWICO or NWIO), for example, and later the
defence of the McBride Report, Latin America led a debate about access
to information and the democratisation of communication as a funda-
mental component of human rights that marked a turning point in
research agendas. Consequently, and as an outcome of the debate led by
prominent thinkers and activists like Luis Ramiro Beltrán, the region saw
the emergence (in the context of dependency theory) of public policies
in countries like Mexico for access to media by indigenous communities,
thereby legitimating expertise that, as Luis Ramiro Beltrán has noted,
form a distinguishing, original feature of Latin American communicol-
ogy: a praxeological dimension.
In our understanding, theories on culture and communication in Latin
America relating to miscegenation and hybridisation are able to help us
understand the complex relationship between digital media and collec-
tive action. These theories make it possible to understand the syncre-
tism, assignment of new meaning, reconfiguration and deconstruction
in folk, cultured, popular and mass culture, which characterise all social
and media appropriation, using new epistemic bases that redefine the
immanent issues of the body, emotions and insurgent practices as prob-
lematising points that determine net activism practices. Recognising the
central nature of these aspects, along with other rationales that consti-
tute the carnivalised language and narratives of Latin American grass-
roots communication establishes, as a result, the relevance of proposing
another “point of view” for communication studies in the Western world.
36  F. Sierra Caballero and T. Gravante

Furthermore, in the last decades, Latin American social movements’ digi-


tal media has shown how people have fundamentally changed access to
and distribution of knowledge, which, as González claims (1999), was
usually confined to vertical networks, such as universities, institutions and
media mainstream, and characterised by hierarchical relations.
This “new research paradigm that theorises media as practice, rather
than as text or production process” (Couldry 2004, p. 129) is able to
explain the emerging alternative media model in contentious poli-
tics—which Bennett and Segerberg (2012) call the logic of connective
action—such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street or the 15M move-
ment (and beyond). Moreover, this focus on media practice and the
mediation process might sustain another perspective on the mediations
of new intelligent, networked groups, as Mattoni & Trerè proposed in
their latest conceptual framework focused on media practices, mediation,
and mediatisation in social movements (2014). Finally, we believe that
this Latin American framework has the potential to contribute to a better
understanding of the relationship between (digital) media practice and
collective action, as happened decades ago with the reception of soap
opera studies, the then-new thesis on mediation processes for under-
standing melodrama and telenovelas (González 2010), and the digital
space of the cultura latina (Del Valle et al. 2010).

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CHAPTER 3

Tracing the Roots of Technopolitics:


Towards a North-South Dialogue

Emiliano Treré and Alejandro Barranquero Carretero

Introduction. A Widespread but Ambiguous Notion


Academic literature on social movements and digital communication
technologies is expanding and gaining in complexity and diversity.
Indeed, the last two decades have witnessed an ever-increasing interest
in the uses of Internet, social media and mobile devices as new reper-
toires of communication (Mattoni 2013) that help activists gain visibility,
mobilize and coordinate national and transnational protests. Although
communication has rarely been a priority for social movements theorists
(Downing 2008), this dimension has been progressively incorporated and
assessed in recent literature on the emergence of the anti-globalization
movement of the late 1990s and, especially, after the 2011 uprisings

E. Treré 
School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University, Bute
Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3NB, Cardiff, UK
e-mail: TrereE@cardiff.ac.uk
A. Barranquero Carretero (*) 
Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Studies, Universidad Carlos III
de Madrid, Campus de Getafe. Edificio 17 Ortega y Gasset, Calle Madrid,
133, 28903 Getafe, Madrid, Madrid, Spain
e-mail: abarranq@hum.uc3m.es

© The Author(s) 2018 43


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_3
44  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

(Arab Sring, Spanish 15M, Occupy, etc.), dubbed as movements of the


squares (Gerbaudo 2012), of the crisis (Della Porta and Mattoni 2014)
and anti-austerity movements (Gerbaudo 2016).
The creative and imaginative appropriations of media technologies
by social movements has led to a proliferation of new theories and con-
cepts which attempt to interpret the complexity of digital resistance from
several angles: from the analysis of the potentialities and the risks of the
Internet and digital social media, to the dynamic interrelations between
offline and online participation. Nevertheless, many of the new notions-
cyberactivism, hacktivism, technopolitics, e-government, etc.—have
been hurriedly assimilated in academia and social movements’ argot with
certain lack of clarity and accuracy and, above all, without a deeper prob-
lematization from the perspective of previous theoretical frameworks (i.e.
community media, communication for social change, etc.). Furthermore,
these labels are frequently used as interchangeable and often function as
empty signifiers that can carry different political visions (Barassi 2016).
This article will trace back the origin and evolution of the concept
of technopolitics, which has recently popularized among academics and
social activists in both Northern and, especially, Southern countries. We
will first outline its use in technology transfer and scientific innovation,
and then focus on its utilization in studies that address the relations
between technology and the political sphere. Next, we explore its redis-
covery and application at the intersection between the ideas and appropri-
ations of Spanish media activists and engaged academics. After analysing
its reception and adoption in the Latin American context, we will explore
five key potentialities of the concept as well as its connections with other
recent theorizations, especially derived from Anglo-Saxon scholarship.
The article concludes by proposing further dialogues between Northern
and Southern scholars and activists that may be helpful in order to
acquire a more complex and nuanced approach to the relation between
social movements, new technologies and political change.

Technopolitics as Conceptual Horizon


The concept of technopolitics has been applied to a multiplicity of works
from different perspectives and fields. The argument that technological
artefacts have political qualities (Winner 1980) can be heard in a diverse
tradition of researches that underline that politics and technology are
always two inseparable faces of the same coin (Domènech and Tirado
3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  45

1998; Law and Hassard 1999; Latour 2005; Sádaba and Gordo 2008).
In fact, this approach has a long tradition in the history of technological
artefacts or so-called Science and Technology Studies, but its compre-
hension vary from area to area, given that technopolitics “emerged in the
history of technology tradition to account for the ability of competing
actors to envision and enact political goals through the support of tech-
nical artefacts” (Gagliardone 2014: 3).
In fact, this tradition asserts that social life is constantly technologi-
cally mediated with technology permeating every area of it. These reflec-
tions were already underlined many decades ago by Lewis Mumford and
Jacques Ellul (Treré and Barranquero 2013), and in the XXI century
they are also at the centre of current theorizations on the mediatiza-
tion of society and culture (Couldry and Hepp 2016) that highlight that
many traditional conceptions of our society have to be reconsidered, pre-
cisely because they fail to properly address the mediated nature of every
aspect of our social reality.
As a consequence, every political act is inextricably linked to
technology, which unfolds as a space of intervention and as a landscape
of possibilities, as Feenberg (2002) and others clearly show. Thus, the
concept of technopolitics can be considered as a broader conceptual
horizon within which more specific reflections on a wide plethora of
issues can be further articulated. This conceptual horizon posits the inex-
tricable imbrication of technology and politics, which contrasts the vision
of a neutral and distant technology. In particular, technopolitics repre-
sent a powerful antidote against instrumental reductionism that often
permeates social movement studies and social theory in general; that is
the trend to consider technological mediations as mere tools to pursue
predetermined goals (Downing 2008; Rodriguez 2001). Technopolitics
contrasts technological determinism and its vision of technologies as
independent and autonomous forces that are able to transcend social,
political and cultural contexts, but also social determinism that instead,
in its naïve formulations, posits that “technical things do not matter at
all” (Winner 1980: 122).
46  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

Technopolitics in Technology Transfer


and Scientific Innovation

Technopolitics is a widespread concept among scientists that could be


embedded in the so-called hard sciences, especially when applied to sci-
entific discoveries, technology transfer and geopolitical distribution of
technologies. Nevertheless, the understanding of the notion within
these frameworks usually differ from uses in social sciences and democ-
racy theories. For example, Mark Elam (2015) has focused on the politi-
cal and technological tensions on the governmental logic of nicotine
replacement, while Donovan (2015) scrutinizes the biometric imaginary
in post-apartheid welfare in South Africa. In the field of energy, Hecht
(2010) studies the transnational technopolitics of uranium miners in
Namibia and the technopolitics of carbon market construction is at the
centre of other studies (MacKenzie 2010; Kama 2014), with diverse
authors outlining the interplay between political decisions and specific
technical matters.
In general, all this literature tends to address technology with a capi-
tal ‘T’, without making distinctions between various media technologies
and platforms, but focusing instead on the imbrications between specific
political decisions over technical issues and artefacts and vice versa. For
these authors, technology and politics are part of a co-constitutive pro-
cess and communication technologies appear as nodes surrounded by
tensions and controversies. Indeed, technical innovations and transfers
are appropriated or resisted by different actors (governments, institu-
tions, corporations, collective actors, individuals) for multiple and often
contrasting purposes, and the outcomes are never predetermined but
appear as the result of continuous pressures and readjustments. This is
evident if we look at the popular definition of technopolitics provided by
Edwards and Hecht (2010) as “hybrids of technical systems and politi-
cal practices that produce new forms of power and agency” (619). The
authors stress that the entanglement of technology with politics takes
place on narratives of national identity with concrete policy positions
and material outcomes. Here, power lies at the centre of technopolitical
processes, since technology plays a constitutive role in terms of political
power.
3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  47

Technopolitics and the Political Sphere


While the former studies tackle politics in general, often as an aggregate
of different actors and forces, other works adopt technopolitics as a con-
cept to shed light on the more specific nexus between technologies, the
political sphere and democracy. Two authors, in particular, stand out in
this line of technopolitical thought: Stefano Rodotá and Douglas Kellner.
In one of his most famous books, titled “Technopolitics. Democracy and
new communication technologies”, the Italian scholar underlines how
the relations between technics and politics cannot be merely described
in instrumental terms, because technics does not only provide to politics
the tools that politics adopts, but also alters its fundamental characteris-
tics (Rodotà 2004). In the current historical conjuncture, technological
innovation is deeply transforming the political sphere. Hence, technopo-
litics represents the study of these profound transformations, with com-
munication technologies redefining the spaces, time and processes of
politics. Rodotà’s technopolitical approach underlines that new com-
munication technologies provide unexpected possibilities of knowledge
and participation to citizens, while, at the same time, constitute new
resources for the oppression and ubiquitous surveillance of individu-
als and organizations. Rodotà’s analysis transcends techno-determin-
ism providing a more nuanced understanding of the relations between
new media and the political sphere. Hence, according to Kurban et al.
(2016), Rodotà’s approach exemplifies an important and challenging
step towards the development of a solid technopolitical understanding
of media-related political processes, but still its understanding is rarely a
disruptive one, and remains confined within the boundaries of the tradi-
tional understandings of the political role of technologies.
On the other hand, Douglas Kellner defines technopolitics as “the
use of new technologies such as computers and the Internet to advance
political goals” (Kellner 2001: 16). He focuses on a number of opposi-
tional political movements and diverse struggles (1999, 2001) that adopt
new communication technologies to create innovative spaces of partici-
pation and give voice to groups which have been usually excluded from
the mainstream media, thus potentially expanding the scope of democ-
ratization. Kellner examines the way activists and protests (from the
Zapatistas to the global movement against the capitalist globalization)
have used the Internet and digital technologies to expand their radical
democratic agenda. Kellner highlights that technopolitics is a contested
48  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

terrain, since digital technologies have been successfully appropriated


by progressive movements but also right-wing parties, extremist groups
and authoritarian governments. In this context, the author urges us to
adopt a dialectical and critical standpoint to map this contested terrain,
underlining that technopolitics does not represent a replacement of cur-
rent political battles, but instead an addition, so he finally criticizes the
approaches that separate cyber-struggles from other kinds of struggles.
Finally, both authors advocate for a non-instrumental understanding
of the relations between technology and politics, and stress the many
ambivalences inherent in technopolitics as a multifaceted but controver-
sial landscape of potentialities.

Technopolitics in Spain
Latin America and Spain have made a major contribution to the politi-
cization of technopolitics in the last two decades. Indeed, the term
has been progressively associated to the innovative uses of technologi-
cal networks by social movements as well as to previous theorizations
that emphasize either on the emergence of a new political actor (usually
dubbed as connected multitudes) or on the technologically mediated
logics of contemporary collective action (from notions such as Castells’
mass-self communication). Nevertheless, a few scholars still approach it
without a precise and univocal meaning that refers to both social move-
ments and also governmental political communication through ICTs. In
these last cases, technopolitics is synonymous for the technological inno-
vations in diverse fields such as political communication, electoral cam-
paigns and the deepening of transparency and open government ideals
(e.g. González Rubí 2015; Martínez Cabezudo 2015).
The first uses of the term in a Spanish-speaking context can be traced
back to the researches on the viral use of text messages through mobile
devices in the marches of the 13 March 2004 (13M), one day before
the General Elections and after the 11M Al-Quaeda bombing in Atocha
station, which killed almost 200 people. That day, civil disobedience
protests1 in many Spanish capitals denounced the half-truths of the con-
servative government in power (Partido Popular), which attributed the

1 We call them ‘civil disobedience’ given that demonstrations are prohibited in Spain one

day before any election.


3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  49

attack to the Spanish terrorist group ETA instead of to Al Qaeda, as it


was later demonstrated. Although the term was not clearly defined, the
uprising was analysed from the perspective of the technopolitical cyber-
campaigns in an edited collection coordinated by Víctor Sampedro,
which tried to offer “a decalogue of reflections about a new political sub-
ject (multitudes) and its mobilizing form (technopolitics)” (Sampedro
2011: 21).
The concept re-emerged again in the new cycle of protests that
peaked in 2011, the 15M or Indignados movement and its allies or deri-
vations-Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), Mareas, etc., an
uprising that claimed for structural and participatory reforms in diverse
institutions such as governments, corporations or media (Feenstra
et al. 2016). A collective volume published by a group of activists and
researchers2 one year after the 15M demonstrations, “Technopolitics,
Internet and R-evolution” (Alcazan et al. 2012), defined the notion as a
new paradigm to interpret social movements from three major changes:
structures, communication and actions (Alcazan et al. 2012: 12–13). In
terms of actions, the authors claimed that the 15M was inspired by the
networks-form of the Internet, as well as by the hacker ethics and the free
culture movement: collaboration, free access to information, the right
to share and decentralize knowledge, etc. (Alcazan et al. 2012: 27, 34).
Regarding communication, the 15M was qualified as a post-media move-
ment given that it tried to overcome the influence of mainstream media
by taking advantage of the potentialities of mass-self communication and
swarming actions through mobile devices and social networks (Twitter,
Facebook and N-13). Finally, these new technologies enhanced the capac-
ity of self-organization, disintermediation and viral knowledge, and
provoked the emergence of a new collective actor, dubbed as connected
multitudes (Toret 2012: 52) and defined by its collaborative social sub-
jectivity (Alcazan et al. 2012).4
Javier Toret and his colleagues from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
gave further consistency to the concept in the coordinated volume

2 Which included Javier Toret, Arnau Monterde, Antonio Calleja (@alcazan), Simona

Levi and Francisco Jurado (@SuNotissima).


3 Autonomous social network created by 15M activists to coordinate and expand their

actions.
4 Although the book deepens reflections on technopolitics, a certain techno-optimism is

perceivable and there are no references to previous alternative media forms.


50  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

“Technopolitics: the power of connected multitudes” (Toret


2013). With reference to the previous work, technopolitics was defined
as “the tactical and strategic use of digital tools for organization,
communication and collective action” (Toret 2013: 20). Frequent ech-
oes to Manuel Castells’ frameworks can be perceived in their pages,
especially when they associated technopolitics to mass self-communica-
tion (Castells 2012), understanding it as the “capacity of the connected
crowds to create and self-module connective action” (Toret 2013: 20).5
This conception underlines the auto-poietic origin and sustainability of
the new social movements, which opposes the hierarchic and more cen-
tralized patterns of traditional Fordist organizations (trade unions, left-
wing political parties, etc.) (Monterde and Rodríguez y Peña-López
2013: 23).
In the last years, the concept has expanded in different directions.
It has been used to analyse the technopolitical nature of the new maps
and cartographies which emerged around the 15M movement (De
Soto 2014), and has been connected to neuroscience (Barandiaran and
Aguilera 2015), cyborg philosophy (Toret and Pérez de Lama 2012) and
agro-ecologist activism (Espelt et al. 2016). In other cases, it has been
used to compare the older and new political parties (Sánchez Duarte
2015, 2016) and, specially, to examine the techno-discursive frames of
the new political parties associated to the 15M: Podemos, Ganemos,
Partido X, etc. (Toret 2015b; Romanos and Sádaba 2015).

Extension of Technopolitics
to the Latin American Context

Since its popularization among Spanish researchers (Toret, Sampedro,


Monterde, Sádaba, etc.), the concept has expanded across the Atlantic
and is currently being appropriated by a number of Latin American
scholars. In fact, the lens has been used to observe the original tech-
nopolitical practices of recent social movements (Gutiérrez 2015, 2016;
Sierra 2013), and specifically the 2011–2013 Chilean students’ protests

5 In this definition, we also perceive a connection with the concept of connective action

by Bennett and Segerberg (2012), which emphasizes in the physiognomy of online com-
munities which are not necessarily geographic but grounded in relations of interests and
solidarity through the use of new technologies.
3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  51

(Cárdenas Neira 2016), #Yosoy132 and #1Dmx in Mexico (Ávalos


2016; Navarro 2016; Rodríguez Cano 2015; Sancho 2014), or the
Brazilian Movimento Passe Livre in 2013 (Aquino 2015). Beyond their
differences and nuances, these movements can be characterized by the
strong presence of youngsters and the innovative uses of technological
tools to expand, promote participation or coordinate with other anti-
capitalist movements.
In other cases, the label has been used to explicitly approach more
institutional politics such the online campaigns by Argentinian (Castro
et al. 2016) and Brazilian political candidates (Da Silva 2015) or
researches on the so-called technopolitical elites, conceived as the exter-
nal experts that influence political decisions in Chile (Delamaza 2013)
or Argentina (Souroujon 2014). However, no precise definitions are
provided in many of these works, so the usage of the term is sometimes
interchangeable with labels that highlight the technopolical determina-
tion of politics-Webpolitics, Cyberpolitics, Politics 2.0—or concepts
which are also popular in the new social movement´s literature: cyber-
activism, hacktivism, etc. On the other hand, the influence of Spanish
academics is evident since many refer to authors such as Javier Toret
when problematizing the imbrications between technology and social
activists’ practices (i.e. Ávalos 2016; Cárdenas Neira 2016; Gutiérrez
2015, 2016). Nevertheless, Sierra and Gravante (2016) have recently
warned to distinguish between the technopolitical differences between
social movements and political parties (Sierra and Gravante 2016), in
the line of Sampedro and his colleagues (Sampedro et al. 2013). Post-
journalist and researcher Bernardo Gutiérrez has explored the connec-
tions between the collaborative components of traditional cosmovisions
and cosmopolitics in the Latin American context (such as Good Living/
Buen Vivir), and the new cooperative dynamics derived from technopoli-
tics (Gutiérrez 2015, 2016). His thesis is that there is a strong continuity
and connection between the open knowledge ethos and the collabora-
tive spirit that constitutes hacker ethics and contemporary technopoliti-
cal cultures, and the ancestral practices and worldviews that have always
animated Latin America. These cosmopolitical synergies have gener-
ated unexpected hybridizations and connections, and forged a transna-
tional dialogue between the Latin American progressive legacy and the
new wave of Spanish municipalism. As Gutiérrez remarks: “post global
capitalism could emerge from the recombination and synchronization of
52  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

Latin American and South European worldviews, sensitivities and prac-


tices—cosmopolitical and technopolitical” (Gutiérrez 2016).
When applied to social movements, the Spanish-speaking literature on
technopolitics considers that the intersection of activism and technolo-
gies has radically changed the panorama of political communication in
two senses. On the one hand, many consider that technologies have facil-
itated the emergence of a new revolutionary actor that can be character-
ized by its collective rationality, its auto-poietic conformation and its lack
of leadership in the line of Castells’ analyses and previous Anglo-Saxon
theorizations on smart mobs (Rheingold 2002) and collective intelli-
gence (Lévy 1997). On the other hand, technopolitics have helped oth-
ers to connect the online and offline dimensions of civic participation,
especially since Sampedro and Sánchez Duarte stated that “the network
was the square”: “In the last years the Internet was already the square.
Or what is the same, the difference between online and offline has lost
(part of) sense” (Sampedro and Sánchez Duarte 2011).
Lastly, recent years have witnessed the emergence of research groups
and actions that try to shed light on the technological repertories of new
social movements. This is the case of “Tecnopolítica”, based at Universitat
Oberta de Catalunya (http://tecnopolitica.net) and “Tecnopolítica:
Redes, poder y acción colectiva” (www.tecnopoliticas.org), coordinated by
the University of Seville. Both networks incorporate researchers from dif-
ferent regions and disciplines and advocate for constructing applied and
militant research halfway between academia and activism.6

The Potentialities of the Concept


Southern approaches to the concept of technopolitics represent a fruit-
ful path to keep exploring the imbrication between politics, social
movements and information technologies. In fact, although the con-
ceptualization by Toret and others have not been still taken into con-
sideration by Anglo-Saxon literature, we believe that they represent a
powerful direction for alternative media scholars and social movement

6 The concept has been also used in seminars regarding the issue such as the International

Meeting “Los retos de la Academia ante las políticas de comunicación y las prácticas tec-
nopolíticas emergentes” (transl.: The challenges of Academia before communication polit-
ice and emerging technopolitical practices”), held at the City University, London (21 June
2013).
3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  53

researchers, in particular under two aspects. First, it arose from a conflu-


ence between the reflections of academics and activists, and particularly
from the social justice practices and media-related knowledge of social
movements and militants. Technopolitics points to the particular sig-
nificance that the connection between technology and politics acquired
in the Spanish context at the beginning of the XX century, in particular
during the emergence of the 15M movement, but also within the subse-
quent political formations (e.g. Podemos, Partido X, etc.). In fact, in the
last years Spain has represented a unique laboratory for experimentations
and innovations in political communication (Feenstra et al. 2016), a fer-
tile ground for innovative digital media practices regarding politics but
also for the rediscovery of concepts that are able to describe and assess
these changes, such as technopolitics.
Second, we believe that the growing utilization of this term marks
the urge to overcome over-simplistic and instrumental approaches to
the nexus between digital media and social movements. In the follow-
ing paragraphs, we will describe the most significant aspects of the con-
cept of technopolitics when applied to social movements in the Spanish
and Latin American contexts. At the same time, we will try to connect
the notion with other conceptual frameworks that deal with the nexus
between digital technologies and politics, in order to enhance further
dialogues between Anglo-Saxon and Spanish-speaking academics. In
general terms, we highlight five potentialities in the Southern problema-
tization of technopolitics.

An Integral Understanding Beyond Instrumentality


Technopolitics posits a deep, complex and non-instrumental conception
of the relation between technology and politics, whereby “a complex
set of technologies and practices delineate a reconstruction of political
action and space (…), a new field of sociotechnical experimentation”
(Alcazan et al. 2012: 7–8). This approach connects to the vision of, at
least, three theoretical traditions. First, Iberoamerican explorations of
technopolitics are conceived as a conceptual horizon in accordance
with Science and Technology Studies (STS), since they both conceive
politics and technology as deeply related and mutually constitutive,
although the Spanish technopolitical discourse is disconnected from this
school of thought. Second, even if there is no explicit reference to the
work of Rodotà or Kellner, Spanish and Latin American technopolitics
54  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

share the recognition that the political sphere has undergone signifi-
cant changes due to the increasing penetration of digital technologies
and they both consider that oppositional movements have recently sit-
uated at the avant-garde with their innovations and experiments at the
nexus between societal transformation and digital media. Third, tech-
nopolitics has diverse points in common with a wave of scholarship
that apprehend the media-movements’ connection trough the lens of
the media practice concept. Developed in particular by Couldry (2004,
2012), this approach urges us to look at what people actually do with
the media, in order to go beyond common assumptions based on instru-
mental and media-centric conceptions. Couldry’s reflections, paired with
understandings of media practice emerged within media anthropology
(Bräuchler and Postill 2010), have impacted scholars of various disci-
plines to adopt and apply this vision to the study of activism and social
movements. The findings of this body of work points to the importance
of recognizing the symbolic dimension of communication, focusing on
the agency of social movement actors and their use of a multiplicity of
digital social media to nurture and sustain collective identities, organize
and coordinate protests, influence the agenda of mainstream media, and
create a shared memory of their contentious activities (Cammaerts et al.
2013; Treré 2012; Uldam and Askanius 2013). This tradition also high-
lights the tensions, ambivalences and negotiations of everyday activists’
struggles against digital capitalism (Barassi 2015).

An Attention to Hybrid (Online-Offline) Political Action


A central aspect of Spanish technopolitics is the importance of the con-
nection between online and offline participation. In this approach, digital
technologies are useful only insofar as they serve to get people in the
streets and in the squares: real social change is thus always the result of
this powerful combination. This is why activists and scholars place par-
ticular attention in differentiating this concept from other neighbouring
ones. For instance, technopolitics cannot be equated with cyberactivism
(Tascón and Quintana 2012). For technopolitical scholars, the latter is
embedded exclusively in the digital sphere while technopolitics refers
to the new collective organization patterns of social movements in the
network society, which can start from the web but have to transcend it.
As we mentioned, technopolitics is based on the innovative and smart
strategic uses of technologies by activists through different platforms
3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  55

(interplatforms) and layers (multilayers), which include the connec-


tion between online and offline strategies from a non-deterministic view
(Toret 2013: 42). Faced with the massive spread of online tactics, the
first accounts of digital activism were almost obsessed with the immi-
nent disappearance of the body and of traditional and in-the-flesh street
demonstrations (Treré and Mattoni 2016). In contrast, technopolitical
conceptions almost take for granted that the digital is deeply integrated
in offline protest actions at various levels7 and thus technopolitics tran-
scends binaries and understands contemporary digital political action as
inherently hybrid, echoing the reflections of Chadwick’s hybrid media sys-
tems (2013) and the recent adoption of the ecological metaphor to inter-
pret digital collective action (for a review see: Treré and Mattoni 2016).
Similarly to technopolitics, the ecological vision of social movements
and their media points to the exploration of socio-technical multiplicity
in order to overcome dichotomies (online/offline, new/old, etc.) and
adopt a diachronic perspective that recognizes that both movements and
media are social processes that evolve in an intricate dance.

A Focus on Social Movements’ Innovation and Experimentation


Spanish technopolitics heavily relies on the principles of hacker ethics
(Himannen 2001) that denotes the production of knowledge and practi-
cal innovations within hacker communities through anonymous collec-
tive reflection and action. It is also based on the lessons and principles of
the free culture movement, and the OpenSource culture rooted in a non-
hierarchical, collaborative and open spirit (Fuster Morell 2012; Postill
2016). Innovation, collaboration and experimentation with technologies
are thus at the center of technopolitics, yet this concept is not completely
reducible to the notion of hacktivism, because this latter term is more
restricted and refers to the laboratory of practices of hacker communities
which may suddenly become massive and incorporated in the repertories
of social movements. Instead, technopolitics represents the popular and
user-friendly derivation of hacker practices when they become ordinary
(Toret 2013: 44; see also Gerbaudo 2012), that is, when they encompass
the creation of alternative digital platforms but also the appropriation

7 This also explains the technopolitical critique to the concept of slacktivism, criticized for

being a weak manifestation of online activism.


56  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

and cyber-material détournement (Galis and Naumayer 2016) of


(popular) corporate social media platforms.

An Attention to Present and Future Non-Human Actions


The widespread use of political bots and sophisticated algorithms in con-
temporary digital politics (Woolley and Howard 2016) has (re)ignited a
debate about the role, the impact and the consequences of non-human
actors in the political sphere. Technopolitics insists on the hybrid nature
of social movements’ relation to digital media not only in terms of an
imbrication of online/offline dimensions, but also referring to a sym-
biotic and evolving connection between humans and machines (Toret
2013; Toret 2015a), which is very close to what Galis and Neumayer
define as cyber-material agency, or the “sociomaterial alliances between
activists, computers, the Internet, transmitters, and receivers of informa-
tion, web platforms, and mobile phones” (2016: 2). As the authors point
out, this concept “not only deepens our understanding of the complex
interactions between human and nonhuman entities in the performance
of (material–digital) resistance but also captures how this hybridity re-
orders (détourner) activism, the spatiality of protest, and the political
economy of corporate social media” (Galis and Neumayer 2016: 2).

An Emphasis of the Emotional Aspects of Recent Uprisings


The role of emotions has been usually neglected within studies on social
movements and protest, but it has resurfaced in the last years often in
connection to the affordances of digital media technologies, especially in
the South (Gravante 2016). The attention to the emotional dimension is
a key trait of technopolitics, with scholars insisting on its capacity to cre-
ate not just movements based on reason, but also on emotions, underlin-
ing the building of indignant and empowered states of mind determined
by mutual collaboration which “undo isolation and fear and activate a
common space for interaction and collective action” (Toret 2013: 73).
Technopolitics can be thus considered as an attempt to resolve the ten-
sion between approaches that tend to privilege the organizational dimen-
sion of collective action, and approaches more focused on the cultural
an identitarian aspects of social movements. While this endeavor is not
exempt from issues (especially in relation to the quantification of emo-
tions via big data analytics), it has also clear merits. First, it shows, along
3  TRACING THE ROOTS OF TECHNOPOLITICS: TOWARDS …  57

with Jasper (1998), that emotions are not irrational allies of social action,
but provides purpose and motivation. Secondly, in line with recent stud-
ies that apply affect and emotion as a parameter to our understanding of
civic engagement online (Papacharissi 2015), it clearly shows the signifi-
cance of technology for catalyzing and channeling emotions and senti-
ments before, during and after mobilizations.

Conclusions: Towards a North-South Dialogue


This article has deepened the theoretical and historical roots of the con-
cept of technopolitics, by critically charting different disciplines and
strands of literature that adopt and apply this tem. Throughout this con-
ceptual journey, we have come to understand that, besides their differ-
ences, most of the historical and contemporary approaches underline the
deep and complex connections between contemporary politics and tech-
nological apparatuses. When specifically applied to collective action and
social movements’ politics, Latin American and, especially, Spanish tech-
nopolitical discourses are acting as an antidote against the technological
determinism-also dubbed as cyberfetishism (Rendueles 2013) or techno-
logical solutionism (Morozov 2013), that characterized many of the first
analyses of the Web 2.0 as an inherent enhancer of liberty, development
and social justice.
In this sense, we have argued that the notion is of outmost value,
since it overcomes an instrumental conception of media technologies,
placing particular attention on the profound and multifaceted connec-
tions between online and offline participation. From this point of view,
technologies influence in-the-streets collective action and vice versa
and both dimensions can be explored by establishing connections with
other frameworks-media practices, media ecologies, etc.- that emphasize
the role of information technologies, and their links with non-mediated
communication and traditional media outlets-community radio, dissident
press, etc.-. With our chapter, we hope to have contributed at various
levels to (a) the enhancement of a dialogue between various concep-
tions of technopolitics that rarely talk and learn from each other, (b) the
establishment of connections between the concept of technopolitics and
other related theoretical lenses that try to understand the intricacies of
the movements-media nexus; and finally (c) a much-needed exchange
between Anglo-Saxon theorizations and Spanish and Latin American
technopolitical discourses. We believe that further dialogue need to
58  E. Treré and A. Barranquero Carretero

be established between traditions and ‘schools of thought’ in order to


advance towards a deeper understanding of the emergence of new politi-
cal structures when activists and social movements appropriate technolo-
gies for political purposes.

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CHAPTER 4

E-Democracy. Ideal vs Real,


Exclusion vs Inclusion

Andrea Ricci and Jan Servaes

Much of the literature on e-democracy produced from the late 1990s


until very recently is truly optimistic when it describes Information
Technology’s natural inclination towards creating the right conditions
for social and political inclusion.
Many contributions have been made that support the postulate of a
political revolution (read a ‘revolution’ in political participation terms)
happening on the net with the emergence of the Web 1.0 (correspond-
ing to the ‘revolution’ brought by broadband internet and the web),
2.0 (corresponding to the mobile and blogging ‘revolution’) and 3.0
(corresponding to the ‘social media revolution’). Many have posited,
rather axiomatically and often without much empirical backing, that
the web has essentially positive effects on democracy as it meets a set of

A. Ricci (*) 
ULB [ReSIC: Research Center in Information and Communication],
54 Rue de l’été, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
e-mail: andreariccieu@gmail.com
J. Servaes 
KULeuven, 234/63, Soi 3 Park Ave, Thanon 121, San Pu Loei,
Doi Saket, Chiangmai 50220, Thailand
e-mail: jan.servaes@kuleuven.be

© The Author(s) 2018 65


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_4
66  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

latent (and natural) societal needs for values such as transparency and
accountability, the need to be informed about public issues, and the need
to play an active role in the preservation of well-being and self-interest.
Considerable criticisms have been raised against these interpretative
models of electronic democracy in the past twenty years. These criti-
cisms have been so numerous and sometimes so cogent that they make
us wonder whether it really still makes sense to talk about electronic
democracy. Yet none of these critical arguments managed to stop the
widespread belief that something good was happening, that a vibrant and
borderless polity was and is emerging online. Recently, this positive nar-
rative was used to analyse the role of social media in the so-called Arab
Spring, or to explain the emergence of parties like the international net-
work of Pirate Parties or the Movimento Cinque Stelle in Italy.
During much of the 1990s and the beginning of the new century,
empirical studies in this field were too limited in size. Few institutions
and researchers managed to influence the dominant narrative about the
budding political web. This chapter describes the findings of one of the
first attempts to study at least one complete section of the huge com-
munity of politically relevant actors online. More than 2000 sites (n =
2073) have been thoroughly analysed, including the complete array of
Latin American Party Web sites known to exist at the time of the scan.
It is a pilot experience, which represents both a thorough quest for
evidence of inclusive political behaviours online and a reference method
for future studies.
It could be argued that this chapter contains old empirical data
(2004–2005), which only represents a portrait of online parties, ten
years after the creation of the web, but also more than ten years ago.
It’s true that this research pre-dates the emergence of modern social
media. We argue however that this work remains relevant for two main
reasons. One is methodological: no other comparable empirical research
covering the entire known universe of online political parties activities
has been carried out after 2005. The second argument concerns theo-
ries on political inclusion worldwide: this research has allowed to spot
in 2005 a negative trend towards political exclusion which—as three
consecutive Pew Research Centers reports proved in 2008, 2010 and
2016—got stronger, rather than weaker, in parallel to the emergence of
social media.
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  67

Huisman and the E-Democracy Illusion


Thirty years ago, Arterton (1985) empirically dismantled claims about
the thaumaturgic powers of televoting, not only by highlighting the role
that a traditional media mix still played in engineering a mobilisation
campaign, but also by warning against the considerable latent costs of
these projects and the systematic disinterest of the electorate.
Others, like Ornstein and Schenkenberg (1996) or Calabrese and
Borchert (1996) attacked the plebiscitarian model; yet more, like
McChesney (1997) and Norris (2000, 2001), criticised its imperfect
materialisation (by referring to the notions of a partial public sphere or
the political implications of the digital divide).
We will focus on three sets of arguments which support a critical view
of e-democracy and Web 2.0 as an enabler for political participation and
inclusion.
One has been offered recently by Huisman (2011); the others date
back a few years and were made by Sartori (1962, 1987)—which we
have often quoted in previous works (Ricci 2003, Servaes 2005)—and
Margolis and Resnick (2000).
Huisman (2011) organises his critique of the illusion of e-democracy
and the power of Web 2.0 by summarising the findings of critical schol-
ars in five themes:

Deliberative spaces & the public sphere: the romanticised ideals of


1. 
the public space are unrealistic as forums because they lack any delib-
erative discussion and are dominated by atypical partisans and ideo-
logues. Quoting Chadwick (2009), Huisman supports the idea that:

while face to face interaction usually imposes the well known demands
of basic civility; the removal of such discipline from the online environ-
ment makes it much easier to express views that are on the margins of the
social and political acceptability. Racism, sexism, and all manner of other
prejudices flourish online, where individuals can hide behind the cloak of
anonymity or pseudonymity, both widely accepted practices in cyberspace.
(Huisman 2011: 2)

2. Participation: Huisman in this respect quotes Bimber (1996,


1998) (who found little evidence of a link between the collec-
tion of political information online and voting activities); Chung
(2008) (who provides evidence that online politics do not
68  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

stimulate mass participation by citizens), and Blom et al. (2011)


(who show the role of “dominators” in online discussions as true
enemies of deliberation). He also attacks Xenos and Foot’s (2008)
notion of Web 2.0’s co-productive interactivity by stating, like
Nielsen (2006), that “most users don’t participate very much.
Often they simply lurk in the background”. This idea, known as
the “90-9-1 rule”, implies that only one percent of Internet users
accounts for most contributions. Huisman adds to this point:

The interactive features and participatory culture of Web 2.0 do not neces-
sarily do anything or lead anywhere. The function on a social networking
website like Facebook to ‘like’ someone or something for example does
little if anything to the (online) democratic discourse. (Huisman 2011: 6)

3. Digital divide: on this theme, already explored by Norris (2003),


Rice and Haythornthwaite (2006), Ricci (1997, 1998), Servaes
(2003), Heinderyckx (2002, 2003), Servaes and Heinderyckx (2002),
and others, Huisman speaks of new electronic aristocrats generating
social gaps (i.e. exclusion rather than inclusion), not only within devel-
oped countries, but between some modern countries and the rest of
the world.
4. Echo chambers: Huisman suggests that online forums are “echo
chambers which corrode democracy, as people on the Internet tend to
seek out like minded people to have their (political) views reinforced
rather than challenged by other views and perspectives” (Huisman
2011: 8). This is also known as confirmation bias (Nickerson 1998).
5. Quality and quantity of information: in contrast with
Chadwick’s (2006) notion of an era of informational exuberance,
Huisman views Web 2.0 and the participatory online culture as a
cause of information overload (which Servaes (1998) sees as cou-
pled to the phenomenon of pleonastic exclusion), leading to more
and more information quickly becoming irrelevant or difficult to
find. In the absence of gatekeepers, anyone can post anything on
the Internet, resulting in a multiplication of fabricated information,
gossip and rumours. Huisman, quoting Lazarsfeld, Schramm and
Roberts, returns to the classic theory that inverts the causal nexus
between consumption of media and interest in politics: “people
who are already interested in politics tend to use media to reinforce
those interests, while people who are not or less interested tend to
avoid political news and information” (Huisman 2011: 10).
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  69

Giovanni Sartori’s Critique of Electronically Enabled


Forms of Direct Democracy
Sartori (1987, 1990, 1993, 1997) has, since 1987, continuously criti-
cised all calls for web-enabled deliberative forms of direct democracy. He
has criticised the infuriating eulogy of activism and, specifically, the atti-
tude of those that do not suggest a path to participate better, but simply
ask “to participate more,…. with the view to learn how to participate”.
Sartori has warned against the zero sum game rationale of plebiscitary
democracy, the risks of polarisation and the decline of the notion of politics
as the art of compromise. He has also noted the remarkable shortcomings
of the plebiscitary model’s dependence on polls (and the risk of flaws in
the design of the questionnaires), on media (and the risk of political drifts,
manipulation and economic control over the free flow of information) and
has pointed out the contradictions of a model which calls for citizen power
and at the same time cannot rid itself of the mechanisms of issue selection
(see the minipopulus mechanism in Dahl 1998), channelling and gate-
keeping (which simply cannot be delegated to the public at large).
Sartori has reminded us that the sheer scope of contemporary politi-
cal issues makes it impossible for the demos to deliberate on everything
like in Ancient Greece. The problems are too complex, and often out of
the community’s reach, out of the community’s sight. The community
itself does not succeed in relating with its parts as suggested by Luhmann
and Habermas (Lüdecke 2007); it is simply incapable of perceiving itself.
Information overload and the economic and political pressures organised
around the flow of media information make moving from information
gathering to episteme a challenge. Electronically achieving direct relation-
ships between all the members of our (contemporary) communities is
an illusion. The public debate that would result from this would be par-
tial, amputated, and the meaning of a direct relationship between all the
members of the demos would simply vanish.
At the same time, with this type of direct e-democracy (the e-democracy
of homo videns, as Sartori calls it), a large, non-expert audience (always a
sub-set of the group who have the right to choose), would be called upon
to decide on urgent, serious and even dangerous matters without any prep-
aration. Issues would move from nowhere (the issues we are not aware of)
to my place and would be judged as private matters. As Sartori puts it:

I should pray to God to save us from this push-button democracy (or the
triumph of the inexperienced). (Sartori 1993: 83)
70  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

Margolis and Resnick’s Normalisation


Theory of Cyberspace
Margolis and Resnick (2000), with Politics as Usual: the cyberspace revolu-
tion, completed the critical excursus against early notions of electronic
democracy. Their normalisation thesis opened a brand new interpretative
model, not specifically for electronic democracy, but for a set of phenom-
ena that were categorised as the Internet’s impact on politics.
The normalisation thesis emphasises the fact that:

…Cyberspace is taking on the characteristics of ordinary life…simply


becoming another arena in the ongoing struggle for wealth, power and
political influence. (Margolis and Resnick 2000: 2)

There is an extensive political life on the Net, but it is mostly an exten-


sion of political life off the Net …Campaigning on the web might capture
the attention of those who are unreachable by traditional campaign tech-
niques, but for now, a web site seems merely to demonstrate that a candi-
date is aware of current trends and is committed to the latest technology…
It is truly utopian to believe that the internet could transform politics radi-
cally in advanced industrial society by making politics more like a conversa-
tion among equals than a series of elaborate presentation that attempt to
elicit support and approval of relatively passive consumers. (Margolis and
Resnick 2000: 7–17)

Margolis and Resnick argue that what is being put on the majority of
political websites are not interactive discussions, but presentations:

…The internet does have a distinct advantage over the broadcast media
because it enables a citizen to stop the show and concentrate on an inter-
esting aspect of the presentation and if, desired, to download and preserve
it for future consideration or mark the site for a return visit. (Margolis and
Resnick 2000: 17)

Therefore, Margolis and Resnick, like Sartori, dismiss full direct democ-
racy as a viable option in contemporary politics:

It is unlikely that there will be a massive increase in political participation


because of the Internet….even if direct democracy were a good idea – and
there are many reasons to believe that it is not better than representative
democracy – it simply will not happen. Direct democracy is not appropriate
for a complex industrial or postindustrial society…Public policy issues are
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  71

too complicated and citizens too distracted to devote the time and effort
to public affairs that such a society would require…The changes that the
Internet will bring to modern democracies will be important, but hardly
revolutionary. (Margolis and Resnick 2000: 207–208)

In contrast with the models suggested by Bonchek (1997), Hauben and


Hauben (1997), Mann (1995), Rheingold (1993, 2002) or Schwartz
(1996), which saw in the new political web opportunities for virtual
political organisations and minor parties to emerge, and in contrast
with what Schweitzer (2008) calls the innovation hypothesis, Margolis
and Resnick posit that cyberspace is politics as usual and consider that
new political organisations’ fate depends more on the message than the
medium.
For Margolis and Resnick, online entities must generate real-world
shifts of power and resources to become meaningful politically:

…Some believe that democratic process in advanced societies could be


invigorated if the minor parties of today used the internet to get their
message of hope and change across to the broad mass of the citizenry.
Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support that belief. The access of
marginal movements to a new and powerful medium of mass communi-
cations has not led them to make significant headway in the real world.
The problem seems to lie more in the message than in the medium….
Whatever new exposure minor parties and movements have gotten by
entering cyberspace has yet to be translated into real-world shifts of power
and resources. (Margolis and Resnick 2000: 207–208)

A Broader Research Framework as a Pre-requisite


to Better Understanding the Multiple Influences
of E-Democracy on Political Parties’ Online Strategies

Almost twenty years after their birth, early e-democracy models continue
to resist the criticisms made of them. While the public debate on Web
2.0 and politics continues to be impermeable to dissenting opinions,
a sufficiently explicit and consensual theory to explain the resilience of
proto-edemocratic concepts has yet to emerge.
As Margolis and Resnick (Margolis and Resnick 2000: 72) note:

Notwithstanding the paucity of evidence regarding their impact on elec-


tions or public policy, party, candidate, and interest group Web sites will
72  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

continue to grow in number and sophistication. They or their equivalents


will play important roles in politics on whatever forms the Internet cum-
Information Highway cum-World Wide Web eventually takes. It seems
doubtful, however that their impact will be to democratize or otherwise
bring about fundamental change in American politics.

We argue, together with Lusoli (2003, 2005), that the e-democracy


­paradox is the result of a true system of vested interests that co-operates—
with epistemic dysfunctions not dissimilar from propagandistic
narratives—to re-propose this debate from ever-changing angles. In
­
such a system, several actors (institutional, industrial, pundits) and fac-
tors (sectoral and national policies, development of new media, secto-
ral competition, etc.), generate a ripple effect on the different segments
(from global level to actor level) that compose the global system of this
research field (Servaes 2015).
This interaction generates a megatrend, which is immune to the
effects of theoretical criticism and the limited empirical validation that
traditional research methods have allowed to emerge. E-Democracy has
thus shifted from figure of speech to scholarly concept to ideological vec-
tor. Rather than speaking in terms of evolution, the dominant narrative
underlines the revolutionary impact of technology.
As Margolis and Resnick, but also Chadwick, note, there is still little
empirical investigation on political parties’ online behaviour. Prior to this
research, only two comparative analyses had attempted to study politi-
cal parties’ websites from a global perspective. However, their analysis
only covered a fraction of the political party websites identifiable online
through major metasites.
Doing better than that required a change in theoretical models and
a more robust technique (i.e. a specific analytical strategy supported by
adequate software).
We argue that Information Architecture theories provide a source of
methods for detecting evidence of inclusive functions (linkage) in party
websites. We also argue that party websites should be studied as a matter
of priority as they represent the political web stricto sensu. They are—at
least in principle—an important potential locus of the narrative support-
ing political inclusion. Clearly, parties are not the only locus.
The potential research perimeter has indeed an extraordinary size:
similar to Deutsch’s (1963, 1974) continuum of political actors.
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  73

Scrutinising “just” the whole universe of political parties websites


online is significantly challenging (“a ladder to the moon”, one of the
technical interlocutors who assisted us in the research process said). The
solution, in our case, was to use a ‘programmer’s approach’. In other
words, in addition to using tools and concepts from communication
studies, we had to integrate techniques and models from information
sciences and web design.
In effect, this meant automatically scanning the structure of all known
political party sites, using the largest dataset available at the time. The
scanning tool was a “link analyser” (a piece of software called Web Link
Validator) capable of detecting not only the depth of a site, but also its
programming structure: the number and direction of links and presence
of interactive resources such as forms, forums or mailto commands (i.e.
all the tools needed to include anyone “else” in a political conversation).
That process would allow us to see if parties were walking the talk of
e-democracy and inclusion or were, in fact, simply electronic dazibaos1 or
supports for unilateral/univocal presentations, as suggested by Margolis
and Resnick.

Research Method and Findings


The analysis covered 2073 cases and was part of Andrea Ricci’s 2013
Ph.D. dissertation (Ricci 2013). Like Norris (2000) (who studied a set
of only 1250 parties), we counted all parties with a different name sepa-
rately. The survey was carried out between the end of December 2004
and mid-April 2005. The list of political parties was extracted by down-
loading the entire metasite of Electionworld.org (the extraction was per-
formed on 14/12/2004). The list included parties that had participated
in recent elections in a given country (with documented results), but also
newly formed parties and minor political movements, which had not yet
competed in elections.
The software used in this survey was developed exclusively for this pro-
ject by REL software (Version 3.5 build 343 of WebLinkValidator WLV).
The software ran 24/7 on several (up to 5) machines simultaneously on

1 Dazibao/[Wade-Giles] tatzepao: large-print newspaper hanging on a wall for public

reading which became popular again during the Maoist Cultural Revolution in China (see
Poon 1978).
74  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

the basis of command line programming. WLV data were first exported
in HTML and then converted into an SPSS file for further analysis. Prior
to the full WLV run between December 2004 and April 2005, a success-
ful WLV trial attempt was implemented in 2004. This attempt allowed
Andrea Ricci, under the coordination of Prof. Jan Servaes and Prof.
Francois Heinderyckx (ULB), to find a technical solution using WLV to
deal with large dynamic sites (called meso or neosites depending on the size
of their dynamic pages).
Technically, dynamic web pages are:

• Web pages containing dynamic content (e.g., images, text, form


fields, etc.) that can change/move without the web page being
reloaded or
• Web pages that are produced on-the-fly by server-side programs,
frequently based on parameters in the URL or from an HTML
form.

Having contended with difficulties related to combinatory explosion


(the analysis of the Jayo Minju Yonmaeng party in Korea, for example,
blocked one machine for 213 hours; the software collected information
about 112,818 links during that time) it was decided to introduce a con-
straint (which was applied to a little more than a hundred cases in this
survey) in the analysis to stop the analytical process once the software
reached 50,000 links.
The distribution of the data retrieved by WLV was significantly
a-normal (min 1 max 279,202 mean 4151.86 standard deviation
14,050.871).
Some 14% of the sites (14.3%) consisted of a single link (either a sin-
gle page or a broken URL suggesting that the site was no longer main-
tained), 3% of the sites had 2 links and 2.5% had 3. These three groups
should indicatively be seen as corresponding to the description of a
protosite,2 i.e. the most basic and rudimentary of websites.

2 It would be justified to assume that many of these web properties belong to fringe par-

ties, i.e. organizations that, according to Norris (2000: 6) “identify themselves as party
and run candidates, yet lack at least 3% of the elected members of the lower house of the
national parliament”.
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  75

An example of that was the 2001 site of the Partito Intransigente


(http://www.pi.org.ar), member of the FREPASO alliance in Argentina.
Similar sites could be found elsewhere in Latin America (and elsewhere
for example in Asia) notably among Marxist Leninist parties.
Virtually all these sites in Latin America shared almost identical struc-
tural attributes: red background, basic HTML, no frames, iconography
which made reference to the historical figures of the ideology (or to
the battles the movement had to combat to survive locally), anthems or
other symbolic music (the international played as an automatic midi file),
large display of internal house organ(s), a ratio between text and images
highly unbalanced towards texts, news and documents organised verti-
cally in a single page, from the last (on the top) to the oldest one.
Most of these sites—turning necessity into virtuosity—had (below
standard—in usability/information architecture terms), but decent usa-
bility thanks to the efforts of a single volunteer, and activist. Often the
impoverished look of these sites gave the impression to be coherent with
an ideology which criticizes both consumerism and the establishment.
The result was not less effective than bigger sites: it was less intimi-
dating, often simpler to use and more fun. We reckon that precisely due
to the explicit effort of doing more with less these sites did not miss the
objective of being—like true movements—closer to the base. They actu-
ally were the base. Simple and popular.
A good example of this genus was the Partido Obrero Revolucionario
of Argentina, a movement with declared Marxists, Leninist, Trozkist ide-
ological roots. Its home page—characteristically hosted by Geocities (an
historical provider of free hosting services now owned by Yahoo)—was in
2001–2002 a model: it was in four languages, it was small, but saturated
with every single Internet resource known to increase both traffic and
online activity.
It featured LinkExchange and RecommendIt, two mechanisms which
facilitated the signalling of interesting web pages between users; a link to
the international politics page of Yep.com (an internet directory); public
statistics on the usage of the site (a rare gesture of transparence in the
political web) and finally three different WebRings (Commie Ring, Class
Struggle Web Ring, Struggle Solidarity Socialism WebRing).
WebRings were flexible and extensible structures which grouped links
belonging to a same subject areas in virtual entities: a small piece of
HTML code was inserted in the page allowing users to visit with just a
click another member of the ring (the site was chosen randomly).
76  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

Being a member of a WebRing was ten years ago—in a pre-social


media era—a quick means to create a social network and attract—for
free—relevant traffic. The Partido Obrero, was probably not ‘revolu-
tionising’ the power balance in the Argentian political spectrum, but was
exceptionally resourceful and had quite skillfully inserted itself in three
different, but pertinent rings; it was therefore easier to bump into the
site both for true believers, but also for everyone else.
In 2005 at global level, roughly 50% of the sites observed had fewer
than 1000 links. 10% had between 1000 and 3000 links. Less than 7% of
the sites observed had between 3000 and 10,000 links. Just over 4% of
the sites had between 10,000 and 48,000 links. This latter group should
be seen as high-end mesosites or neosites. In our taxonomy, neosites are the
most sophisticated forms of online presence, with a high degree of pro-
gramming, multimedia and, in principle, a considerable set of technolo-
gies supporting interactivity and political dialogue.
A correlation analysis showed that Internal links were strongly cor-
related with dynamic pages. Pure jumplists to external sites and pure
internal links (from static pages to other static pages, document archives
or internal sections of a document) are models that appeared to being
in the process of fading away in favour of the mesostyles (i.e. dynamic
websites).
Several manual observation campaigns, carried out over the years that
this research required, had shown that many party websites had become
denser and more complex in only a few years.
A broader correlation analysis of the various categories of links
(good, broken, internal, external) unsurprisingly revealed that internal
links (those which are more closely controlled by the webmaster) were
strongly correlated with good links. The analysis of the status of broken
links revealed two extremes: sites which had almost no or very few bro-
ken links (almost 70% of the sample) and 12.5% of cases in which almost
the entire site was broken.
Geographically, the research showed strong correlation between a
nation’s level of development, level of technical proficiency and poor
development, maintenance and further growth of political websites. This
argument is shared with Pippa Norris (2000).
The analysis of external links showed that almost all political sites
(except for 16.2% of the observed universe) had elected a system of
external web sites which could potentially play the role referrals provid-
ing backlinks to the main party property. It became clear after 2005, that
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  77

that wasn’t the safest and most effective SEO strategy to generate incom-
ing traffick, but rather it was necessary to insert backlinks in rich content
posts.
Concerning internal links, more than 43% of the sample appeared
to be composed of websites which were almost exclusively made up of
internal links (at 90–100%).
The survey revealed that multimedia assets in political websites were
markers of “stage mobility” between proto, meso and neosites. The
inclusion of more and more multimedia resources in websites is event
today, a clear marker of a dynamic which ultimately leads to the neo-
site stage. Detection of all the extensions used to produce multimedia
content on websites (.swf, .asf, .asx, .avi, .mid, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .ram,
.rm, .smil, .wav, .wma, .wmf, .wmv) and analysis of the cases they were
related to revealed that in 68.1% of the observed universe there was mul-
timedia (a phenomenon that had no real geographical connotation).
On the other hand, 14.7% of the sites had 5 or more multimedia items
within the site structures. In this particular case, the geographical distribu-
tion seemed to confirm the hypothesis that use of multimedia resources
was growing in developing countries not only for speeches or press con-
ferences, but to reinforce community identity (through songs, films etc.).
Regarding Flash usage, the survey revealed that there was at least
one .swf file (often the splash screen) in 8.1% of the cases. On roughly
8% of websites, .swf files decorated pages or served as a basic navigation
service. Today video is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and, after the
explosion of Snapchat, is becoming THE driving factor for the growth of
Facebook and Instagram.
As we mentioned above, throughout the Ph.D. project duration, we
could observe that a great deal of our sample was shifting towards more
advanced site programming models.
Almost 39% of the sample had at least some dynamic pages (in many
cases the entire structure is dynamic). Meso and Neosite were clearly
included in this group. Those that had no sign dynamic pages (38% of
the cases analysed) were clearly protosites, 100% of which were derived
from static pages.
Protosites were concentrated in developing countries: this confirms
Norris’ idea that “levels of democratic, technological and socioeconomic
development are all plausible factors that may explain the distribution
[and the structure, we would add] of party and government web sites
worldwide” (Norris 2000).
78  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

The distribution of dynamic sites covered OECD countries and devel-


oping countries where there was no shortage of skilled IT resources (this
was the case, for example, of the countries in the Mediterranean region
and in some Latin American countries).
A correlation analysis confirmed the role played by ASP, Java and PHP
in the size of party sites, particularly the development of deep pages: more
and more of what was and still is contained on party sites (our thoughts
go to the Movimento Cinque Stelle Blog) is not on the surface and meso
and neosites started to function in 2005 as archival resources for the
party community. This trend which clearly was detected by our research
in 2005, is probably unstoppable, and it represents an evolution which
decreases the transparency and usability of party websites (as the access to
this deep content is mediated by external or embedded search engines).
The interactivity question was been measured in this survey through
the detection of mailto commands and form and input coding on web-
sites. The distribution of both indicators was abnormal in both cases.
In 34.7% of cases there was no mailto; in 51.9% there was no form.
In 13.8% of cases there was at least one mailto command and in 16.7%
there was at least one form (although it was not said whether the form
was used to post comments or provide politically relevant feedback). A
fraction of the universe (1–2%) had multiple forms and input methods
(they were advanced neosites).
When we grouped forms, mailto and input together, we saw that a
significant number of cases (28.6%) had no form of public interaction
mechanism. From a political inclusion perspective, against the pervasive
narrative of the eDemocracy revolution in the early 2000, this repre-
sented an important finding, which could be contradicted only by the
unlikely existence of forms based on Flash or Java; methods that were
too complex for embedding a messaging application on a website.
The geographical distribution seemed to suggest that there was just
a slight difference between developing and developed countries with
regard to this issue.
Some 900 sites (43.5% of those observed) had 5 or more interaction
items (this includes sites with multiple email addresses to allow email
to decentralised/thematic party structures) within the site structure. In
total, 46.3% of the observed websites had no or little interactivity (i.e.
one or two methods).
Unless we define interactivity differently (for example, like Norris),
data extracted from real cases in 2004 did not seem to support the
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  79

hypothesis that the structure of the observed sites was largely geared
towards facilitating inputs from the public at large. This finding seemed
instead to support the hypothesis that party websites were fundamen-
tally used to post or better propagate information, rather than to gather
desires and needs.
There was little political interactivity (and political inclusiveness),
in the sense of web applications which store or update data obtained
through forms and mails (PHP and ASP client server activities), in the
political web observed in 2004/2005, roughly ten years after the birth
of the World Wide Web. Despite this, there was a ubiquitous narra-
tive defending the emergence and benefits of unstoppable electronic
democracy.
Analysing the information architecture of party websites in the early
2000s would show that a significant number of political sites within the
largest repository available at that time (Electionsworld.org) did not pos-
sess a structure with the technical requirements for even basic political
participation online.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, some 40% of the sites scanned
(likely belonging to affluent parties or active members of governing coa-
litions, as Norris suggests) had a considerable number of interactivity
indicators.
This value, and the significant number of sites that had a consider-
able amount of links, proved that the phenomenon of meso and neosites
was there to last and that party websites would increasingly tend to evolve
from basic dazibaos to copies of mainstream media online. The growth
would have been based on internally produced articles (like the Cinque
Stelle Blog) and through torrents of multimedia content (audio and
video streams which are increainsgly dominating the growth of social
media).
Political parties in 2004–2005 were already on track to become vic-
tims of the bias of modern newspapers, i.e. what Harold Innis (1964)
called “[the attempt to gain] control over time” (an attempt which gen-
erates too much content that is changed too often). At the same time,
they struggled with another bias of the web: its particular readabil-
ity (much of the web is made of documents that are too long and get
‘skimmed’, not read).
Like major newspapers, political party websites (particularly in devel-
oped countries) were, ten years ago, and are even more so today, pro-
gressively opening their structures to receive public comments and
reactions to hot news. The social dimension of these sites has certainly
80  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

grown, thanks to the drive from Web 2.0 platforms such as Flickr,
MySpace, and more recently with the Web 3.0, via Twitter, YouTube,
Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google Plus, Snapchat and Facebook.
In cybernetic terms, load was and increasingly is a real issue for most
sites: the highly abnormal distribution of links within sites, already visible
ten years ago, shows that there was either too little data (protosites) or
too much (meso and neosites).
Although the impact of party websites was not part of this investiga-
tion, the data obtained using WLV suggested that the architecture of
many party websites was, 10 years ago, already becoming less and less
capable of injecting meaningful inputs into the circuitry of modern dem-
ocratic institutions. Engaged in direct competition with traditional news
media (and deprived of the same assets), the political web stricto sensu
(and the interactive applications it contains) seemed too weak to chan-
nel enough stimuli to alter and modify electoral processes or institutional
dynamics.

Discussion
Classic views on e-democracy insisted on improvements deriving from
more political information online: in theory, the more information we
have, the more we can compare it (and the more aware we can be of
minor and fringe parties, suggests Norris 2000: 9).
In practice, to describe the problem in cybernetic terms, this empirical
research shows that—already more than 10 years ago—load appeared to
be an issue for most party sites.
Party websites—both ten years ago and today—are trapped. They are
likely to fall at two opposing ends of a scale: producing a protosite with
little content or trying to emulate mainstream media by becoming “a
content cavern”.
Is this information capable of mobilising non-voters? Is this informa-
tion a vector for social and political inclusion or exclusion? And, finally,
what could have changed with the advent of modern social media as we
know them today?
Cyber optimists have seen signs of improved party competition in the
proliferation of party websites. As Norris (2000: 11) notes:

…A few enthusiastic techno-savvy enthusiasts can create a fairly profes-


sional looking site using the free shareware and web hosting facilities that
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  81

are easily available in many countries….search engines and portals like


Yahoo, AOL and InfoSeek are important ways for people to find sites, but
on the other hand, the barriers to being listed are minimal compared with
the difficulties of gaining any sustained coverage in the mainstream news
media.

This “empowerment effect” (which fundamentally does not alter the real
power balance in a given political system) was visible in several develop-
ing countries and regions surveyed in this research: Africa, Asia and Latin
America, notably.
We mentioned above an ante litteram use of social media (Web Rings)
by the Argentinian Partido Obrero Revolucionario in 2001, but there
were more elsewhere, all showing empowering techniques which never
stopped trending until today.
In Brasil two communist parties, the Partido Socialista dos trabal-
hadores Unificado and the Partido Comunista do Brasil had very organ-
ised and functional party web sites which—already more than ten years
ago—used remarkably well colors and visuals to stress political identi-
ties and recall the memory of the past. The same remarks applied to the
Socialist Party in Chile which used the visual of the eyeglasses of Salvador
Allende to ‘reconnect the present to the past’. Similar examples of visual
details (that reconnected the reason why of the party to the history of
the country) were visible in the home pages of the Union Civica Radical
of Alfonsin or Fernando De la Rùa in Argentina, with the Apristas of
Alan Garcia in Peru.
In a pre-social media era, the most important engagement technology
was mail or online forms. Our research proves that attempts to generate
over exposure and ultra engagement became visible more than ten years
ago with what we dubbed the contact/overexposure parties.
The main characteristic of this type of party was and still is, its capac-
ity to deploy a greater than average list of methods to achieve contact
between the party representatives and the audience. This specific pheno-
type was and still is a sort of exception in the real practice of interactiv-
ity in the political web. It’s this character that makes the Cinque Stelle
Movement (and before them the Radicali Party and Forza Italia) site an
exception in the Italian political web.
These parties multiply opportunities for interaction, they disseminate
their web layout with countless call to action (download, subscribe, write,
call etc.), they give detailed information on all the physical locations
82  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

where people could meet party representatives, they provide·more than


one tool on every page to connect or remain connected with the party.
In Argentina, in 2001 and 2002, the ancestor of the contemporary
hyperprolific sites was the Humanista party (a progressive, non Marxist
party member of the Humanist International).
Right from the home page, users could subscribe to three different
newsletters (press releases, news from the web, general news); in the
contact page there were 7 different contact forms (one for each type of
question which could have answered by the party staff) and the template
of every page of the site had on the top right corner three links (con-
tactenos, participe, subscribase). A visible contàctenos banner was located
at the bottom of every page.
These examples provide anecdotal evidence that the web (as a com-
bination of information and tools) can favor mobilization and somehow
reduce partially differences between larger parties (with more resources
to create sites using the latest technology) and smaller parties (which
fight back with a few skilled volunteers). Bimber (1998) argues:

If there is anything democratizing about this process, it is that the Internet


is providing greater relative gain for intermediary organizations who do
not have the deep pockets or extensive institutional resources of traditional
interest groups and membership organizations.

That said, we are still far, far away from a ‘revolution’. In the political
web, like in eCommerce, what really makes the difference for political
minorities or incumbent parties is the conversion rate, i.e. the number of
visitors that turn into involved supporters (voters). Now, with technical,
socio-economic constraints reducing widespread use of its newest tools
(change is too rapid and technologies increasingly require specific train-
ings to be exploited), with motivational factors (trust and degree of social
connectedness) that may alter individual responses to the online informa-
tion on offer, with the imperfect implementation (in terms of usability)
of the information architecture needed for optimal political persuasion
and communication online, the political party websites’ actual conversion
rate was and is likely to remain modest. As Bimber (1998: 29) observes:

…The main effect of the internet on mass political behaviour is the pro-
vision of additional opportunities for civic participation by those already
inclined to participate, without any widening of the circle of participation.
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  83

The empirical research described in this chapter proves that multimedia


was not as widespread ten years ago as public discourse in 2005 seemed
to suggest: only 14.7% of the sites scanned had 5 or more multimedia
items within the site structure.
The majority of respondents in a “political webmasters survey” car-
ried out in parallel to the WLV investigation indicated (n = 104) that
the party site was not party leaders’ favourite platform to launch mes-
sages (64% of the answers disagree or strongly disagree with the state-
ment). Most respondents in the same empirical fieldwork agreed with
the following statements: “the web is not the most important tool for
the party’s communication strategy” (58%), “key messages are published
simultaneously on all media available” (77%), “the party has created this
site to allow people to contact candidates directly” (63%), “most interac-
tion with the public happens live, in meetings—the web is used essen-
tially to post party documents and give news to the electorate” (73%).
The most interesting results of this questionnaire related to the trans-
active/mediating role of party communication online. In these respond-
ents’ view, their site had definitely not been created “to invite the
opposition to discuss with us” (81%). If there was a politically relevant
process on these sites, it was really among like-minded people.
The mission statement “[our party site is meant] to gather the desires
and needs of the electorate” split respondents down the middle (54% of
the respondents agreed and 47% and disagreed), but 73% of all respond-
ents also agreed that most interactions with the electorate were not
mediated, thus limiting the relevance of the political web stricto sensu to
a mere information delivery platform.
The central thesis emerging from this first major reality check of the
political web is that most party website structures were ten years ago
simply not made to generate ambitious levels of deliberative or inclu-
sive democracy. Ten years later, after the widespread emergence of social
media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, G+, Twitter all emerged after
2005, so after the execution of the fieldwork presented here), the situa-
tion has not fundamentally changed: social media are not creating more
inclusion, but rather more exclusion. Many of the trends we spotted in
2005 intensified.
It’s what we gather by reading the conclusions of all the Pew Research
Center reports on the role of the internet in politics, notably the recent
‘The Political Environment on Social Media’ (2016).
84  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

More than one-third of social media users (37%) are worn out by the
amount of political content they encounter. When discussing politics on
social media with people they disagree with 59% of social media users find
the process stressful and frustrating; 64% fell they have less in common
politically than they thought. Many users see social media as an especially
negative venue for political discussion, but others (with percentages rang-
ing between 39% to 49% of the interwievees) see it as simply “more of the
same”. Many social media users (84%) feel that social media encourages
people to say things about politics that they never would say in person.

That said, regardless of the body of knowledge produced by analysing


national, regional or worldwide case histories, no one, including us, will
succeed in discouraging experts and scholars from continuing to invest
efforts in the “rivalry of hyperbole” about new media technologies
(Bimber 1996) or social media.
The concept of social-media-enhanced-direct-democracy (which often is
implicit to many e-democracy models) continues to be marketed today by
the Movimento Cinque Stelle and the Pirate Parties, among others, as the
anti-politics remedy. Their success and growth is viewed as the evidence of
the truth of the social-media-enhanced-direct-democracy argument.
The fundamental idea is that a new frontier of political engagement
and political mobilization has been established with the 3.0 ‘revolu-
tion’. That new revolution consists of Facebook and Instagram ‘Stories’,
‘rich Pins’ (notably ‘article/app pins’ available to business users within
Pinterest), live video broadcasts on Facebook (or Periscope), political
retargeting opportunities deriving from Facebook and Google Analytics,
influencer marketing to scale parties social media exposure, vlogging on
Youtube, mobile local political marketing and so on.
The constant flow of innovations emerging from the social media
jungle seems to prove that if one masters the technique, more political
deliberation (read ‘more democracy’, tout court) is possible. In a typical
Millenials’ posture: if you want it, you can do it.
Sartori—to quote an authoritative and radical voice—has dismissed
this simplification by stating that it is unrealistic to imagine systematic
electronic consultations of the public. These votes would either become
empty rituals (if executed in shared competence with Members of the
Parliament), or would not improve the system (if, for competence issues,
they were relegated to decide on issues of minor relevance), or would
generate unworkable processes if they are applied systematically in every
subject matter.
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  85

Many scholars have already stressed that discourse on political blogs


and social networks lacks of both the essential ‘reason giving require-
ment’ (in other words arguments are not backed up by adequate expla-
nation or justification), ‘mutual respect/politeness’, ‘diversity/opinion
heterogeneity’ and ‘moderation’ which are indispensable to deliberative
forms of democracy. This is probably due to the fact that organising a
proper debate online takes energy, resources, and the courage to con-
front people who do not share your point of view. As Witschge (2002: 1)
notes: “difference and disagreement make people avoid deliberative
politics”.
Even if more material evidence was produced that contradicted the
emergence of widespread direct democracy, the expectations over a
Democracy 3.0 would certainly not decrease.
We argue that the ‘obsession cycles’ in the cyclothymic e-democracy
debate are not necessarily fed only by the cyclical waves of technolog-
ical innovation. There is a whole community of players in the IT pol-
icy debate that adds pressure: a community large enough to justify—as
Atkinson (2010)3 notes—the creation of a specific taxonomy to appre-
hend it. Finally, and more importantly, there is a complex/long term
trend generated by the decline of party politics, the de-ideologisation
of our societies, growing anxiety about the future and the direct threats
against our societies and finally, the simultaneous collective desire to
secure one’s future in the hands of competent and protective politicians
and governments.
Social networks, emerged years after the techno-hype of the Clinton
presidency, seem (once again) to bring decisive empirical evidence to
claims that describe the emergence of a “deep democracy”.
As we have discussed in this article, discourse on political blogs and
social networks is often mere opinion and not necessarily to public opin-
ion. Habermas (1991, 1996) himself notes that the Internet both extends
communication connections in an egalitarian way (towards egalitarismus)
while also annihilating the achievements of the public space.
We argue that with Web 2.0 or Web 3.0 the quality and quantity of
change is not sufficient to re-engage a discussion about the Internet’s

3 The IT Policy debate is driven by 8 basic groups, suggests Atkinson (2010): cyber-liber-

tarians, social engineers, free marketers, moderates, moral conservatives, old economy regu-
lators, tech companies and trade associations, bricks and mortars.
86  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

impact on democracy. Web 2.0 or 3.0, as these terms imply, develop


the first wave of web technologies in a continuum. There is therefore
no rupture with the past, only improvements and extended function-
alities which create new combinations with incumbent technologies and
do not necessarily invalidate the criticisms made of the idea of political
disintermediation.
Removing intermediaries with an economically attractive solution
does not solve the major issue of developing a faithful online audience,
does not make citizens more informed and therefore more incline to
achieve rational compromises nor does it increase overall trust in politics
and participation.
It is relatively easy to argue against the data presented here by stress-
ing that they do not really cover the explosion of the social media
phenomenon.
We hope to see soon new and comparable research scanning the
known political (read party) web of 2018 and beyond. To the best of our
knowledge however, our approach has not yet been replicated by other
scholars.
In the meantime, we think that the findings of all recent Pew reports
seem to confirm the key ‘exclusion’ trends we spotted in 2005.

• A 2008 Pew Survey, indicated that 60% of interviewees thought


that the Internet is full of misinformation and propaganda (Preston
2011) that too many voters think is accurate and (in 2010)
that 55% of the responders think that the Internet increases the
influence of those with extreme political views.
• Pew’s Internet and Campaign 2010 Survey (2010), indicated that
only 6% of the interviewees took part in an online discussion (list-
serv or other online group forum such as a blog related to political
issues or the campaign).
• The above mentioned 2016 Pew research on the Political
Environment on Social Media stressed that “roughly half of users
feel the political conversations they see on social media are angrier
(49%), less respectful (53%), less likely to come to a resolution
(51%), less focused on policy debates (45%) less civil (49%), less
informative (34%) than those in other areas of life”.

Norris (2000: 5), echoing Bimber (1998), stressed that “the Internet func-
tioned to further activate and inform those American citizens who were
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  87

already engaged in politics, thereby mainly preaching to the converted and


strengthening existing social inequalities in political participation. Huisman
(2011) notes that not only do web forums lack of any deliberative discus-
sion, but they are dominated by “atypical partisans and ideologues”.
In stark contrast with many romanticised descriptions of e-democ-
racy, online political contributions are not only unrepresentative, but
also extremely polarised (as Chadwick himself acknowledges). Wolton’s
(1999) highlights that the Internet creates incentives for communitari-
sation, and specifically the political web stricto sensu is more a locus for
information overload, fabricated stories, gossips and rumours than partici-
patory democracy.
Instead of generating a new political revolution, Web 2.0/3.0 gives
the false impression that the entire world is actively commenting on
political events, while in reality only the politics of animosity is growing.

Conclusion
Academic interest in the impact of technologies on democracy has
risen in parallel with a decline in political participation. Technology has
often been seen as either one of the causes of the crisis of representative
democracy or a powerful remedy to heal the negative externalities gener-
ated by party oligopolies.
Studies of the impact of new media on party politics or presidential
elections dates back to the forties (when radio was surpassed) and has
evolved in cyclical waves until today, covering the emergence of televi-
sion, the development of global telecommunications, the birth of the
Internet and finally what is popularly called Web 2.0 (Servaes 2014).
The notion of e-democracy emerges from these dynamics, but is in a
league of its own.
There is no agreement on many of the terms needed to dissect its
meaning. Scholars diverge on virtually every foundational concept: from
the very definition of democracy and interactivity to the core functions of
political parties and the definition of propaganda as opposed to political
communication or political marketing. As a consequence of this, there is
little agreement on both what could be done with e-democracy in theory
and what is actually done in practice.
Permanent tension exists between ideal types and real types in this
domain. A trend opposing pessimists and optimists has dominated theo-
retical contributions, often pushing arguments far away from reality.
88  A. Ricci and J. Servaes

In contrast with this approach, it is becoming increasingly clear that


reality is quite a disappointment and that technology is not revolutionis-
ing politics as many had hoped (Servaes and Hoyng 2015).
This large empirical investigation on party sites corroborates this cen-
tral thesis. The aim of this research—ten years ago—was to prove the
absence of the announced revolution in politics with the largest and most
global research unit of political party websites.
Such a research scope did not allow for comprehensive content analy-
sis. It instead needed to identify both theories and techniques capable of
providing an alternative and, if possible, a more objective approach to
such a diverse range of web properties.
Through political science, it has been possible to understand that
both populism and the politics of animosity—which have both grown
considerably in the past 20 years in Europe—have deep roots not only
in technological changes (the emergence of the Internet), but in a
series of trends which include voter turnout decline, depillarisation/de-
ideologisation/deconfessionalisation of politics, the evolution of poli-
tics  into a capital-intensive activity, the dominant role of television in
political communication, the simultaneous growth of infotainment and
personality/celebrity politics, the multiplication of crises and direct
threats (financial, climatic, health related, terrorism related, migration
related), the growing ideological polarization and populism, the sheer
growth of negative stereotyping, but also of trolls, fake news and weap-
onized information and so on.
Communication studies have allowed scholars to go further in this
critical analysis and explore the relevance of the critics of the informa-
tion society. This was possible by arguing that the promise of more infor-
mation and more rational choices was in reality becoming overload,
more oblivion, more communitarisation, more filtering and censorship
(Taewoo 2016) and less inclusion.
The choice of an information architecture approach has allowed some
uncharted territory to be covered while providing a first set of data on
the structures of the political web (in 2004–2005) for public scrutiny.
In the first 10 years of its existence (1995–2005) the political web
stricto sensu has clearly not engendered a revolution either in political
or social and technical terms. New technologies—as Norris (2000: 4)
puts it—“serve to reinforce the voice of the more affluent and privileged
sectors of society”.
4  E-DEMOCRACY. IDEAL VS REAL, EXCLUSION VS INCLUSION  89

The online and offline result—as Margolis and Resnick’s normalisa-


tion theory suggests—is that the political web started in 2005 to become
a terrain of exclusion and animosity. A battlefield ruled by the same prin-
ciples that govern the worst electoral TV. We argue that the trend spot-
ted in 2005 has not stopped, but has just intensified.

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http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00344890308523221
CHAPTER 5

Technopolitics in the Age of Big Data

Stefania Milan and Miren Gutierrez

Datafication, or the ‘ability to render into data many aspects of the world
that have never been quantified before’ (Cukier and Mayer-Schoenberger
2013, p. 29), harbors both threats and opportunities for civic engage-
ment. While it contributes to ease governmental and corporate surveil-
lance as well as repression of grassroots movements, datafication offers
novel prospects for advocates and citizens alike. This chapter explores the
multiple ways in which progressive individuals and organizations employ
‘big data’ and data infrastructure, such as databases and algorithms, for
social change. These emerging sociotechnical practices of engagement
with data can be seen as manifestations of data activism, or the encounter
of data and data-based narratives and tactics with collective action. Data
activism embraces elements of collective action, communication, journal-
ism and citizens’ media, while being anchored to data and software, their

S. Milan (*) 
Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam, and University
of Oslo, Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012XT Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, The
Netherlands
e-mail: s.milan@uva.nl
M. Gutierrez 
Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Deusto, Mundaitz
Kalea, 50, Office 233, 20012 Donostia-San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa, Spain
e-mail: m.gutierrez@deusto.es

© The Author(s) 2018 95


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_5
96  S. Milan and M. Gutierrez

availability or lack thereof—and this connection deeply shapes the tactics,


structures and processes of data activist initiatives. It represents a form of
technopolitics from the ground-up, which sees people’s active engagement
with technologies as a pathway to empowerment, equal participation
and action. It offers citizens the opportunity to exercise their democratic
agency in the age of datafication (Milan and van der Velden 2016), and
has the potential to challenge the traditional way of understanding and
doing politics today (Milan forthcoming 2017). We identify two forms
of data activism: proactive data activism, whereby citizens take advantage
of the possibilities offered by big data infrastructure for advocacy and
social change, and reactive data activism, namely grassroots efforts aimed
at resisting massive data collection and protecting users from malicious
snooping (Milan and Gutierrez 2015).
The Latin America continent nurtures some of the most cutting-edge,
transnational examples of data activism. The increasingly fast access to
data infrastructure, the relatively straightforward availability of funds for
data journalism and its prestige have fostered the emergence of organiza-
tions that depict themselves as ‘data journalism’ endeavors, even if they
do not just offer journalistic products but also training and advocacy.
InfoAmazonia (infoamazonia.org), for example, is a network of organiza-
tions, citizens and journalists from the eight countries of the endangered
Amazon region. It leverages journalism and data infrastructure to generate
alternative news and analysis, maps, investigative stories, advocacy content
and reports on the status of the biggest tropical forest in the world. Since
its launch in 2012, InfoAmazonia has been training journalists, campaign-
ers and communities to use satellite imagery and collect data related to
carbon monoxide, forest fires, water quality and level, deforestation and
other forest activity, as well as publishing information and interactive
maps. As part of the initiative, the organization also advocates for open
data, deploys sensors and creates its own mobile applications, generating
crowdsourced data and cartography. Its ultimate goal is to impede defor-
estation and wildfires by promoting data transparency on the Amazon.
This chapter combines political sociology with media studies (and
alternative and citizens’ media and journalism in particular) in view of
examining proactive data activist initiatives in Latin America, taking
InfoAmazonia and its deployments as case studies. It contributes to our
understanding of technopolitics as a way to reinterpret reality, empower
people, facilitate action, and challenge the established social norms
embedded in our understanding of technology and society. Further, it
5  TECHNOPOLITICS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA  97

helps us rethinking how data can restructure social reality, and in par-
ticular civil society action. Data were collected through desk research and
qualitative interviewing.
The chapter is structured as follows. First, we explore the notion of
data activism, situating it in the Latin American context by means of con-
crete cases. Second, we examine closely the case study and reflect on the
specificities of the Latin American data activism scene, including the pref-
erence to be seen as ‘journalists’ as opposed to ‘activists.’ Third, investi-
gate the different approaches to data generation within data activism and
the replicability of the model beyond Latin America.

The Alternative Public Spheres of Data Activism


in Latin America

Data activism represents a form of technopolitics in its own right, whose


emergence is triggered by the unprecedented availability of data and
access to data infrastructure, but whose life cycle and strategies draw
from existing movements and sub-cultures, including but not limited to
open source software developers (Coleman 2013), investigative journal-
ism (Sampedro 2014), citizens’ media (Rodriguez 2009) and hacking
(Levy 1968). In Latina America, data activism branches out in particular
sub-forms and specializations around the type of data and of the kind of
activity practitioners engage on. Here we review relevant data-based ini-
tiatives, classifying data activism in subcategories and prototypical cases
according to their goals, means and methods, and observe how they con-
tribute to change our understandings of technology, knowledge, social
change and power.
Proactive data activism projects trigger two main emancipatory pro-
cesses: they contribute to generate alternative digital public spheres for
equal participation1, and alter the relationship between citizens and
automatized data collection. InfoAmazonia’s ‘Annual cycles of the
indigenous peoples of the Rio Tiquié’ project2 exemplifies how alter-
native public spheres are created through direct engagement with data
infrastructure. Based on crowdsourced data, it consists in a circular cal-
endar that records the life of indigenous communities in meticulous
detail. The visualization includes several layers of information that, for
instance, superimposes time measured in the Gregorian calendar and
time measured in the communities of the northwest Amazon’s calendar,
98  S. Milan and M. Gutierrez

which constitutes an alternative way of measuring time and space. For


the Tukano people, a group of indigenous people in the Northwestern
Amazon, the year is not divided in four seasons, and rainy periods are
called poero (winter). According to astronomer Cardoso, who studied the
project, ‘it is not a translation, but the creation of a third space of dia-
logue, where it is clear that we are constructing a conversation area, an
area of shared growth’ (2015). This space of dialogue corresponds to the
idea of communicative action capable of connecting two normative sys-
tems that are able to relate to each other in an alternative public sphere.
It offers a different version of what is happening in the Amazon to the
general public, as well as to anthropologists, journalists and nongovern-
mental organizations (NGOs) working on indigenous rights and issues.
In doing so, it generates an alternative digital public sphere ‘bypassing
mass media gatekeepers to communicate directly with the broader pub-
lic’ (Hackett and Carroll 2006, p. 47). The calendar contributes to bring
to life subaltern counterpublics by and for marginalized groups who form
their own public sphere as a challenge to hegemonic views (Fraser 1990).
It represents an attempt to circumvent the predominant narratives, since
it does not only constitute an alternative channel for content, but also for
alternative ideas and value systems.
Furthermore, data activism approximates citizens’ media as Rodriguez
defined it (2001): both constitute a ‘politics of the quotidian’ that alters
the routine association between citizens and automatized data collec-
tion, setting in motion a transformative and empowering process (Milan
and Gutierrez 2015). An example of this process can be found in Rede
InfoAmazonia, a project measuring the quality of water for human con-
sumption in the West of Pará. The initiative connects via mobile tech-
nologies a network of eighteen pilot sensors (currently being configured)
‘capable of monitoring physical and chemical parameters that help indi-
cate whether the water is contaminated’ (Rede InfoAmazonia 2016).
The idea is to produce hourly updates notifications about the quality
of water in communities of Belterra, Mojuí dos Campos and Santarém.
Instead of waiting for authorities to generate useful information on water
quality, this project produces its own water measurements and alert sys-
tems, so communities can act on this vital information that they cannot
get anywhere else. Local communities are at the core of this effort, inter-
vening from the collection of the data to the final use of the information
generated by the data. As a result, these communities’ ‘routine associa-
tion’ with automatized data collection is fundamentally transformed.
5  TECHNOPOLITICS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA  99

Paraphrasing della Porta and Diani (2006), InfoAmazonia is disruptive


in that it obstructs the normal course of events. Gathering data and pub-
lishing maps—a process of coding and recoding of information, and its
synchronization—were once the exclusive privilege of the state.

Between Journalism and Advocacy


The environment is possibly one of the best examples of how global
trends affect local communities. It embraces a number of elements that
make it especially critical for activism: environmental degradation and
loss act in combination with other global factors, such as climate change
or poverty, to impact on vulnerable populations and their human rights
(Shepherd et al. 2013). Deforestation in the Amazon is at the crossroads
of these phenomena: apart from being impacted by climate change, it
contributes to it and directly affects many indigenous communities in
the region. Despite the important role the rainforest plays in the global
environment and the explosion of big data, only scattered information is
accessible about threats to its existence, especially information that caters
for local communities, while new megaprojects are underway, such as
highways, hydroelectric dams, and oil fields and pipes.
Brazilian environmental journalist Gustavo Faleiros, using his Knight
International Journalism Fellowship, explored the concept of ‘geojour-
nalism’ by launching InfoAmazonia at the United Nations’ Conference
on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 (Faleiros 2012)3.
‘We became geojournalists, mixing geographical information with jour-
nalism, an expression which is now being considered systematically
by organizations such as the International Journalists Network’ said
Faleiros, interviewed for this study. According to Faleiros, geojournal-
ism is a story-telling practice that merges layers of geo-tagged narratives
on maps with data as substantiation and communication tool for jour-
nalistic stories. We argue that, when geojournalism crosses the thresh-
old of advocacy practices, like InfoAmazonia’s deployments often do, it
becomes geoactivism—that is, a form of proactive data activism and a
technopolitic endeavor. Paraphrasing Faleiros’ notion of geojournalism,
we define geoactivism as the practice of creating campaigns and advocat-
ing using geolocalized data and interactive maps (Faleiros 2013).
Proactive data activism’s analytic, political, collaborative and rank-and-
file nature draws from other practices, such as investigative and advo-
cacy journalism, and citizens’ media. InfoAmazonia is a self-proclaimed
100  S. Milan and M. Gutierrez

journalistic project that, nonetheless, mobilizes the elements of a data


activist project: it is analytic because it relies on data infrastructure and
analysis; it is political because it explicitly takes sides with respect to the
biodiversity and human development in the Amazon region; it is collabo-
rative because it summons the capacities of volunteering journalists and
campaigners from different countries; and it is participative because it
puts everyone—volunteers, users and reporting witnesses—to work and
collaborate on equal footing (Gutiérrez forthcoming 2017).
InfoAmazonia started with a workshop for journalists who wanted to
learn how to geo-tag stories using spreadsheets such as Google Fusion
Tables, and how to use data applications, such as Google Earth and
MapBox, for storytelling with data, satellite photos, maps and graphics.
MapBox built the original platform, which was improved by two stu-
dios in Sao Paulo, Memelab and Cardume (whose developers had been
trained by MapBox/Development Seed) (Faleiros 2013). The news
aggregator of InfoAmazonia now works on an open source WordPress
theme developed specifically for using the MapBox API, allowing jour-
nalists, campaigners and the public to post and geolocate stories directly
on InfoAmazonia maps (ibid.). InfoAmazonia has added functionality to
its site with a distribution widget, which allows journalists and NGOs to
customize their own maps and data layers. The website currently boasts
‘more than 30 layers of georeferenced data ready to be used on interac-
tive maps’ (InfoAmazonia 2015). All maps have location search tools as
well, and there is a layer switcher that allows users choose between view-
ing protected areas and viewing indigenous land. Journalists and contrib-
utors are expected to produce more maps, keeping pace with the news,
allowing, through a content management system, an integration with the
data layers hosted by MapBox (Faleiros 2013). InfoAmazonia records,
for example, attacks against indigenous peoples, how the Yanomami peo-
ple are being contaminated by mercury from mining, and the trail that
drought, fires and deforestation leave in the region.
As in order data activists endeavors, these maps can be understood as
a knowledge and production tools that can represent power relations,
social and political processes, events, places, and mutable interactions and
networks (Gutierrez forthcoming 2017). For Faleiros, maps are in fact
a ‘new language’ that can be understood by lay users as well: ‘Maps are
everywhere: in our cars, in our telephones, on our screens.’
In addition to aggregating stories and creating maps by using
interactive photo galleries and video mashups as a storytelling tool,
5  TECHNOPOLITICS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA  101

InfoAmazonia generates its own stories. Besides, the initiative aims at


providing resources, training and skills so journalists and campaigners
can make data analysis and visualizations a part of their action repertoires
so they can tackle the complexity found in human development and
environmental degradation in the Amazon region. ‘Our model is doing
stories and maps and other content, and approaching governments as a
non-governmental organization, asking them open their data on forests.
We are very vocal about this,’ said Faleiros.
Proactive data activists fulfill at least four roles. They are produc-
ers of journalistic outputs; they are ‘skills transferers,’ who provide the
skills and opportunities to facilitate data activism; they are ‘catalysts’ who
provide the resources for others to act upon reality by engaging with
data and data infrastructure; finally, they perform the role of the actual
data activists, who are ‘geoactivists’ in most cases (Gutierrez forthcom-
ing 2017). Judging from its action repertoires, InfoAmazonia could be
catalogued as a hybrid example combining the production of journalis-
tic outputs, the transfer of skills and geoactivism. Hybridization is a trait
found in many data activist organizations as well (ibid.). Data activists
often produce journalism when news media organizations are unwill-
ing or unable to do so, advocate and work with data-producing citizens
and groups, while generating research, analysis, visualizations and maps,
without qualms about trespassing in others’ territories, mixing all sorts of
methods, content and media.
The hybrid nature of data activism in Latin America allows for multi-
ple souls and denominations to exist. Yet, self-definition options appear
more restricted. As the example of InfoAmazonia suggests, no matter
how hybrid, organizations prefer to either be publicized as or cater for
journalistic enterprises, as opposed to being classified as ‘activists’. Latin
American data journalism is in fact experiencing an ‘unstoppable ascent’
(Blejman 2013), supported by growing number of donors and enablers
prepared to fund it, including, among others, the International Center
for Journalists, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,
Knight Foundation and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews program (Blejman
2014). Some of these media-oriented organizations are also stepping in
the world of data activism. In Mexico, Morlan, a private company work-
ing with journalistic organizations, such as El Universal, in joint data
projects, declares it is dedicated to data analysis for social good (2016).
Training-focused Escuela de Datos (School of Data) has a strong pres-
ence in Latin America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador,
102  S. Milan and M. Gutierrez

El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Paraguay. Most of its projects


and training tools are addressed specifically at journalists, but its website
caters for activists and educators too (Escuela de Datos 2016). Within the
Spanish-speaking world, the situation in Spain, on the contrary, is quite
the reverse. Amid media predicament, few mainstream organizations
practice data journalism systematically, and in the absence of data jour-
nalism, civil society organizations are producing journalistic data outputs
instead. An example is ‘España en llamas’ (espanaenllamas.es), a project
launched by Civio (civio.es/en), which publishes information and maps
specifically focused on forest fires. Civio publishes data-based content
and investigative stories on issues such as corruption and transparency,
and offers it to journalists and campaigners. In Spain, ‘while conventional
mainstream media are too busy facing crises, the new digital media are
too busy exploring business models than can sustain their activities, which
are not based on investigative or data journalism,’ said Ignasi Carreras, an
expert on third sector organizations and Director of the Social Innovation
Institute of ESADE business school, interviewed for this study. In other
words, news media organizations are not embracing data journalism yet,
creating a vacuum that NGOs are trying to fulfill.
In other words, the entry point for proactive data activism in Latin
America seems to be journalism, which enjoys a higher degree of pres-
tige as compared to activism. In fact, news media organizations in
Latin America are among the most cherished institutions. According to
Latinobarómetro 1995–2015, the media are among the most trustwor-
thy organizations, with radio ranking second in credibility, television,
third, and print media, sixth. In comparison, political parties are placed
in twelfth position (2015). Meanwhile, in Spain, 53% of users do not
think that the media are independent from unwarranted political influ-
ence, and another 51% are also concerned about their economic depend-
ence on advertisers, owners and creditors (Reuters Institute 2016).

Data Generation in Data Activism and Its Replicability


The way data activists generate, acquire or access data is in many cases
distinctive and allows for the classification of data activist initiatives
according to a number of parameters. Data activists can obtain data
from whistle-blowers, resort to opened public data, facilitate and gather
crowdsourced data, appropriate data, and finally ‘datafy’ primary research
or generate their own data via sensors and other data-capturing devises
5  TECHNOPOLITICS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA  103

(Gutierrez forthcoming 2017). From the perspective of the origin of


the data, the InfoAmazonia platform is sui generis, as it employs three
of these methods to produce its geolocalised stories, advocacy and train-
ing. Firstly, it uses mainly satellite feeds and publicly available data to
monitor the region (Faleiros 2013). Secondly, it also enables the gen-
eration of alternative data for some specific project s—see for example
Rede InfoAmazonia’s network of sensors to generate data on water qual-
ity (Rede InfoAmazonia 2016). The hardware is installed in water tanks
and surface water springs, and detects changes in water characteristics
from inadequate disposal of household waste, industrial and heavy metals
to help distinguish the drinking water from contaminated water. Thirdly,
InfoAmazonia also crowdsources data. The above mentioned ‘Annual
cycles of the indigenous peoples of the Rio Tiquié’ project is based on
several years of diaries updated on a daily basis by indigenous peoples
with data on the day-to-day life of the community and the activities of
its residents, such as news about hunting and fishing, agricultural activi-
ties, the most common illnesses, festivities and community rituals, as well
as other information about their circumstances. InfoAmazonia crowd-
sources data and information from two kinds of sources: it gathers and
visualizes data provided by local communities, and it aggregates stories
and reports from journalisms and activists working on issues related to
the Amazon region.
This third instance—i.e. projects utilizing crowdsourced data—is
­particularly interesting because of the empowering process that it triggers
when people become reporting witnesses by taking a stand and acting upon
a situation. This bottom-up data production process inverts the ‘profoundly
asymmetrical, political economic dimensions of the production and circula-
tions of data,’ and draws from the ‘tremendous untapped potential in the
general intellect and technical practice… of the data generator’ (Pybus et al.
2015, pp. 1–8). In other words, the ability to access to one’s own data,
‘not only augments the agency of the individual, but of the collective user’
(ibid.). Other data activist organizations act in a similar way, for example all
Ushahidi deployments.4
Since InfoAmazonia’s debut in 2012, the number of sibling sites has
grown using the same model, data acquisition techniques and tools,
but focusing on different geographic areas and themes (Shubert 2014).
It has also generated the GeoJournalism Handbook, a set of online tuto-
rials for journalists and practitioners about how to integrate data infra-
structure into their repertoires of action. The latest of the sibling projects
104  S. Milan and M. Gutierrez

is Ekuatorial (ekuatorial.com), which provides news, maps and visual-


izations on the oceans, forests and disasters of Indonesia. Built in col-
laboration between the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists
and the Earth Journalism Network with technical assistance from ((o))
EcoLab (lab.oeco.org.br), ‘Ekuatorial takes the lessons learned from
InfoAmazonia and adapts then to the Indonesian context’ (ibid.). One
of the most valued features of the project its ability to provide alterna-
tive narratives, and to ‘amplify on-the-ground reporting… since pub-
lished stories are location specific and often come from remote areas
that may be outside mainstream attention’ (ibid.). Other examples
include Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalism, a
group of South African journalists who are tracking rhino poaching in
national parks, whose information is available nowhere else. And Land
Quest (landquest.internewskenya.org), launched by Internews Kenya
and built by an international team of investigative reporters, is aimed at
strengthening the capacity of Kenyan journalists to report on develop-
ment, aid, extractive industries and private financing in two resource-rich
regions in Kenya. The success of this model outside Latin America shows
how adequate geojournalism can be as the frontage of environmen-
tal and development advocacy in certain contexts, and how data-based
­technopolitics are being employed to advance the cause of conservationism
and human rights.

The Technopolitics of Data Activism: Conclusions


InfoAmazonia does different things: it generates alternative data and
maps (sometimes after independently producing the data by means of
sensors); it aggregates geolocated stories and creates independent sto-
ries, making them available and searchable; and it trains others to do the
same. It also advocates for open data. What can we learn from this case
study, about data activism in Latin America and beyond?
Technopolitics can be understood as technology-enhanced politics,
that is, the ability ‘to envision and enact political goals through the sup-
port of technical artefact’ (Gagliardone 2014, p. 3). Technology, and
more concretely information and communications technologies (ICTs),
and media have always gone hand in hand with political power (Innis
1986; Castells 2009). In effect, technology is a highly politicized mat-
ter; a variety of political positions have been fashioned around it, from
those held by the technoconservatives and technoprogressives to those
5  TECHNOPOLITICS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA  105

held by the transhumanists and several ‘odd coalitions’ between left-wing


and right-wing technoconservatives, on one side, and technolibertarians
and technodemocrats, on the other (Hughes 2006, pp. 285, 303).
What seems to be clear is that artefacts have inherent politics (Winner
1980, p. 121), and that data infrastructure—including databases, algo-
rithms, and storage and systems needed to obtain, curate, analyze and
visualize them—are no exception. Big data are gathered and produced in
a concrete social and political context, acquired with a particular method
from a specific source or sources, cleaned, managed, stored and ana-
lyzed with a given approach, and framed by a set of underlying politics
and ideology. And that is why the expression ‘raw data’ is an oxymoron
(Gitelman 2013). Until recently data infrastructure and the visual rep-
resentation of strategic information in the same way as publishing maps
have been the exclusive privilege of the state and big corporations, and
therefore reflect their biases, gaps and ideologies. The power relations
of society are designed into technologies, and technologies selected for,
developed by and planned under the logic of corporations and the mili-
tary hearten hierarchy, centralization and the concentration of power
(Winner 1986). Winner alerts us about ‘mythinformation’ and the
deceptive emancipating power of some technologies (ibid.).
However, technologies can free and empower people as well. ICTs
can augment freedoms and civil rights; they can empower people,
strengthening the ability of people to participate—in a Habermasian
sense. They can reinforce deliberation, negotiation and ultimately gov-
ernance (Abdul Rahim et al. 2005). The example of InfoAmazonia
shows how alternative maps and narratives on negative impact in the
Amazon region and attacks against indigenous peoples are being gener-
ated by ordinary users, journalists and activists submitting stories, reports
and data, creating debates and relevant information that are not avail-
able anywhere else, and spawning alternative public spheres for political
positioning and action. Adopting a critical engagement with data, these
data activists ‘function as producers of counter-expertise and alterna-
tive epistemologies, making sense of data as a way of knowing the world
and turning it into a point of intervention’ (Milan and van der Velden
2016, p. 5). They challenge and alter the mainstream politics of knowl-
edge and map-making, and reverse the delegation of the work of cul-
ture to ­computational processes—usually controlled by big corporations
and governments (Striphas 2015), by undertaking the responsibility and
106  S. Milan and M. Gutierrez

exercising the freedom of generating data and their analysis, and acting
upon it.
Kurban et al. (2016) look at dimensions of technopolitics, including
context, purpose, scale and direction, actors and synchronization sys-
tematizing informal and formal ways of technology-enhanced political
practices. Employing these authors’ conceptualizations, InfoAmazonia
emerges in the context of an absence of disaggregated and comprehen-
sive information on the Amazon region, with several purposes—including
communicative (i.e., it connects people), legal/political (i.e., it enhances
participation), organizational (i.e., it facilitates crowdsourcing at several
levels), and institutional (i.e., it promotes transparency and openness)
goals. It establishes a dialogue across political dimensions, from the local,
i.e. indigenous communities, to the global, i.e. global crises such as cli-
mate change and environmental loss. It boosts the political power of both
the individual and the network political actors. Finally, it also provides a
multilayered space, literally, when relational, cultural, historical, chrono-
logical and identity layers get synchronized in InfoAmazonia’s maps
(Kurban et al. 2016).
In conclusion, proactive data activism is a form of technopolitics that
seeks social and political goals through the support of data infrastructure
and ICTs (Gagliardone 2014, p. 3). The example of InfoAmazonia high-
lights some of the Latin American-specific traits of proactive data activ-
ism. A growing access to data infrastructure, the availability of funding,
and the high standing of journalism in Latin America have produced a
thriving expansion of data journalistic enterprises that makes journalism
a perfect entry point for data activism. InfoAmazonia presents itself as
a journalistic organization, but it does much more. Combining crowd-
sourced and public data, geojournalism and advocacy, it generates alter-
native knowledge and maps of the imperiled Amazon region, creating
new public spheres and establishing a dialogue between the local and the
global, western and indigenous culture, and local communities and jour-
nalists and activists. In doing so, it shows a high degree of hybridiza-
tion, mixing action repertoires, data generation methods and goals, with
special emphasis on crowdsourced, ‘alternative’ data and narratives. Its
success is contagious and influential, to the point that other like-minded
organizations are being set up in some African countries, namely South
Africa and Kenya, where funding, prestige and access allow it.
InfoAmazonia also signals the emergence of a new epistemic culture
as a way of making counterdiscourses that challenge the mainstream
5  TECHNOPOLITICS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA  107

interpretations of reality (Milan and van der Velden, 2016). This new
epistemic culture propelled by data activism—a form of technopo-
litics—changes ‘the way we relate to knowledge and its validation, how
we understand and filter the world around us as well as our experiences’
(p. 4). Ultimately, InfoAmazonia and the emergence of like-minded
organizations herald the arrival of unprecedented ways of regarding and
exploiting data infrastructure for social change. Only the future will tell
whether this is in fact a new, promising and sustainable venue for Latin
American activism connecting advocacy with data and technology.

Notes
1. Here we refer to the definition of public sphere as it emerged in the writ-
ings of Habermas (1973) but especially Fraser (1990).
2. See https://ciclostiquie.socioambiental.org/en/index.html. Rio Tiquié is
a tributary of the Vaupés River in the upper Negro basin of the Amazonas.
3. InfoAmazonia is supported by the Earth Journalism Network (a Internews’
project), the Brazilian environmental news agency O Eco, Climate and
Development Knowledge Network, Avina and Skoll Foundation.
4. See ushahidi.com [retrieved December 12, 2016].

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PART II

Dissident Technopolitics Practices in Latin


America: Critical Analysis and Current
Challenges
CHAPTER 6

The Brazilian Protest Wave and Digital


Media: Issues and Consequences of the
“Jornadas de Junho” and Dilma Rousseff ’s
Impeachment Process

Nina Santos

Introduction
The protests of June 2013 were the biggest Brazil experienced since the
country’s redemocratization process during the 80s/90s. In São Paulo‚ the
largest Brazilian city‚ they begun on the 6th of June, had their peak on June
20th, when one million people took the streets on 75 different Brazilian cit-
ies, and lasted until July. This wave of protests is called by some researchers
and protesters as Jornadas de Junho (something like June Journeys).
One year later, Brazil experienced one of its closest presidential elec-
tions which resulted in the re-election of Dilma Rousseff. But the social
mobilization organized during the campaign period did not cease and
actually grew. Groups pro and against the impeachment of Ms. Rousseff
started to dispute the streets even before the formal beginning of her

N. Santos (*) 
CARISM—Université Panthéon-Assas, Rua Vitório Emanuel 27 ap.62,
Cambuci, São Paulo, São Paulo 01528-030, Brazil
e-mail: ninocasan@gmail.com

© The Author(s) 2018 113


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_6
114  N. Santos

second term. The development of this social pressure along with the
investigation of a public corruption scandal and the dismantling of the
parliamentary basis of the government led to the president’s impeach-
ment on October 2016.
It is important to highlight that Brazil has, from time to time, pro-
tests of this magnitude. This is certainly not the first one. The last ones
occurred during the redemocratization process of the country after
30 years of dictatorship, on the late 80s and early 90s. The Diretas Já
movement took the streets in 1984 and 1985 to demand direct elections
for president. Although it did not immediately succeed, there was a mas-
sive social engagement. The also widely spread Cara Pintadas’ move-
ment, occurred in 1992, to demand the impeachment of the first directly
elected president after the dictatorship, Fernando Collor de Mello.
The issue of public transportation is not a new subject of pro-
tests either. Protests related to the theme can be registered in various
moments and realities of Brazilian history (Pinho et al. 2016).
Nevertheless, the 2013–2016 political process was a novelty on the
Brazilian political scene as it presented some characteristics that differ
from the previous protest movements. Many differences may be pointed
out, such as the organization led by non-hierarchical collectives, the
decentralized organization and the use of a different aesthetics to pro-
duce the protests (Gohn 2014).
It is also important to notice that the principles and organization
forms of those movements differs from the traditional Brazilian politi-
cal actors, such as political parties or unions. These differences in the
conception of political organization were expressed in the fact that, in
Jornadas de Junho 2013, only 4% of the protesters in São Paulo declared
to be affiliated to a political party and 83% said that didn’t feel repre-
sented by any Brazilian political party (Ibope 2013). When asked if they
believed that any Brazilian political party actually represented them, the
percentage that disagreed rose to 89% (Ibope 2013).
However, what interests us in this paper is the heavy use of digital
communication tools by the movement and its consequences. We focus
on this element not only because it is present in many of the recent pro-
tests that arose around the world, but also because we believe it has a
crucial role in the movements’ formation and development.
Our main goal here is to produce a panoramic view of those move-
ments’ main characteristics in relationship with other analogous and
contemporary movements in the international landscape, as well as
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  115

analytically describe the shaping of a complex digital media ecosystem of


the protests.
To support our discussion we will use an extensive literature review on
the reconfiguration of social movements and the role that digital media
plays in it. We have also conducted 6 semi-structured interviews with
participants of the 2013 protests.

Chronology of the Facts


In June 2013, 12 capitals of Brazilian states had protests that claimed the
revocation of the raise of the fare of public transportation. We will use
the chronology of the protests in São Paulo, the biggest Brazilian city
and one of the cities where the protests were most active, as an illustra-
tion of what took place in almost the whole country.
Different authors (Gohn 2014; Pinho et al. 2016) have proposed
ways to explain the deployment of the protests and we chose to divide
the wave of protests of June 2013 in three different moments to try to
better understand them. The first one is a moment of a limited move-
ment. Each protest was called “act” and the first one took place in São
Paulo, on June 6th. It was still a considerably small protest, with around
2 thousand people, mostly students. This protest was called by a move-
ment named the Free Pass Movement (Movimento Passe Livre—MPL)
demanding the revocation of the increase of 20 cents on the price of
public transportation in São Paulo. The first act succeeded to stop the
traffic in important avenues of São Paulo and was violently treated by
the police. The protest ended with rubber bullets and tear gas bombs
thrown by the police.
The second (June 7th) and third (June 11th) acts continued with
almost the same logic as the first one, just a little bigger, with around
5 and 15 thousand people respectively. Until this moment, the protests
had a very specific demand (the revocation of the increase on the price
of public transportation), were attended mostly by students that had a
number of different kinds of relationships with the MPL. It was also like
that that the fourth act begun.
On June 13th, took place the fourth act with 20 thousand people
according to the organizers. This protest marks the first shift on the
movement in consequence of the extremely violent treatment received by
the protesters. This time the violence of the police force hit not only the
116  N. Santos

people that were protesting but also journalists that were covering the
act.
The images of the violence spread rapidly thru the social networks and
were even shown by the mass media (that, until this moment, were very
skeptic about the movement). At this point begins a second moment of
the protests that is marked by its growth and diversification. The sup-
port of the population to the protests grew rapidly after this episode.
According to Datafolha (2013)‚ 55% of the population supported the
protests on June 13th and in less than a week this rate went up to 77%‚
on June 18th. That circumstance generated a great solidarity movement
that could be seen online, but also on the next protests.
The fifth act took to the streets 65 thousand people, on June 17th in
São Paulo. But from this moment on, the acts were coordinated to hap-
pen at the same time in many cities. On this date, 12 capitals of Brazilian
States reported protests that reunited a total of 215 thousand people. At
this moment, the growth of the movement changes some of its charac-
teristics. The public that attends the protests has no longer a direct rela-
tion to the MPL event though they remain as the main organization that
calls the protests. The social networks gain importance as tools to dis-
seminate information about the protests to people that are not necessar-
ily connected to the central organization.
With this diversification of public, the demands are also multiplied.
The price of public transportation becomes one of many themes that are
shown in the posters carried by the protesters, such as: the money spent
to prepare the country to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the quality of the
public health and education system and against corruption.
On June 19th the protests achieve their main goal and the mayor of
São Paulo announces the revocation of the increase on the price of pub-
lic transportation. Local governments of other Brazilian capitals such as
Cuiabá, Porto Alegre, Recife and João Pessoa had already done the same
thing. But the protests did not cease.
The third moment of the protests begins here, when the main
demand was already accomplished, but the protests continued. June
20th marks the biggest protest day, with over one million people on the
streets in 75 cities. The huge numbers indicate the complete heteroge-
neity of the protesters in terms of occupation, political affiliation and
demands.
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  117

Right after this protest, the MPL, that had been, until this moment,
the main organization to call the protests, announces that they are not
going to continue the mobilization. They had achieved their main goal.
A part of the protesters try to remain on the streets but in a context
that did not have a common goal or common leadership, some extremist
movements start to act violently, beating members of political parties and
unions that tried to participate. A number of Black Bloc demonstrators
began to use property damage tactics and confrontation with the police.
That leads to the decrease of public opinion support to the movement
and the reduction on the number of participants. In different temporali-
ties, the protests faded out before August in all Brazilian cities.

The Media Ecosystem of the Protests


The media ecosystem of the Jornadas de Junho is organized around four
main centres of information production. The first one is the mass media,
which, with different frames, did an intensive coverage of the protests.
The second are the movements own channels of communication, mainly
expressed by the MPL’s social media channels and Facebook groups and
events created around the protests. The third one is based on independ-
ent media collectives that worked on doing a real-time coverage of the
events from within the movement. And the fourth category relates to
a diffuse and non-organized flow of information that comes from the
thousands of citizens that were participating on the protests and produc-
ing content about it.
The mass media system is Brazil is almost completely private and very
concentrated on the hands of very few families, all from the Brazilian
economical elite. That reflects on the coverage they produce, that is fre-
quently targeted for being considered partial and uneven with differ-
ent political views. That criticism was also present during the protests of
2013. Posters saying “The people are not stupid. Against Rede Globo”
could be seen on the streets and Rede Globo, the biggest Brazilian com-
munication conglomerate was itself targeted in one of the protests. Even
though Globo was the main focus of critics among the mass media net-
works, journalists from several groups were prevented from doing their
coverage from within the protest and had to hide their badges and other
identifications.
Diná, one of the participants of 2013 protests, asserts that among the
group she participated in:
118  N. Santos

No one doubted how much the mass media acted and tried to build a col-
lective consciousness, a hegemonic thinking. It had ideology, it had side,
and that side is a conservative perspective, a reactionary perspective, a per-
spective of abusive and unrestricted defense of capital.

This very critic and negative view of the media seemed to dominate
the environment of the protests, which turns the use of social media in
a tool to oppose the narrative that this dominant media started to create
about the events.
Rebeca, another participant on the protests, tells us1 that she believes
“the social media had a role of dropping the mask of the press, in a way”.
Talking about the history of the political foundation of Brazilian real-
ity, Nobre (2013) also gives value to the role of social media against the
mass media system:

On one hand, they have taken away from the traditional media the
monopoly of opinion formation and the vocalization of dissatisfaction. It
was not by chance that the traditional media were attacked in many slo-
gans of protest. And, on the other hand, they created their own channels
of coping with the system, leading to revolt on the streets. (p. 3)

What seems interesting here is not really the use of social media as a
platform, but its occupation by a diversity of voices and versions of the
facts. That distinction is important because the traditional media system
also use social media as a platform. Actually a great part of the content
that is shared, commented and liked on social media comes from tradi-
tional media actors. The main difference here, the difference that opens
new possibilities to the use of communication in protest movements is
the proliferation of information producers and disseminators.
The second communication centre that interests us here is the com-
munication channels of the movement itself. This channels were mainly,
but not exclusively, related to the MPL movement. Diego, member of
the MPL, remembers that, in 2013, the movement had its website and
profiles on Twitter and Facebook. They also had partners, such as the
Independent Media Centre (CMI) that produced audio-visual content
about the protests and posted on Youtube.
Diego considers that the social media channels of the movement were
mainly important in the publicity of the movement, but not necessarily
in its organization. “The movement is not organized via social networks
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  119

for security reasons. It is not a safe medium. Including because right


wing people may try to get in the way. The social network still does not
offer security to organize.”
In an interview done in January 2017, when asked about if new
people approached the movement during the protests to try to join its
organization, Diego explains that people that joined the movement right
after the movement were mostly people that already had strong connec-
tions with it:

People who have come [to the MPL] through social networks are arriv-
ing now. Because we achieved a great reach from June 2013. Before we
did not have the same reach on Facebook. No one from social media
approached the movement in June 2013, because it was a very tense
moment.

As for the third centre of information production, the so-called inde-


pendent media collective gave an important contribution to the con-
struction of a public image of the protests. The action of these collectives
is strongly related to the perception about the work of the mass media
expressed before. Searching for ways to express more closely and accu-
rately the way the protests were viewed from inside, this collectives pro-
posed an alternative coverage.
Although there were a number of different groups working on this
kind of action, the Ninja Media (Ninja here is actually a abbreviation
for Independent Narratives, Journalism and Action) was the one that
gained more visibility. The group worked doing live stream coverage of
the protests and publishing photos and information about the mobili-
zation. The Ninja Media is born from the Fora do Eixo group, which
until that moment was known in the cultural area, for the organization
of Music Festivals and the creation of collective houses in many parts of
the country.
We interviewed Pablo Capilé,2 one of the founders of Fora do Eixo
and Ninja Media, about their action during the protests. He told us that
since the beginning of the action of the group, in 2004/2005, one of
the things they worked with each collective spread in the country was
that they had to have a web radio, a web tv and a blog. According to
him, in 2013, “we were already super organized. We already had a
team of 5, 6 photographers, videomakers, people responsible for the
live stream. We had a newsroom meeting at the house. We already
120  N. Santos

knew what testimonials we could get. What were the best places to take
pictures”.
Capilé also remembers they used Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr
and Twitcast, platform in wich they did the livestream. “We used Twitter
to talk with the organized and Facebook with the disorganized”, he
explains.
The work of these independent collectives was very important at the
time not only to cover the protests but also to expose the violent police
action.
The fourth and last information production centre that will be
addressed here is the use of social media by individuals that were, in any
way, posting information about the protests. Diná, one of the protesters
we interviewed,3 said that she thinks “social networks have allowed eve-
ryone to become a political agent”. Although the political impact of this
actions is still to be measured, the communication role they had is clear.
The spread of information between individuals on social networks
was specially important due to the fact that a great part of the protesters
had never participated on a protest. “Social networks were fundamental
because a lot of people had never participated in any protest. I mean, the
guy did not know what to do, he did not know how to go”, claims Diná.
At that moment where the articulation was crucial but had not been
previously prepared, “social networks served as an articulator of move-
ments, of people that were going after organizing themselves”, says
Paulinho Fluxus,4 that also participated on the protests along with his
Pink Shock Tank.
Everton, member of the Arrua Collective that was also on the streets
in 2013, warns5 that, even though the internet was useful to the move-
ment in many ways, it also served “the right wing groups that saw the
potential it had to put people on the streets”. That affirmation in impor-
tant to highlight that technology does not, in any way, act by itself to
induce liberal or conservative political happenings.

Characterization of the Movement


The Brazilian wave of protests is not an isolated political process. The
Jornadas de Junho is a political movement that is aligned with many
other world protests that took place in the second decade of the twenty-
first century.
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  121

Even though studies on the relationship between protest movements


and technologies are already a few years old, several authors (Gerbaudo
2013; Karatzogianni 2012) show that the wave of protests that begun in
2011 starts a differentiation from previous movements. While the first
ones that used the new information and communication technologies
prioritized the creation of new platforms, today a large part of them uses
already existing platforms where there is a significant concentration of
people. (Gerbaudo 2013). The central issue is no longer the ethics of the
structure that is used to communicate and mobilize. The goal is to make
the message arrive to people and mobilize as many of them as possible.
The so-called “digital activism” (Karatzogianni and Schandorf 2012)
would have reached its fourth phase. The origins of this type of action
appeared between 1994 and 2001, with the Zapatista and anti-glo-
balization movements. At that moment, the emphasis was is mainly on
the creation of new platforms and release of source code (open source
movements). Between 2001 and 2007, this type of action would have
increased significantly, particularly in the United States, accentuated by
the effects of the September 9/11 attacks. The election of Barack Obama
to the US presidency in 2008 showed the strength that online actions
could have on a country’s political life, and served as reference for a phase
of spread of digital activism in the world. Between 2008 and 2010 the
anti-austerity movements began, notably on Syntagma Square in Greece.
For Karatzogianni and Schandorf (2012), the fourth phase of digi-
tal activism would have started in 2010. It would be the stage in which
this type of action becomes “mainstream”. This phase would include the
manifestations of the Arab Spring and those of Greece, Portugal, Spain,
Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, India, among others. Consequently, it is neces-
sary to analyze and understand how these movements differ from their
predecessors and what are the political consequences of these differences.
This identification of a new conformation of protest movements leads
us to the need to problematize the network theory. Kavada (2003) tries
to make the link between the theories of networks and of social move-
ments. Even in the early 2000s, she already wrote about ideological
diversity, the flexible structure and the multiplicity of movement agen-
das. She worked on the anti-capitalist movements and called them
“movements based on the Internet”.
Kavada (2003) stated that digital tools have begun to be used
by social movements as a new form of communication, but they have
become an organizational process themselves. The author discusses the
122  N. Santos

networks’ theory, according to which the analysis of social behavior must


be based on the relationships between individuals, both at the individual
and at the collective level. Power is seen as a relational issue.
For Bennet and Segerberg (2012), digital social networks open the
possibility of a different organization of activism. For them, these tech-
nological tools allow the conformation of activist movements with a
more personalized participation, where communication plays a central
role in their organization. The authors call this type of activism “connec-
tive action” in differentiation with the traditional “collective action”.
Connective action would be much less centered on the collectivity. In
this type of action, there would be little or no organizational coordina-
tion, with the participants being very connected to networks, where they
would share personal opinions about the movements. Here, relations
with formal organizations are not appreciated.
It is important to clarify that the difference between these two types
of activism is not on the use (or not) of technological tools. It is rather
the types of use that establish the difference between them: the ‘collec-
tive action’ uses the network to communicate with its members, while on
the ‘connective action’ the communication via digital networks is a form
of organization in itself.
The main aim of the authors is to show that ‘connective action’
can not be analyzed with the same theoretical framework of ‘collective
action’. They argue that the differences between the two are so impor-
tant that we must adopt other theoretical frameworks to analyze them.
The use of digital communication devices were effectively very impor-
tant to the development of demonstrations in Brazil. When asked about
how they knew about the protests, 62% mentioned Facebook, 29% men-
tioned internet in general and only 4% mentioned printed journals and
3% mentioned online journals (Ibope 2013).
When the question is about the way they mobilized themselves to par-
ticipate, the percentage that mentions Facebook rises to 77% and Twitter
appears with 1%. Only 13% say they were not mobilized via social net-
works. Also, 75% say they have used social networks to invite other peo-
ple to participate (Ibope 2013).
The organization of the claims is also different. It differs from the tra-
ditional lists of claims that are often negotiable. What now inhabits the
protesters is a generalized feeling of discontent. There are, however, spe-
cific demands, but “what most demonstrators share is a diffuse feeling
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  123

of uneasiness and discontent that builds and unifies particular demands”


(Zizek 2013).
To distinguish these movements from previous ones and try to explain
what are the differences they bring to the political arena, we also need
to talk about the actors that lead these processes and their modus oper-
andi. In terms of actors, it is clear that the traditional political institu-
tions (such as parties, unions and ONGs) from the civil society lose
their prominence. That does not mean that, in many cases, they did
not participate or influence the movements, but in general they did not
conceive, organize or lead the protests. While parties and unions with
hierarchical structures become secondary actors, groups organized and
mobilized via the Internet and looking for more horizontal power rela-
tions are at the heart of the movements (Rolnik 2013). New political
actors will occupy this role, organized in structures much more fluid,
horizontal, with much weaker ties than the traditional organizations.
Their attachment is based on events and causes and not on identity
(Gomes 2016).
In the Brazilian case, even though there is a central movement that
starts the process, when we arrive to one million people on the street,
the movement is not homogeneous at all. That is why Nobre (2013) says
that “It is not a movement, there are many movements” (p. 1). Talking
about the anti-globalization movements, Harvey (2012) uses a similar
argument and argues that traditional forms of organization of the left
have not disappeared, “but they seem to swim within an ocean of more
diffuse oppositional movements that lack overall political coherence”
(p. 119).
A very useful concept to understand the recent protests movements
in Brazil is the concept of multitude, as defined by Hardt and Negri
(2005). The authors claim that nowadays, the political action that aims
transformation and liberation can only be based on the multitude. They
make a clear difference between the concepts of multitude and people:
“The people are one. The population is naturally composed by a number
of individuals and different classes, but the people synthetizes or reduces
this social differences to one identity. The multitude, in contrast, is not
unified, remaining plural and multiple”.
This conceptualization seems interesting to analyse the Brazilian case
due to the great heterogeneity of the groups and people that took the
streets on June 2013 united, at first, by a common goal. Hardt and
Negri explain that the action of the multitude is not based on a unity,
124  N. Santos

but on what they have in common and that even though the multitude
remains multiple, it is not fragmentary, anarchic or incoherent (2005).
Using the concept of multitude, the authors mark a difference
between these protests and two other kinds of protest that were promi-
nent in the twentieth century. According to them, the first one is based
on the identity of the fight, organized under the central leadership of a
party. This one relates mostly to workers movements. And the second
one, that relates mostly to movements of race, gender and sexualities
issues, that is based on the right of each group to manifest their differ-
ences and conduct independently their own fight.
It is interesting to notice that even though the multitude seems to
have a potential for social transformation it may also be caught by a new
regime of exploitation and control. The authors highlight that, to exist,
the multitude needs a political project. They explain that “the depriva-
tion generates anger, indignation and antagonism, but the revolt only
emerges when based on wealth, that is, a surplus of intelligence, experi-
ence, knowledge and desire” (p. 275).
This description matches perfectly with the Brazilian situation in
2013. We can see today that 2013 was the peak of a process of economic
growth and social distribution that started with the first government of
Lula da Silva, in 2003. At that time, Brazil had the lowest unemploy-
ment rate of its history, excellent economic indicators and great part of
the population (something around 40 million people) that had entered
the consumer market on the last years. The number of university stu-
dents had also doubled in ten years.
Diego, one of the protesters interviewed,6 asserts that:

Many of the young people that went to the protests were the first member
of the family that entered the University. To say that they had money is
overestimated, but they were fine as never before. They had 50 reais in
their pocket to get to and from downtown every day. They had money to
militate. Incredibly, there are people who do not have the money to pay
the transport. In São Paulo they are millions.

That perception that protesting was a new activity for many of the
protesters is partially confirmed by the survey done by Ibope (2013) that
shows that 54% of the interviewed declared it was the first time they were
participating in a protest.
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  125

The aesthetics of the movement also marks a notable difference to the


previous demonstrations seen in Brazil. No stage, electronic sound sys-
tem or speeches could be seen on the protests (Gohn 2014). The mes-
sage of the movement was expressed on a big poster that was carried on
the front of the protesters. Slogans were shouted by the protesters but
with no sound system to amplify their voices.
As the movement grew, the number of posts increased and with them
the diversity of the message and the demands that were expressed.
One of the most claimed characteristics of both the social networks
and the new wave of protests is their decentralized organization struc-
tures. This attribute may, however, be questioned in both ends. When
talking about the communication structure of social networks, Reider
(2012) opposes the cyber optimist view that internet automatically gen-
erates decentralization. He highlights that many recent studies have
shown that the levels on concentration of visibility on social networks is
extremely high, which leads us to the conclusion that the decentraliza-
tion of information production is completely different from the decen-
tralization of its consumption and visibility.
Reider (2012) also underscores that internet companies such as
Google and Amazon have grown exponentially in the last years creating
a dominance on the internet market that directly affects the patterns of
information distribution online.

Temporality of the Movement


The temporality of this kind of movement and its relation to the use
of the internet is one of the main points that are questioned. Many
researchers point that the internet allows a rapid and easy success of the
protests, but it ends up discouraging the slower and more difficult work
of creating political movements with a more lasting structure and organi-
zation (Anderson 2013).
Other authors go beyond and question the capacity of the groups that
organize these political processes to really lead them. “They are move-
ments that do not have enough critical mass to lead a movement of this
magnitude and end up engulfed by the amplitude of the mobilization.
Nonetheless, they continue to have sufficient legitimacy to call new pro-
tests and to renew the list of demands.” (Nobre 2013, p. 1)
But we can argue that the rapid and ephemeral characteristics of these
movements are not only a consequence of the communication system,
126  N. Santos

but also from the social dynamic itself. Harvey uses Lefebvre’s writings
to argue that revolutionary movements are “the spontaneous coming
together in a moment of ‘irruption’, when disparate hererotopic groups
suddenly see, if only for a fleeting moment, the possibilities of the col-
lective action to create something radically different” (2012, p. xvii). In
Lefebvre, heterotopia is viewed as places where there is ‘something dif-
ferent’, in opposition to isotopia that is the rationalized spatial order of
capitalism and the state.
Another relevant question that regards the temporality of the move-
ment is the velocity of the articulation between online and offline
actions. Gomes (2016) highlights that the dynamic of the movement
that was organised online, at first, to take the streets on a posterior
moment, is not a reality anymore. In a context of hyper connexion, these
two processes become simultaneous and interdependent.

The Reasons to Protest


The first and main reason for the protest to happen was the increase in
the price of public transportation that happened in many Brazilian cit-
ies. But as the movement grew and diversified the profile of its protest-
ers, the number of claims also increased and included many other issues.
That is why the protests continued even after local governments revoked
the decision to increase the price.
In a survey conducted by Datafolha on June 18, in São Paulo, 67% of
the interviewed said the reason for the protest that had happened on the
day before was the increase in the price of transportation. To 38% of the
sample, the main reason was the fight against corruption and to 35% the
protest was against the politicians. Others motives such as the claim for
a better quality on transportation (27%), more security (20%), the fight
against violence or police repression (18%), zero tariff or free pass (14%),
health (7%), against the expenses with the FIFA Confederation Cup in
2013 or the FIFA World Cup in 2014 (5%), in favor of education (5%),
minimum wage or salary (1%) were also mentioned.

The Role of Digital Media


The imbrication of digital media and protest movements can be seen
through different sets of uses, appropriations and consequences. In
this sense, Cammaerts (2014), develops a proposition of interpretative
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  127

scheme for this theme. He begins from Foucault’s idea of technologies


of the self, which establish the technology as a device that discipline the
human being, but at the same time, that allows the social construction
of personal identity. He uses the concept of mediation to arrive to the
notion of “technologies of self-mediation”. He states that these tech-
nologies are the devices through which the social movements become
self-conscious.
Following Foucault’s concept, he analyzes the affordances and the
constraints of these technologies. According to him, both aspects are not
necessarily opposite, but complementary. The constraints are not neces-
sarily negatives, they are conditions that guide the action. Cammaerts
proposes then six possibilities of affordances: to disseminate; to mobilize;
to organize; coordinate; to record; and archive. And he identifies some
constraints such as digital divide; individualism of these networks; the
commercial/corporative characteristics of these spaces; and the possibil-
ity of surveillance.
A similar proposition about the use of this technologies is done by
Gomes (2016). His categories coincide with Cammaerts about organiza-
tion, mobilization and propagation (similar to Cammaert’s ‘dissemina-
tion’ category) capabilities of these technologies on protest contexts, but
he proposes also denunciation and monitoring and discussion as impor-
tant uses.
It is important to remark that these categories are not exclusive of
movements that uses digital technologies. It is clear that all protests
movements use their own communication tools to organize, mobilize,
disseminate etc. What digital technologies bring as a difference to these
activities is expressed in mainly three characteristics: velocity, visibility
and feedback (Gomes 2016). All these tasks can be done much faster,
what also contributes to reduce the time-lapse of outbreak of a protest.
The visibility dynamic of social networks differs substantially from the
mass media environment. At the same time it is possible to experience
the proliferation of points producing information and tools that help
concentrate and direct visibility. Hashtags and trending topics, for exam-
ple, work as tools to concentrate content and direct the public attention
(Gomes 2016).
The strong integration of different communication environments can-
not be despised in this context. The traffic between platforms helps to
create a feedback flow that feeds the network almost independently from
outside sources. That creates a possibility of information to circulate on
128  N. Santos

this communication environment even if the mass media are boycotting


the theme.
We do not intend here to arrive to an ideal model to analyse the uses of
digital technology on protest movements and we believe that it can vary
between the different political and social contexts where the protests took
place. What interests us here is how these different uses manifested themselves
in a complex media ecosystem created by and around the Brazilian protests.

From 2013 to Dilma Roussef’s Impeachment


The Brazilian wave of protests did no end in 2013. Since then, we had
other big protests in the country. The presidential election of 2014 gave
new motivations to the population that started to occupy the streets even
before the election to show their support to candidates (Santos 2016).
After a very tight result (Dilma Roussef, from the left wing Worker’s
Party was reelected with only 51.6% of the votes), the defeated opposi-
tion did not accept the outcome and decided to constantly mobilize the
population against the government. To that incendiary equation we can
add an enormous corruption scandal (popularly called “Petrolão”, evolv-
ing the giant Brazilian oil company, Petrobras) and a growing feeling of
generalized discredit of the political institutions and actors.
That new scenario led to many protests in 2015 and 2016 until the
impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff in August 2016. Because of
the clear political purposes of these demonstrations (pro and against the
government) and due to the strong political polarization between the
two positions‚ they are very different from the 2013 movement. In the
most recent wave of manifestations, the participation of traditional social
movements is bigger. The streets are under dispute and the use of social
media remains as a central characteristic.
The mobilization that demands Roussef’s deposition was organized
mainly by three very recent movements called: Movimento Brasil Livre—
MBL (Free Brazil Movement), Revoltados Online (Online Rebels) and
Vem Pra Rua (Come to the Street). These movements appeared after
the 2010 and are mainly organized online with a few face-to-face meet-
ings. Although they have disagreements on some political issues, they all
declare themselves as nonpartisan movements. They have leaders that
gained a great deal of visibility on the media, but they say the success
of the movement is due to all the “people of good will” that “spontane-
ously and pacifically” decided to participate.
6  THE BRAZILIAN PROTEST WAVE AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ISSUES …  129

On the other hand, the Roussef’s government had the support of a


great deal of traditional social movement and worker’s unions in Brazil.
They also started to mobilize people to take the streets and show that
the government had yet a significant social support. The government’s
allies were not the only ones to take the streets against the impeachment
process. A lot of other social groups mobilized themselves not directly to
defend the government but to fight for democracy, since they considered
that the impeachment without a legal basis was actually a coup d’État.
Although from 2013 and 2016 the purposes of the protests have
changed significantly, it seems that a great part of the population has
rediscovered the streets as a place of social dispute. We can identify very
different political motivations among the many political demonstrations
that took place, but two characteristics seem to unite them: the heavy use
of social media and the massive occupation of streets.

Conclusion
The extent of the consequences of the wave of protests analysed here is
still unclear. Researchers and political analysts point to different sets and
kinds of outcomes. Perry Anderson (2013) claims that the 2013 protests
led to the political awaken of a new generation—not only the young, but
also the oppressed; to a better comprehension of the social empower-
ment; and to the questioning of the distorted distribution of public
spending. That seems, indeed to be true and can be attested by the con-
tinuity of the protests during a long period of time and with very impor-
tant political consequences, such as the impeachment of a president.
It is interesting to remember, though, the proposition of Hardt and
Negri (2005) that states that “the multitude seems to have a poten-
tial for social transformation it may also be caught by a new regime of
exploitation and control”. The development of the Brazilian protests
may perhaps be considered one of those cases whereas the multitude of
claims that were on the streets in 2013 and the demands against the cor-
ruption in the country that guided the protests pro Dilma Rousseff’s
impeachment did not find institutional answers. In addition, there was
a invigoration of conservative tendencies that tried to politically appro-
priate the dissatisfaction. Although during the 2013 protests, 94% of
the protesters believed they would achieve the changes they claimed
130  N. Santos

(Ibope 2013), there was no improvement in most of the problems that were
pointed out on the streets and there were even setbacks in some of them.
What is clear to us is the crucial role that digital media played in the
Brazilian protests. More than that, the complexity of the media use by
the various actors that were involved in the movement still need to be
profoundly analyzed. The simplistic dichotomies such as mass media ver-
sus social media and mainstream media versus alternative media do not
account anymore (if they ever did) for the diversity of relations, uses and
overlaps that can be identified.
Further research is needed to deepen the analytical framework of this
phenomena, which will certainly be useful in future occasions. Specially
in moments like this beginning of 2017, where many political contexts,
including countries with recognized democracies, seem instable and
point to more popular protests arousing at any moment.

Notes
1. Interview done by the author on April 28th 2016.
2. Interview done by the author on November 17th 2016.
3. Interview done by the author on April 25th 2016.
4. Interview done by the author on April 27th 2016.
5. Interview done by the author on May 5th 2016.
6. Interview done by the author on January 19th 2017.

References
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CHAPTER 7

Social Networks, Cyberdemocracy


and Social Conflict in Colombia

Elias Said-Hung and David Luquetta-Cediel

Introduction
Since late 1970, Colombia has witnessed attempts to establish contexts
that would help resolve the armed conflict in the country. Historically,
the search for peace has achieved a set of milestones that should be men-
tioned as a summary of this process:

This chapter is the result of support from the Media and Mediations Observatory
of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the Universidad Autónoma del
Caribe and the Education Faculty of the International University of La Rioja.

E. Said-Hung (*) 
International University of La Rioja, Calle San Joaquin 8, 2.,
28220 Madrid, España
e-mail: esaidh@gmail.com
D. Luquetta-Cediel 
Universidad Autónoma del Caribe, Calle 3B # Transversal 3B – 311Torre
D 204Ciudad del Mar-Corredor Universitario, Barranquilla, Atlántico,
Colombia
e-mail: dluquetta@hotmail.com

© The Author(s) 2018 133


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_7
134  E. Said-Hung and D. Luquetta-Cediel

• The 1982 adoption of the General Amnesty Law and the repeal
of the Security Statute by the government of Julio César Turbay
(1978–1982).
• The initiation of the process of “ceasefire, truce and peace” between
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the
government of Belisario Betancur (1982–1984). This process
became the Agreement of La Uribe, which was suspended in late
1990 amid a social context of increasing violence.
• During the 1990s, at least 4 attempts at dialogue were made under
the mandates of Presidents César Gaviria (1990–1994), Ernesto
Samper (1994–1998) and Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002).
• In the 2000s, during the administration of Andrés Pastrana,
attempts were made to re-launch peace negotiations with the active
participation of several United Nations member countries as media-
tors. Participants included Sweden, Norway, Italy, Spain, France
and the Vatican.

After multiple failed attempts over the past 30 years, in September 2012,
official approval was given to begin the “Dialogues of Peace in Havana,
Cuba” between the FARC and the Colombian government under
President Juan Manuel Santos. The process has not been without con-
troversy between its supporters and opponents.
If anything can be said to characterize the armed conflict in
Colombia, it is the use of violence as a political instrument (López,
Amalio and Duran 2015 ; Jaramillo 2015). According to Colombian
authors, such as Barón (2002) and Jaramillo (2006), the use of violence
has been preceded by the use of the communication channels available to
the involved parties to legitimize various actors (e.g., the State, using the
authority granted by the control and exercise of the standards imposed
in democratic systems) and actions (e.g., in the case of armed groups,
the self-legitimacy of their violent acts) and to protect these actors from
accusations based on the ethics of responsible conviction or convinced
responsibility (Cortina 1996; Sabucedo et al. 2004). In addition, com-
munication channels have been used to maintain a positive public image
of those who perform violent acts by attributing blame to the other
group(s) (Pettigrew 1979; Bar-Tal 2000). This practice has resulted in
increasing depersonalization of victims and asymmetric recovery from
the suffering that has been occurring over more than 50 years of violence
(Sabucedo et al. 2003; Sabucedo et al. 2004).
7  SOCIAL NETWORKS, CYBERDEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL CONFLICT …  135

According to the theory of active minorities described by authors such


as Moscovici (1991) and Papastamou (1986) and applied by Colombian
authors such as Sabucedo et al. (2004), one of the main strategies
employed by the various dominant, violent groups in Colombia has
been to psychologize the conflict. This psychologization has occurred
through speeches aimed at discrediting the positions of groups that have
been linked to violence in the country. Thus, it is desirable to analyse
the use of communication scenarios (e.g., social media) to promote the
political violence that has marked the country during the second half
of the twentieth century. Our research extends that of authors such as
Barón (2002), Ballesteros et al. (2003) and Sacipa (2003), who ana-
lysed speeches by different actors who have used violence in Colombia.
However, we proceed from a perspective in which current digital sce-
narios play an important role in the socialization of the conflict and the
polarization of the actors that make up different levels of Colombian
society. In addition, we focus in particular on social media activity related
to the negotiations in Havana. However, older social factors (e.g., pov-
erty, inequality and land ownership in Colombia) remain relevant as a
backdrop, as noted by authors such as Oquist (1978), Deas and Gaitan
(1995) and Rangel (2003), and continue to motivate the decades-long
armed conflict.

Democracy and Digital Media


As noted by authors such as Castells (2009), Chadwick (2013), Casero-
Ripollés and Gutiérrez-Rubí (2014) and Fuchs (2014), we find our-
selves in a time in which the norms and rules provided under traditional
democratic systems have increasingly lost effectiveness. This is a result
of advances in digital environments, which permeate the social spaces in
which we act as citizens. In this context, the related debate on democ-
racy and the impact of digital communications is characterized by risks
and opportunities regarding the possibility of solving our social problems
(Casero-Ripollés and Gutiérrez-Rubí 2014).
Despite the undemocratic nature that the media can have, according
to Loader and Mercea (2012), the recent rise of social media has gener-
ated a context of openness and provided mechanisms of political partici-
pation for citizens, political parties and other social actors. This is a result
of an increasing diversification of social roles based on differing personal
preferences, themes, values and ways of life that appear in our societies
136  E. Said-Hung and D. Luquetta-Cediel

(Bennett and ​Segerberg 2012). However, despite this diversification,


interaction and dialogue between actors with opposing political positions
is lacking in social networks, given the prejudicial and segregated char-
acter with which many still use these scenarios to divulge, discuss and/
or disseminate information related to their ideological position (Van
Aelst and Walgrave 2004; Treré and Cargnelutti 2014; Gruzd and Roy
2014). Therefore, we find ourselves in a context in which the warning
voiced by authors such as Noguera (2010) remains valid: not to confuse
the connectivity provided by current digital scenarios with effective citi-
zen participation. Such confusion may be contributing to a scenario in
which the number of channels of access to information and communica-
tion does not necessarily guarantee the plurality, balance and impartiality
described in Article 27 of the 1998 Constitution of Colombia (Aceves
2004). In addition, as a result of increased public space for social and
political deliberation, there is a need to strengthen the democratization
of contemporary society (Criado and García 2012).
As noted by Criado and García (2012), the current digital scenarios
have become in recent years a context for public debate and increas-
ingly significant forums for public opinion in contemporary democracies.
According to Vallespín (2000) and Habermas (2005), public opinion
must be understood as action that legitimizes and rationalizes through
public discussion the power distributed within society. Such discussion
can only occur when a forum is available in which the different posi-
tions held by citizens regarding public events find resonance. It is in this
context that the rise of digital scenarios has changed the structure of the
public spaces previously dominated by traditional media. This new forum
is a result of the search by citizens, opinion leaders, social organizations
and public institutions for new contexts that enable them to share inter-
ests and opinions.
With the advance of information and communications technology
(ICT) in recent decades, there has been a growing debate regarding how
democratic systems function and the impact (favourable or not) of the
Internet and current digital scenarios on the search for a more delibera-
tive democracy by citizens, social organizations and public institutions.
In this context, authors such as Subirats (2002) and Barber (2006) have
noted the mismatch between how ICT and democratic systems function.
The latter operates according to political reasoning, in which the nuances
of problem solving are frequently more complex than the options pro-
vided by technical resources and current digital scenarios. In contrast, in
7  SOCIAL NETWORKS, CYBERDEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL CONFLICT …  137

ICT, when choosing among options to resolve problems, mechanisms


can be developed to promote the flow of information and the visibility of
civil denunciations and social issues silenced by the traditional media, as
in Colombia (Juárez 2014).
According to Habermas (2005), a set of conditions characterizes
effective deliberation in democratic systems: (1) direct or indirect inclu-
sion of all those affected; (2) reciprocity and exchange of approaches
regarding social problems to be addressed; and (3) ensuring the free
interaction of discussion participants. In this context, the current digital
scenarios could be considered public spaces that encourage debate (i.e.,
that provide “resonance” for opinions regarding the different topics that
appear in them) and that serve to filter contributions linked to the peace
negotiations. Thus, they contribute to conveying the various political
agendas promoted by power brokers in different social contexts.
Despite the possibilities provided by current digital scenarios, par-
ticularly social media, to promote deliberative social frameworks, stud-
ies (e.g., Farrel and Drezner 2008) describe different levels of leadership
based on the prestige of the debate contexts and the opinion leaders
who participate in them and a varying capacity for participation and dis-
cussion by the social actors who belong to these scenarios. Therefore,
it is difficult to envision a symmetrical digital frame, in which the
“resonance” provided by the current digital scenarios could provide
equal opportunities for deliberation, at least in the terms outlined by
Habermas (2005).

Social Media and Civic Mobilization


As noted by López-Trigo et al. (2013), the development of digital cul-
ture has meant a complete change in the entire paradigm of the com-
municative scenario in contemporary society. This change represents a
challenge, both politically and for the traditional media, in which digital
scenarios (social media) and innovative communication strategies con-
front one another and in which users and social groups exercise civic par-
ticipation via the Internet.
The transformative potential of social networks to exert pressure to
democratize communication channels has been widely studied (e.g.,
Bennett and Segerberg 2012; Keane 2013). Authors such as Lomicky
and Hogg (2010) have placed particular emphasis on the role of techno-
logical advances in the field of communications as catalysts for political
138  E. Said-Hung and D. Luquetta-Cediel

activism. Such advances can help improve the organization, coordination


and activities of social or civic movements (Subirats 2011).
As highlighted by Tilly (2005) and Iglesias (2005), we may be facing
a new context characterized by the emergence of new forms of politi-
cal and collective participation. Such new forms are characterized by flex-
ibility, decentralization and a lack of clear leaders. This context entails
increasing political activity on the Web. It also involves the exercise of
political participation in an unconventional way as a result of the varying
levels of conflict that occur because of a failure to transmit the opinions
of or actions by different activists within the social movements that form
in contemporary societies (Tilly 2005).
In the current context, it is necessary to understand the contemporary
scenario of communication. This scenario is characterized by an increas-
ing presence of “social movement nanomedia” or other new communi-
cation methods through which individual citizens have been provided a
means to express their dissatisfactions and demands outside traditional
communication channels (Downing 2009). Thus, in what has been
termed activism 2.0, the use of mobile devices and the intensive use of
social networks encourage horizontal communication, meaning building
and symbolic content building, which contribute to promoting debates
and demonstrations not only among and by groups but also individu-
als. In turn, despite the previously mentioned asymmetry of deliberation
(Habermas 2005; Farrel and Drezner 2008), these groups and individu-
als share common interests and purposes (Tremayne 2014) outside the
news agenda imposed by the media and the state, both on the analogue
and digital levels (McCombs 2005; Fernández 2012).
Researchers still recognize agenda-setting in the digital age, and
they continue to consider the media the focus of analysis and debate
(Neuman et al 2014; Vargo et al 2014). However, the increasing preva-
lence of social networks has created a need to rethink previously estab-
lished views. This new scenario is the result of the opportunities offered
by today’s digital formats. These opportunities are not only available to
politicians or traditional opinion leaders; they are also accessible to social
movements or citizens who wish to promote issues omitted (intention-
ally or unintentionally) from the news agenda promoted by the media
and traditionally powerful social actors (Gharbia 2010, 2011; Rovira-
Sancho 2013).
Thus, it becomes necessary to improve our understanding of the
rise of “social movement nanomedia” described by Downing (2011),
7  SOCIAL NETWORKS, CYBERDEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL CONFLICT …  139

particularly with respect to the armed conflict in Colombia. To this end,


we perform several case studies to examine how new communications
media are being used to promote positions for and against the Havana
peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government.

Exploratory Case Studies


This chapter focuses on Facebook, particularly 6 groups and/or pages
that address issues related to the Havana talks. The groups and pages
were selected during the week of June 13–18, 2016, according to the
qualitative representation that each possessed and their positions for or
against the talks.1
Each of these pages and/or groups represents, at a qualitative level,
the two main trends of discussion, information and commentary in
Colombian public opinion. The aspects considered included the fol-
lowing: the exploratory identification of the administrators, the types
of users linked to these spaces, the formats and types of published and
shared content and the levels of participation and deliberation provided.
The case studies were selected based on a general review of Facebook.
Keywords related to the armed conflict and the peace talks in Colombia
(e.g., diálogos, paz, Colombia, conflicto, and FARC) were used.

Exploratory Results
In addressing each of these case studies, with one exception (the group
“No Más FARC”, whose administrators do not have a clear affiliation
with a political party or social organization established in Colombia),
we could perceive how digital scenarios were created and managed by
formally constituted agents of social power (e.g., Colombian social

1 Facebook groups analyzed in this article are: Delegación de Paz FARC EP Somos Todos

(https://www.facebook.com/pazfarcolombia/timeline); Colombia Grande, Libre en Paz


(https://www.facebook.com/restauracionacional/timeline); Colombianos y Colombianas
por la Paz (https://www.facebook.com/ColombianosColombianasPorLaPAZ/timeline);
No Más FARC (https://www.facebook.com/groups/247295942000286/); Colectivo
Tolimense por la Pax (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1527489127573962/); Farc
Manuel, renuncie o golpe de estado (https://www.facebook.com/groups/81776075
8302394/members/).
140  E. Said-Hung and D. Luquetta-Cediel

organizations or political parties) or represented by individuals who


clearly have a direct relationship with those agents.
Based on the size of the linked citizen group or the number of likes
received by these pages or groups on Facebook, we could perceive that
the analysed digital spaces have a relatively low level of affiliation. Several
have a small number of members (e.g., 161 members for the Facebook
group “Colectivo Tolimense por la Paz” and 1754 members in the case
of “Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz”) compared to others (e.g.,
15860 members for the Facebook page “Delegación de Paz FARC EP
Somos Todos,” 7462 members for the group “Farc Manuel, renuncie o
golpe de estado,” 6018 members for the page “Colombia Grande, Libre
en Paz” and 3551 members for the group “No más FARC“). Based on
the low membership numbers, the analysed digital spaces within public
Facebook are not generating a significant mobilization from this social
environment, particularly if we consider the relevance of this issue for
Colombian society in general terms.
Based on the characteristics of the published and/or shared content,2
in the analysed cases, it was perceived how the more extended format
of each case was dominated by the publication of content produced or
processed by third parties (e.g., media and institutions for or against
the central issue addressed in this chapter) and social actors related (or
unrelated) to the Havana peace talks. This content included links and
multimedia (e.g., pictures or videos), which were commented on or not
commented on by posters. In this way, the analysed groups and pages
sought to reassert their positions for or against the peace process. In
addition, in all groups and on all pages, there was a lack of exposure or
dissemination of content that diverged from the positions or public opin-
ion that prevailed at each group site or page. More than simply providing
deliberation regarding a problem on which they were focused, these digi-
tal spaces reaffirmed pre-established positions in other social contexts of
discussion in which users (i.e., citizens) participate.
Regarding the level of participation within the studied pages and
groups, during the exploratory research for the development of this
chapter, three other interesting aspects were discerned. (1) Despite the

2 Many of the contents published in the analyzed groups are oriented to criticize the role

of the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos; to show support for the peace process
brought forward by the Colombian Government with the FARC and the announcement of
news related to the negotiation by both parties.
7  SOCIAL NETWORKS, CYBERDEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL CONFLICT …  141

higher levels of participation of the members or other individuals linked


to these digital spaces, in terms of the number of posted comments, par-
ticipation tended to be low (less than 5 comments), except in the case of
the page “Delegación de Paz FARC EP Somos Todos,” where the num-
ber of comments was high (i.e., more than 20 comments on the major-
ity of published posts). (2) The participation modes most employed by
members in the case studies were the like option or sharing content pub-
lished on the group site or page. (3) Despite the clearly different role
and degree of power of the administrators of the Facebook pages or
groups, when they decided to filter or allow information posted by mem-
bers, there were generally 2 dynamics of communication. In one, the
administrator had full control of what was reported (in the case of pages)
and did not share content provided by user members. In the other,
although members could share information (in the case of groups), only
a limited number did so. These members belonged to the groups most
critical of the Havana dialogue. Particularly in the case of the group
“Farc Manuel, renuncie o golpe de estado,” there was active participa-
tion by a higher number of members compared to the other cases (e.g.,
“No más FARC” and “Comité Tolimense por la Paz,” where active par-
ticipation was low or very low) with respect to sharing content.

Final Thoughts
As noted at the beginning of this chapter, for more than five decades,
Colombia has been characterized by a social context of violence. This
problem has necessitated the promotion of debate scenarios to help bet-
ter understand the impact of alternative communication scenarios or
nanomedia (Downing 2011). The goal of such scenarios is to increase
deliberation and mobilization within the democratic system of the
country.
The exploratory case study data delineate an environment character-
ized by the appropriation of contemporary digital scenarios by active
minorities (Moscovici 1991). These minorities use the digital scenarios
to discredit the positions of their political opponents on the Havana
peace talks. This outcome reaffirms the practice of the dominant media
in Colombia over the 50 years of armed conflict. During this period,
the dominant paradigm has revolved around political violence as a road
map for the fate of Colombia and the failed socialization and subsequent
polarization of the actors who dominate Colombian society with respect
142  E. Said-Hung and D. Luquetta-Cediel

to the conflict. At least preliminarily, this conclusion agrees with the


results of the literature considered in connection with this research, e.g.,
Barón (2002), Ballesteros et al. (2003) and Sacipa (2003).
The present may be a moment of transformation for democratic
systems, as claimed by authors such as Castells (2009), Chadwick
(2013), Casero-Ripollés and Gutiérrez-Rubí (2014) and Fuchs (2014).
However, in the studied cases, mechanisms of political participation, in
which interaction and dialogue between actors with opposing political
positions occur, are not being promoted. Rather, these mechanisms are
reinforcing the prejudicial, segregated scenario described by authors such
as Gruzd and Roy (2014).
Based on our exploratory results, the warning by Noguera (2010)
seems to remain valid. Rather than providing mechanisms for civic par-
ticipation (through the publication of and intensive exchange regarding
comments to encourage debate and the development of public opinion),
the studied groups and page reduce participation to expressing approval
(by clicking “like”) and sharing the published posts. A context that sup-
ports the “resonance” of political agendas promoted by the various
actors involved in the Havana talks is the most distinctive outcome of the
exploratory case studies. Such “resonance” represents one condition of
healthy public debate (Habermas 2005). However, in this context, the
conditions of effective deliberation in democratic systems established by
Habermas (2005) (i.e., the inclusion of all who are affected and exten-
sive exchange by the members who comprise the groups) are restricted,
not encouraged.
Nevertheless, it is appropriate to recall Tremayne’s (2014) views
regarding the possibilities offered by social networks to promote hori-
zontal communication by groups and individuals interested in public
issues, in this case the armed conflict and the peace talks. Such networks
may permit powerful agents linked to these issues to use digital scenarios
such as those studied to disrupt the agenda-setting practised by the tra-
ditional media (Gharbia 2010, 2011; Rovira-Sancho 2013) in favour of
news agendas that are more akin to their political interests and legitimize
their actions.
7  SOCIAL NETWORKS, CYBERDEMOCRACY AND SOCIAL CONFLICT …  143

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CHAPTER 8

Communication in Movement
and Techno-Political Media Networks:
the case of Mexico

César Augusto Rodríguez Cano

Societies are facing a vigorous process of cultural appropriation of


Information and Communication Technologies. In the political land-
scape: public officials, party militants, alternative and mainstream media
players, and civil society are all interconnected, using cyberspace to
expand their presence in the constant fight for social representations.
Despite the complexity of the digital divide around the world, the
political impact of the Internet has created a series of structural transfor-
mations in public life in the last years. Among these, two aspects stand
out: techno-political mobilizations and the reconfiguration of the media
ecosystem.
Regarding the first element, techno-political mobilizations have cre-
ated network movements with three elements in common: connected
multitudes, digital tools, and collective action (Toret 2013).

C.A.R. Cano (*) 
Departamento de Ciencias de la Comunicación y Diseño, Universidad
Autónoma Metropolitana unidad Cuajimalpa, Ciudad de México, México
e-mail: cesararcano@gmail.com

© The Author(s) 2018 147


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_8
148  C.A.R. Cano

In Mexico, #YoSoy132 is by far the most well known movement that


started on social media platforms; therefore it has undergone great analy-
sis that coincide in highlighting the renewal of the political culture based
on a ground-breaking communicative repertoire (Gómez and Treré
2014; Ramírez 2012; Galindo and González 2013; Candón-Mena 2013;
Portillo 2014; Modonesi 2014; Rovira 2014).
But beyond that particular experience, at least from 2009 there have
been a concatenation of other digital protests within a wide spectrum of
styles: from the radical to the civic, from outrage to proactive interventions,
and from civil disobedience to citizen participation (Rodríguez 2015a).
The main feature of these events is the use of many types of platforms:
social media, collaborative and petition websites, blogs, instant messaging
and chatting apps, etcetera, mostly through commercial software, which
host interactions that have induced an agenda trending process (Groshek
and Groshek 2013) on mainstream media and, in key junctures, demon-
strations in urban spaces with concrete political consequences, a scenario
that stands out in front of the traditional authoritarianism and political
patronage of Latin American governments (Trejo 2016).
But techno-political mobilizations cannot be understood without the
second element of the political impact of the web: a reconfiguration of
the media ecosystem.
Brought on by the convergence of traditional broadcasting with new
technologies, there was an initial period of native digital press sites marked
by a remarkable determination to succeed. In the meantime, mainstream
media also came to the online world: giant TV corporations, newspa-
pers, and national magazines, from right to left in the political spectrum,
quickly capitalized on the use of web sites and social networks platforms.
However, the new media ecosystem not only refers to professional
media but also to the rise of a broad diversity of independent and broad-
cast websites property of political activists, grassroots groups, and social
organizations.
This growing sector could have been understood by the notions of
alternative communication (Prieto 1997; Martín-Barbero 1998), radical
media (Downing 2000), third sector communication (García 2006) or
mass self-communication (Castells 2009).
Nevertheless, the previous notions do not define current commu-
nication sufficiently because they do not take into account aspects
like self-awareness, interweaving and professionalization of the
broadcasted content needed to venture into public debate. Besides,
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  149

nowadays media are not only constructed by isolated participation, but


is in fact primarily a collective and networked form of action as dis-
cussed below.

Context
Mexico is a country full of political struggles. When the Institutional
Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) 71 year one-party regime (Woldenberg
2012) finally came to an end in 2000, it was replaced by a right wing
government that failed to bring social and economic prosperity. By con-
trast, even with the return of the PRI in 2012; poverty and inequal-
ity have grown (Esquivel 2015) as well as drug violence (Secretariado
Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública 2016).
In recent years, causes related to enforced disappearances of persons
are common. Social mobilizations of indigenous people, journalists,
communities affected by macro projects whether in the city or country,
radio broadcasting audiences, protests against public policies or govern-
ment officials, against the increase of femicides, etcetera, have taken over
the urban and digital spaces.
After the Zapatista movement, the most representative protests in
Mexico have been the student mobilization #YoSoy132 in 2012 dur-
ing the electoral period against the ‘imposition’ of the current President
Enrique Peña Nieto, and the protest in September 2014 against the vio-
lent missing of 43 students from the rural teachers training college of
Ayotzinapa, in the city of Iguala, state of Guerrero, by local police mem-
bers along with members of the organized crime.
At least from 2009 several digital users have raised their voices in
social media platforms for different reasons.
For example, in 2009 and 2010 the movement Guardería ABC
demanded justice for the death of 49 children because of a fire in a pub-
lic nursery in the state of Sonora, with public officials implicated. In
2011, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity promoted a
massive Peace March to protest the violence and drug related murders
across the country.
In 2012, an electoral year, several protests were carried out against
the return of the PRI to the Presidency, mainly through the hashtags
#YoSoy132, #MarchaAntiEPN and #1Dmx. In 2013 the #PosMeSalto
movement called for civil disobedience actions because of the increase of
the subway fares in Mexico City.
150  C.A.R. Cano

In 2014 thousands of demonstrations took place for the Ayotzinapa


case, mainly with #YaMeCansé (I’ve had enough) as key motto. In
2015 several disputes arose in the Mexico City context, including
#EnDefensaDeAristegui in defense of the well known journalist Carmen
Aristegui who was fired for censorship reasons from the MVS private
radio station 102.5 FM; #Justicia5Narvarte in protest of the murder of
five people in a middle class Mexico city neighbourhood, including a
photojournalist who recently had been working in the violent state of
Veracruz; and #NoShopultepec against a public macro project attempt-
ing to build a mall instead of a public space over Chapultepec Avenue.
Finally, in 2016 the best example of social mobilizations through a
digital platform was the public protest against femicides with the hashtag
#VivasNosQueremos (we want us—women-alive).
But despite these expressions of conflict, Mexico is not exactly a
techno-participatory country. Although Internet users are approximately
68 million people, meaning 57% of the total population (Televisa et al.
2016), we need to address that the digital divide is not only about access
to technology but the effective use and appropriation of digital devices
(Crovi 2013). In other words, material conditions, digital literacy, and a
proactive political culture are needed in order to have an effective partici-
pation through Internet platforms, which is hardly the case in Mexico.

Theoretical Framework
In the Latin American context the new forms of media participation are
a response to at least three particular situations: media concentration and
TV monopolies (Huerta-Wong and Gómez García 2013), the low qual-
ity and quantity of public media, and the complicity of the press with
politicians and factual powers regarding public procedures—the propa-
ganda model as Herman and Chomsky claimed (2010).
There has been a historic structural failure in terms of the right to
communicate and therefore to search, receive, and broadcast information
among most of the Latin American societies; consequently, this paper
suggests the use of communication in movement, as a term to define the
new media players that expose social conflicts and human rights issues in
Mexico.
Moreover, the idea of communication in movement could be useful
as a term to understand the media structures in the techno-political sce-
nario and therefore as an element of the communicology of the South’s
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  151

new conceptual schemes (Sierra 2014), though that notion does not nec-
essarily imply the exclusivity of cyberspace, as for example in the case of
community radio stations that have existed for some time now. However,
thanks to the online space, this kind of informational action has grown
exponentially.
But before explaining with deeper level of detail such a proposal, it
is necessary to understand the idea of societies in movement (Zibechi
2007), which describes the determination of social groups to grant
themselves the rights that have been partially or completely denied to
them. It is an idea that implies the emancipation from institutions that
failed in guaranteeing them such rights.
Zibechi describes such societies using three examples: health, educa-
tion, and production systems, and explains the stand-alone and working-
class approaches to gaining the rights not granted to them. The concrete
cases are the traditional healers in rural communities, schools of los cara-
coles Zapatistas, and the takeover of factories in Latin America.
In that context, communication in movement is a term used to
explain how social actors, both individual and collective, have decided to
exercise their rights to search, receive, and broadcast information, creat-
ing media spaces over multiple platforms on the Internet, and in doing
so, fostering information plurality and the visibility of alternative agendas
in cyberspace.
The idea of multi-platform means that such media uses many kinds of
websites to spread their agendas: websites, blogs, or social media spaces.
This is an important feature of the communication in movement phe-
nomenon; such techno-plasticity provides enough strength to resist the
eventual shutdown of any cyber platform.
As we know, being part of a corporate new global media industry sce-
nario based on algorithmic gatekeeping (Morozov 2014), commodifica-
tion of social interaction, and in a surveillant assemblage (Haggerty and
Ericson 2000), the most popular social media are co-opted by commer-
cial and control policy interests. That is why free software and any other
liberating tool have become crucial nowadays.
However, as Gravante and Poma pointed out following Martín-
Barbero and De Certeau, political appropriation of Communication and
Information platforms imply cultural mediations and everyday tactics to
resignify technology (2013).
Another important feature of the communication in movement
notion is the grid structure that is possible to achieve if the different
152  C.A.R. Cano

media link one to one another. That is why we think in terms of techno-
political media networks, which is not only a theoretical perspective
but also a realistic one: the interaction on cyberspace is articulated in
networks. Not necessarily based on strong ties, by the way; but as it is
known since Granovetter findings (1983), weak ties could be the key fac-
tor for the integration of communities.
To sum up, we need to reflect upon the new media ecosystem and
the appropriation of technologies as a new gateway to collective action
by creating informational counter power thru techno-political media net-
works, strong enough to dispute the manufactured agenda created by
mainstream media.
The idea of techno-political media networks is an empirical variable to
explain a theoretical one. Melluci’s proposal of a two-pole model latency
and visibility is a key notion to understand social movements nowadays
(1999).
The Italian author explains latency as a sort of submerge lab for antag-
onism and innovation while visibility shows the public rise of that dis-
content and energy creating the possibility of alternative cultural models.
Latency means to fuel visibility with solidarity resources and a cultural
structure for mobilization; and it is composed of submerged networks.
Trying to adapt the model of latency-visibility to techno-political sce-
narios is challenging. There is no doubt that the moment of visibility
takes place when the social outbreak is exposed on cyberspace and in the
streets like in the Indignados movement.
This paper explores how latency could be understood in this context.
One of the most peculiar features of the new grid structure on cyber-
space is the multiplicity of voices. Political actors are now not only main-
stream media and professional politicians, but also citizens, human rights
activists, militants, public figures, and even scholars. The constant pres-
ence of producers and consumers of content, build up a latent setting
structurally ready for contentious scenarios. The proposal is that this
latent setting is made up of techno-political media networks.

The End of an Era of Cyber-Optimism


Social mobilizations like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and the
Indignados were understood as key techno-political performances for a
new era of democracy. Nevertheless, the scopes of such movements were
limited.
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  153

In the Arab world, while some dictators were overthrown, power-


ful authoritarian structures prevailed. In the US, despite a massive series
of protests against the global economic system, the extreme right rep-
resented by Donald Trump came to power in 2016. In Spain, some of
the #15m movement became the second political party nation-wide but
remained under the same government they rebelled against.
In addition, the revelations of Edward Snowden about a massive
global digital surveillance apparatus run by American security agencies
represented the beginning of a new phase of control, mainstreaming and
co-optation for digital activism (Karatzogianni 2015).
The political system from all sides became more aware of the implica-
tions of technology and began to create new armies of Terracotta digital
soldiers, known as bots and trolls, combined with the use of surveillance
software and fake news.
However, though with more cautious perspectives, the techno-political
appropriation of technology of network movements is still happening as
connective action (Bennett and Segerberg 2013) creating an emotional
communication with no centre that flows and links political subjectivities
increasingly difficult to stop by repressive machinery (Reguillo 2015).
Like we said earlier, the narrative disputes are now structurally dif-
ferent. Movements like #NuitDebout in France, #BlackLivesMatter in
the US or #NiUnaMenos in Argentina induce public discussions and, in
doing so; they represent the once invisible news.
Despite the setbacks and concerns like echo chambers or algorithmic
repression, the use of cyberspace still represents a chance for visibility and
connection of social actors for the articulation of antagonisms (Laclau
and Mouffe 1985).

Methodology
The research done on the case study for this paper, techno-political
media networks scenario in Mexico, was drawn from a methodological
proposal based on Social Network Analysis (SNA), which is an investi-
gation technique that “emerged as a set of methods for the analysis of
social structures” with emphasis on relational data (Scott 2000, p. 38).
The choice of method was due to the current centrality of social network
platforms as new media environments in cyberspace and therefore because
of the urgency to look for theoretical perspectives and empirical analysis of
the communicative features and relational settings within these networks.
154  C.A.R. Cano

While the visualization of networks on Twitter have been explored in


Mexico (Rodríguez 2015b) and other contexts (Gutiérrez 2015; Hansen
et al. 2011), the main interest for this study was Facebook because of its
centrality among Mexican users.
Under Melucci’s theoretical perspective, we use the notion of latency
over the idea of visibility of social movements. In order to do that, the
databases were collected looking out for the submerged networks that
act on a daily basis and not only during the rise of social mobilizations.
The main idea is that network analysis and collective action are linked to
each other as Diani once introduced (2011).
The techno-political media networks obtained through data mining
were Facebook page-like networks (Rieder 2013), meaning networks of
pages connected through the likes between them, with a depth level 1 or
2. Level 1 is the page network that a seed page liked initially. And level 2
means a network of networks from the Facebook pages that a seed page
liked initially. For instance, if a seed page had 15 likes, the level 1 is a
network between the connections of the 16 pages implicated, meanwhile
the level 2 is a macro-network with the nodes from the network level 1
of each one of the 16 pages combined.
The methodology was developed in three stages: (1) Examination of
the techno-political media networks in several contexts in order to set
methodological hypotheses about the study case; (2) Exploration of the
techno-political media networks within the Mexican scenario, and (3)
Analysis of such networks based upon three specific variables: the detec-
tion of actors, communities and topics.
The first two stages implied data mining from Facebook and further
work on the open source and free software Gephi via the visualization
algorithm Force Atlas. Also, we present three statistics variables: average
degree, network diameter and modularity.1

Stage 1
In order to prove or refute that techno-political media networks exist, we
first did an exploratory analysis in other contexts.

1 According to graph theory, degree refers to the number of links of a node, network

diameter is the longest of all calculated shortest paths between two nodes, and modularity
is a function that shows the division of a network into communities.
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  155

We analysed four network examples: Occupy Wall Street, the Mexican


movement #YoSoy132, the Indignados of Spain, and the Brazilian
techno-political context. For that purpose, we used as starting points the
following Facebook pages: Occupy Wall St. (2015), #YoSoy132 (2015),
Spanish Revolution (2016), and Mídia Ninja (2016).
Since the networks obtained were not snapshots of the highest
moment of the protests that led to social mobilizations, they cannot
be taken into account as explanations of them however, they have an
illustrative character of the recent mobilizations in the United States,
Mexico, Spain and Brazil, respectively.

Occupy Wall St. (United States)


The first network was from the Facebook page Occupy Wall St.,
obtained on November 1, 2015, with 554 nodes, 28223 links, an aver-
age degree of 101.888, a diameter of 2 and a modularity of 0.113 (see
Fig. 8.1).
The pages with higher degree, that is to say the most intercon-
nected were: Occupy Wall St. (553), Occupy France (388), Occupy
Bellingham—a city located in the state of Washington (378), Occupy
California (378) and Occupy Together (367).
Although at least three communities were detected, it was hard to set
which was the particularity of each one because all the nodes were pages
of the Occupy movement with the only distinction that they belong to
different cities.

#YoSoy132 (Mexico)
The media network from the Facebook page #YoSoy132 obtained on
November 1, 2015, had a depth level of 2, giving a wider landscape with
a total of 2081 nodes, 25191 links, an average degree of 24.21, with a
network diameter of 4, and a modularity factor of 0.512. In order to get
a clearer point of view from this network, we used a degree filter that
showed us the main nodes only (see Fig. 8.2).
It turned out that the network was conformed by four commu-
nities. The first one was related with the Mexican movement pages,
such as #YoSoy132 itself, in addition to #YoSoy132Media, Más de
131 and Yo Soy 132. The second community showed a network of
Mexican media with both mainstream (Aristegui Noticias, La Jornada,
156  C.A.R. Cano

Fig. 8.1  Occupy Wall St. Page Like Network, elaborated by the author

Revista Proceso, Animal Político and Sin Embargo) and alternative


(Desinformémonos and Guerrilla Comunicacional México) types. The
third community was about the spanish movement #15m, with pages
such as Spanish Revolution, HUMOR INDIGNADO 99%, Democracia
real YA, Movimiento 15M, Juventud SIN futuro, Acampada en Sol and
Acampadabcn. And finally, the fourth community was related with the
Occupy Wall Street movement, among them the pages Occupy Wall St.
Occupy Wall Street, Democracy Now!, Occupy Together, Wikileaks and
Occupy Mexico.

Spanish Revolution (Spain)


The network from the Facebook page Spanish Revolution (see Fig. 8.3),
relevant for the Indignados movement in that country back in 2011 was
obtained on may 17, 2016, with a depth level of 1, 296 nodes and 5343
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  157

Fig. 8.2  #YoSoy132 Page Like Network, elaborated by the author

links. The average degree was 36.101, the network diameter was 5 and
the modularity factor was 0.224.
Thanks to the detection of modularity, we could manage to iden-
tify three big communities led by the pages acampadabcn, Spanish
Revolution and 15M: Marcha Bruselas, respectively. By in-degree the
Facebook pages highlighted were Spanish Revolution (140), acam-
padasol (112), Acampadabcn (112), Juventud Sin Futuro (93), and
Periódico Diagonal (79).
The content of three communities was related to: (1) the occupation
of urban spaces, that they called Acampadas, with single pages of cities
across the country, like for example in Valencia, Murcia and Barcelona;
(2) A mix of accounts related to the #15m movement in general, includ-
ing Spanish Revolution, Juventud SIN futuro, acampadasol, Afectados
por la Hipoteca and Periódico Diagonal; and (3) Accounts linked to the
international sector of the movement, for example European Revolution,
Occupy Wall St., DEMOCRACIA REAL YA !! CHILE, Take the Square
158  C.A.R. Cano

Fig. 8.3  Spanish Revolution Page Like Network, elaborated by the author

and 15M: Marcha Bruselas. In this last community also appeared the
page Democracia real YA! Madrid.
From the most relevant pages that appeared in this network, Periódico
Diagonal seemed to be the only one belonging to a mainstream media,
however the information on its Facebook profile indicate that: Diagonal
is a critical and independent newspaper, with neither directors nor
bosses, based upon the help of thousands of people who are subscribed
and those who support with donations or collaborations (2016).

Mídia Ninja (Brazil)


The Mídia Ninja network was obtained on October 29, 2016, with a
depth level of 1 (see Fig. 8.4).
The goal here was to explore the Brazilian techno-political scenario
in order to understand the mobilizations in the contexts of the World
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  159

Fig. 8.4  Mídia Ninja Page Like Network, elaborated by the author

Soccer Cup 2014 and the Olympic Games 2016, which both took place
in Brazil, as well as the recent impeachment of the President Dilma
Rouseff. As we later understood, the collection of the data was only a
rudimentary exercise to come close to the Brazilian techno political situ-
ation although it allowed us to get an interesting insight into what was
going on.
The network had 394 nodes and 3670 links, with an average degree
of 18.629, a network diameter of 6 and 0.32 as modularity. The
pages with a higher in-degree were Mídia Ninja, Black Bloc RJ (52),
Anonymous Rio (52), Mariachi (52), and Advogados Ativistas (49).
At least four communities within this network were detected. The first
one led by Mídia Ninja, Comitê Popular Rio Copa e Olimpíadas, Anistia
Internacional Brasil and the page Mães de Maio. The second commu-
nity was guided by media activism collective Mariachi, Black Bloc RJ—
Rio de Janeiro-, and Mídia Independente Coletiva-MIC, among others.
Anonymous Rio, Advogados Ativistas, and AnonymousBrasil mainly
composed the third community. And finally, in the fourth community
160  C.A.R. Cano

showed up MTST—Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Teto, Passe


Livre São Paulo and Passe Livre Rio de Janeiro, this last two belonging
to political demonstrations demanding free public transportation.

Considerations for the Stage 1


After the conclusion of the first stage with the analysis of the Facebook
pages Occupy Wall St., #YoSoy132, Spanish Revolution, and Mídia
Ninja, it is important to point out the following considerations.

1. The presence of techno-political media networks were proven in


different contexts, which confirms their relevance as conceptual
framework in the new media scenario created by platforms on
cyberspace.
2. One of the most significant findings was that the nodes of the
Facebook networks tend to be collective. This is different from
Twitter where there is significant presence of individual users
(political activists, citizens, militants, journalists, public figures,
scholars, etcetera). The individual users on Facebook are mostly
private.
3. In each one of the networks we analysed, there is connection with
international pages, which means that techno-political media net-
works are part of a post-national ecosystem.

Stage 2
During this phase a first outline was explored by creating a sample net-
work of seven individual networks composed by the Facebook pages
related to #YoSoy132 mexican movement with the higher number of
likes (see Fig. 8.5): Yo Soy 132 (200128 likes), #YoSoy132 (126521
likes), Más de 131 (35285 likes), #YoSoy132Media (29132 likes),
#YoSoy132 Mundial (27548 likes), Acampada Revolución 132 (20058
likes) and Artistas Aliados #YoSoy132 (15796 likes).
Secondly, in order to analyse the techno-political media networks sce-
nario in Mexico, we generate and explore two random but relevant net-
work examples drawn from the Facebook pages #YoSoy132 (2015) and
Centro Prodh (2016).
#YoSoy132 Mega-Network was made up from a snowball sampling.
First, we extracted a level 1 network of a seed page (#YoSoy132) and
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  161

Fig. 8.5  #YoSoy132 Sample Mega-Network, elaborated by author

then we chose the page within such network with the highest interme-
diation centrality. Then we did exactly the same procedure: extract a level
1 network of such page and chose the page within the network with the
highest intermediation centrality. And so on until we reached 20 net-
works (see Table 8.1).
Those 20 individual networks were added up into a collective network
through Gephi software. We get a mega network, called #YoSoy132
Mega-Network 2 with 954 nodes and 4008 links, a network diameter
of 7, an average grade of 8.403 and a modularity factor of 0.572 (see
Fig. 8.6).
An important issue about #YoSoy132 Mega-Network was the pres-
ence of central nodes different from the 20 pages that conformed such
network. The new relevant nodes were all related with media pages:
Aristegui Noticias, Revista Proceso, La Jornada, Sin Embargo MX,
Rompeviento TV and Animal Político. This was because such nodes were
central on different networks at a time.
162  C.A.R. Cano

Table 8.1  #YoSoy132 Mega-Network pages, elaborated by author

Order Facebook page Likes In-degree Nodes Ties

1 #YoSoy132 126531 30 71 524


2 Más de 131 35229 34 115 560
3 Article 19 México 17839 11 44 121
4 Fundar México 11696 34 108 509
5 Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos 5763 7 46 215
en México
6 H.I.J.O.S. México 13541 14 77 187
7 Desinformémonos 1466249 27 171 612
8 Radio Zapote 22740 21 205 536
9 Subversiones—Agencia Autónoma de 26468 4 26 67
Comunicación
10 Frente Autónomo Audiovisual 17351 1 12 15
11 El Grito Más Fuerte 39255 2 10 14
12 Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y 12728 20 71 326
Dignidad
13 Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos 5603 13 53 229
(as) en Nuevo León
14 Bordamos por la Paz 4043 8 39 166
15 Mexicanos en Holanda por la Paz en México 3260 17 149 647
16 Red Global por la Paz en México 2248 8 25 103
17 emergenciamx.tv 3233 5 30 62
18 Caravana al Sur 2675 7 61 366
19 Centro Prodh 17846 7 17 50
20 Acción Migrante 2828 10 43 177

On the other hand, Centro Prodh Mega-Network was obtained in


search of an example specifically different from the #YoSoy132 student
movement and with a depth level of 2.
After we explored several Facebook pages, we obtained a network of
the human rights NGO Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín
Pro Juárez A.C. that we called Centro Prodh Mega-Network. With a
depth level of one we get 17 nodes whereas with a depth level of 2 we
get 783 nodes (see Fig. 8.7) and 4921 links, an average degree of 12.57,
10 as a diameter of the network and a modularity index of 0.419.

Stage 3
Once we obtained both techno-political media networks, #YoSoy132
Mega-Network and Centro Prodh Mega-Network, the analysis came
basically upon the relevance of three factors: actors (nodes), communities
and topics (modularity).
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  163

Fig. 8.6  #YoSoy132 Mega-Network, elaborated by author

Actors
The more outstanding actors were selected with the criterion of higher
in-degree.
The first ten nodes with the higher in-degree from #YoSoy132 Mega-
Network were, in that order, the Facebook pages from La Jornada (105),
Revista Proceso (76), Amnistía Internacional México (74), Más de 131
(67), Desinformémonos (66), Animal Político (53), Aristegui Noticias
(51), Centro Prodh (50), #YoSoy132 (47) and Fundar México (44).
The first ten nodes with the higher in-degree from Centro Prodh
Mega-Network were, in that order, the Facebook pages Amnistía
164  C.A.R. Cano

Fig. 8.7  Centro Prodh Mega-Network, elaborated by author

Internacional México (77), Revista Proceso (66), La Jornada (65),


Fundar México (61), Centro Prodh (58), Animal Político (54), Aristegui
Noticias (53), Desinformémonos (46), Sin Embargo MX (42) and
Humans Rights Watch (40).
That is to say, both mega-networks overlap in nine central
nodes: the mainstream media La Jornada (a leftist daily newspa-
per), Proceso (a leftist weekly magazine), Animal Político (a digital
native media) and Aristegui Noticias (a digital native media), in addi-
tion to Desinformémonos (an alternative digital media), the NGOs
International Amnesty Chapter Mexico, Centro Prodh, Fundar México,
Humans Rights Watch and the activist collective Más de 131 (that gave
rise to #YoSoy132 movement).
The only difference between both mega-networks in this perspective
was #YoSoy132 page on #YoSoy132 Mega-Network while the appear-
ance of the native digital media Sin Embargo MX within the Centro
Prodh Mega-Network.
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  165

In a second block of Facebook pages from #YoSoy132 Mega-


Network, from number 11 to 20 by in-degree factor, were Sin
Embargo MX, #YoSoy132Media, Subversiones—Agencia Autónoma
de Comunicación, Radio Zapote, Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y
Dignidad, Rompeviento TV, H.I.J.O.S. México, Regeneración Radio, Yo
Soy 132 and Article 19 México.
Meanwhile, in a second block of Facebook pages from Centro Prodh
Mega-Network, from number 11 to 20 by in-degree factor, were the
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, United Nations,
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social—Cencos, El Universal
Online, Tlachinollan—Centro de Derechos Humanos de La Montaña,
Greenpeace México, Article 19 México, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa
y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Red TDT and Rompeviento TV.
By seeking the overlap pages between both networks, we detected the
central role from Sin Embargo MX, in addition to Rompeviento TV (an
alternative TV channel by Internet) and Article 19 chapter Mexico (a
NGO).
In other words, the central nodes that coincided for both mega-
networks were a mix of opposing mainstream media (La Jornada and
Proceso), native digital media (Animal Político, Aristegui Noticias
and Sin Embargo MX), alternative digital media (Desinformémonos
and Rompeviento TV), national humans rights organizations (Centro
Prodh and Fundar México) and international human rights organiza-
tions (Humans Rights Watch, Amnistía Internacional México and Article
19 México) along with an activist collective (Más de 131).

Communities and Topics
The communities from #YoSoy132 Mega-Network produced a strongly
atomized scenario conformed by each one of the 20 networks that were
part of it.
Despite that, we observed individual pages related with at least
three topics: human rights, migrants and enforced disappearances. The
Fig. 8.8 below represents how the pages consider themselves according
to Facebook category possibilities.
In contrast, the communities from Centro Prodh Mega-Network
showed us a more complex scenario by not existing merely based upon
the centrality of one page. Therefore, we were able to detect communi-
ties by topic. Also, we considered it important to present a graph of how
166  C.A.R. Cano

Fig. 8.8  #YoSoy132 Mega-Network by Category, elaborated by the author

the 783 nodes represented themselves by Facebook category possibilities


(see Fig. 8.9).
The more relevant communities were from dreamers, migrants,
enforced disappearances, ecologists; human rights in general, feminists,
and citizen organizations in favour of transparency and accountability.
We only discovered a clear network around a single page: International
Amnesty.
In the next table (see Table 8.2) we can see the main Facebook pages
found within each one of those communities.

Considerations About Stage 3


A point that could make the difference between #YoSoy132 and Centro
Prodh mega-networks was the way we generated them. By creating
it with a more artificial method drawn from the sum of individual net-
works, #YoSoy132 Mega-Network’s communities were more atomized
to each page.
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  167

Fig. 8.9  Centro Prodh Mega-Network by Category, elaborated by the author

In general terms, the detection of actors showed us the central nodes


on the Mexican techno-political scenario, whereas the detection of com-
munities was useful in order to find a wide plurality of topics within the
networks.
In respect of the detected actors, alternative media not only appeared
between the communities, but a wide variety of institutional actors,
organized civil society, and both mainstream and alternative media.

Conclusions
As for the empirical analysis, the existence of submerged networks
(Melucci 1999) as techno-political media networks was proven, a key
element in order to understand political participation online.
For the Italian author, in announcing that a better world is possible
social movements offer a ground for external action to solidarity net-
works that live in different areas of society and share the desire for cul-
tural investment and symbolic change of the system.
168  C.A.R. Cano

Table 8.2  Centro Prodh Mega-Network’s communities and topics, elaborated


by the author

Communities and topics Facebook pages (original names)

Alternative media Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social—


Cencos, Subversiones—Agencia Autónoma de
Comunicación, Radio Zapote, Más de 131,
#YoSoy132, Desinformémonos, La Voladora Radio,
Prensa Comunitaria, Rompeviento TV, Radio Pozol,
Periodistas de a Pie
Consumers El Poder del Consumidor, Etiquetado Ya
Against discrimination Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México,
Copred, Conapred
Enforced disappearances Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos en
México, Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos
(as) en Nuevo León, Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros
Desaparecidos en Coahuila, Justicia para Nuestras
Hijas, H.I.J.O.S. México
Dreamers Reform Immigration for America, Dream in Mexico
AC, United We Dream, National Immigration Youth
Alliance, DreamACTivist.org
Environmental Greenpeace México, Centro Mexicano de Derecho
Ambiental, Salvemos Manglar Tajamar, La Bioguía,
Fundación Vida Silvestre, Pro-Animal Campeche AC,
YoSoy132Ambiental, Amigos de la Tierra, Fundación
Semillas de Vida A.C., EcoPortal.net, Asamblea Jáchal
No Se Toca, Jornada Nacional contra la Megaminería,
Unión de Asambleas Ciudadanas
Feminism and gender perspective Equis: Justicia para las Mujeres, GIRE—Grupo de
Información en Reproducción Elegida, Católicas
México, ONU Mujeres, UN Women, Derecho a
Decidir, Fondo Semillas, Instituto de Liderazgo
Simone de Beauvoir, Sipam Salud Integral para la
Mujer A.C., Luchadoras
Human rights CDHDF, Comisión Nacional de los Derechos
Humanos (CNDH), Instituto Mexicano de Derechos
Humanos y Democracia, CADHAC Derechos
Humanos, Corte Interamericana de Derechos
Humanos, Jóvenes por los Derechos Humanos
México, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción
de los Derechos Humanos, United Nations Human
Rights, Onudh Mexico, Instituto Interamericano de
Derechos Humanos, Comisión Interamericana de
Derechos Humanos, Humans Rights Watch, Red
TDT, Centro Prodh
(continued)
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  169

Table 8.2  (continued)

Communities and topics Facebook pages (original names)


Indigenous people Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos: México,
Tlachinollan—Centro de Derechos Humanos de La
Montaña, Las Abejas de Acteal, Frayba Derechos
Humanos
International organizations United Nations, UNICEF, Organización de los
Estados Americanos (OEA), World Bank
Mainstream national media Ibero 90.9, El Financiero, reforma.com, El Universal
Online, emeequis, Milenio, Noticias MVS, Sin
Embargo MX, Animal Político, Reporte Índigo, CNN
en Español, Revista Proceso, Aristegui Noticias, La
Jornada
Mexican government Presidencia de la República, Senado de la República,
Cámara de Diputados—Congreso de la Unión, Canal
del Congreso México, Semarnat
Migrants Acción Migrante, IM-Defensoras (Honduras),
Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano, Sin Fronteras
Iap, Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración
AC (IMUMI), Colectivo de Apoyo para Personas
Migrantes AC, Casa del Migrante Casanicolas, Red
Mexicana de Organizaciones y Líderes Migrantes,
Caravana al Sur, Casa Refugiados, Asamblea Popular
de Familias Migrantes, Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes
México, La 72 Hogar Refugio para Personas
Migrantes, Colectivo Ustedes Somos Nosotros
Peace culture Peace Brigades International—Mexico Project,
Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad, El
Grito Más Fuerte, Red Global por la Paz en México,
Bordamos por la Paz, MX Hasta la Madre, Nuestra
Aparente Rendición, Serapaz México
Penal justice Renace A.B.P., Red Nacional a favor de los Juicios
Orales y el Debido Proceso, Seguridad con Justicia
NL, Insyde [Instituto para la Seguridad y la
Democracia, AC], MUCD, Reforma Penal México,
Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal AC
Transgenics MAO GM Colectivo sin Transgénicos, Carnaval
del Maíz, Red en Defensa del Maíz, Todos los
25 hasta que se vaya Monsanto, Millones contra
Monsanto, March Against Monsanto, Chile sin
Transgénicos, Occupy Monsanto, Colectivo contra el
Agronegocio La Plata, Asamblea de Autoconvocadxs
contra Monsanto, Repudio a las Leyes de Semillas y
Agrotóxicos

(continued)
170  C.A.R. Cano

Table 8.2  (continued)

Communities and topics Facebook pages (original names)


Transparency and civic causes Consejo Cívico, Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano,
México Evalúa, RRC Red por la Rendición de
Cuentas, Transparencia Mexicana, Instituto Mexicano
para al Competitividad A.C., Gesoc AC, Colectivo
por la Transparencia, Fundar México, Asociación
Mexicana de Derecho a la Información A.C., Article
19, Article 19 México, Oxfam México, Open Society
Foundations, Alternativas y Capacidades AC
Mainstream International Media AJ+, The New York Times, El País, teleSUR, The
Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BBC News
Amnisty International Amnistía Internacional México, Amnistía
Internacional Comunidad Online Latinoamericana,
Amnistía Internacional España, Amnesty
International, Amnesty Internacional USA, Amnesty
International France, Amnesty International UK

As has been shown in the analysis of the techno-political media net-


works in Mexico, the networks exist, but there is necessarily a more com-
plex insight to understand what is behind a like. Indeed, they can be
solidarity networks but not only since the links between the nodes could
create also semantic or interest networks. One thing is confirmed: ties
represent relationships.
A ‘likes scenario’ is not necessarily weak. The understanding of the
meaning of likes in the techno-political ecosystem can take us to appreci-
ate how they are building their strength and therefore how they are sym-
bolically changing the system in a collective manner.
After having understood latency in the empirical sense, a pending
subject is wondering how this latency works in a visibility scenario.
For example, the reaction on the techno-political media networks
during the protests against the enforced disappearance of 43 students
from Ayotzinapa in México. ¿Who participated and who did not?
If such thing was clear, ¿How did these networks create connective
action?
Of course, a quantitative perspective is limited, so we need to comple-
ment it by getting to the ground and understand the solidarity flows in
times of the Internet and social media beyond the online interaction. In
8  COMMUNICATION IN MOVEMENT AND TECHNO-POLITICAL MEDIA …  171

order to do that, we need to address that in the online world collective


actors are not the only ones in collective crowds. Individual actors like
political activists, journalists, public figures, and citizens in general, are
also important to understand not only the latency but the visibility pole
of social movements.
Also we need to avoid Internet-centrism and not try to explain the
Mexican society in terms of social media users. But the interesting thing
is that beyond every single social media user there are some individu-
als and collectives, whether they are spontaneous or organized, that are
working for several causes beyond the Internet on a daily basis.
The visualizations were useful making sense of the complexity of
actors, communities and topics interlaced in networks of meaning of the
techno-political ecosystem. As we said earlier, the techno-political media
networks are part of a multi-platform post-national new scenario of
communication.
With the idea of multi-platform, we understand that such networks
exist on Facebook but also in several other spaces on the Internet: not
only as social media users but as plain web pages or blogs as well.
We said that the networks were post-national because it was clear that
the nodes could expand beyond any national border and connect with
other actors, communities and topics around the world. In this sense, we
need to explore the idea of the ‘global revolution’, a term that is already
theoretical literature.
One particularity of the Mexican techno-political scenario is the
strong presence of mainstream critical media, both printed and elec-
tronic, which helped us to understand that the techno-political media
networks are no longer understandable only by the notion of alternative
communication, radical media or third sector communication.
There is a complex connection between different types of actors:
mainstream media, activist collectives, alternative media, non-govern-
mental organizations, both national and international institutions, etcet-
era. That is why we propose the idea of communication in movement
to describe not the type of actors but the implication of them as media
actors in the political landscape.
What does this mean for the Mexican and Latin American political
systems? First, that the use of Internet platforms has created a challeng-
ing scenario for a moving communication radically different from the
highly concentrated media system of the television era.
172  C.A.R. Cano

Secondly that this expansion of the right to communicate not only


assures, but also supports, more connective possibilities to fight against
informational authoritarianism, in a complex context full of social antag-
onisms and struggles as is happening almost everywhere.

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CHAPTER 9

#CompartirNoEsDelito: Creating
Counter-Hegemonic Spaces
Online for Alternative Production
and Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge

Jean-Marie Chenou and Rodulfo Armando Castiblanco


Carrasco

On 14 July 2014 the Fundación Karisma, a Colombian organisation


working in the field of the defence of digital rights launched the campaign
Compartir no es delito (Sharing is not a Crime) on its website. The cam-
paign’s aim was to support the Colombian biologist Diego Gómez, who
had been sued for alleged breach of copyright and violation of intellectual
property rights. The complainant argued that he had shared a Master’s
thesis on the internet illegally, specifically on the digital platform Scribd.

J.-M. Chenou (*) 
Universidad de los Andes, Cra 1 #18A-12 , Ed. Franco, G. 324, Bogotá,
Bogotá, Colombia
e-mail: jm.chenou@uniandes.edu.co
R.A. Castiblanco Carrasco 
Universidad de los Andes, Cra 70c # 2-20 sur Apto 509, Bogotá, Bogotá,
Colombia
e-mail: arcasca@yahoo.es

© The Author(s) 2018 177


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_9
178  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

From the very beginning of the campaign, the Gómez case went viral
in the “virtual public sphere” (Ribeiro 2002). Internet users debated
what was generally considered to be an unusual and unjust case, as the
sharing of information is considered to be an everyday act on the web.
Thus, the campaign’s name reflected the views of the internet commu-
nity, which opposed the litigation.
Another aspect that encouraged debate was the fact that Diego faced
a possible prison sentence if found guilty. In a country like Colombia,
where the judicial system is undermined by illegal practices, the fact that
someone might end up in prison for sharing something on the internet
generated indignation.
Diego’s case also received national and international coverage in
media outlets such as, in Colombia, El Tiempo, El Espectador, Blu Radio,
Caracol Radio, the Revista Semana and, internationally, Newsweek, the
Open Policy Network, The Guardian, Boing Boing and ScienceInsider (see
Fig. 9.1). This wide circulation of the news suggests that the case was
important and unusual, not only in Colombia but also in the rest of the
world, as it reflected tensions concerning access and the right to knowl-
edge and the status of digital information in the contemporary world.
The Compartir no es delito campaign sought vindication for Diego
and was more practical than ideological. In other words, it centred on
the practices and needs associated with access rather than on political
objectives. It spawned “dissident political practices” that demanded open

Fig. 9.1  Media coverage of Diego’s case, created by the authors


9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  179

access to information, problematizing aspects such as the legal and com-


mercial hegemonies that manipulate questions associated with access to
knowledge, the current role of science and academia, and the concept of
digital crime.
Against this background, the chapter seeks to analyse the ways
in which a practice based on the particular needs of the Global South
might contribute to and inspire global campaigns on matters including
free access to knowledge and that are able to articulate a critique of the
dominant model governing the production and consumption of scientific
knowledge. The virtual spaces created by campaigns of this kind become
fundamental to overcoming the geographical isolation that may be faced
by activists from the Global South. Simultaneously, the spaces they
afford allow for the creation and reproduction of alternative discourses
that, rather than emerging from comprehensive anti-capitalist critiques,
respond to local needs and contingent global debates.
The first section of the chapter sets out the conceptual framework and
methodology it uses, both of which are inspired by a dialogue between
political economy and postcolonial anthropology. The second section
examines the ways in which the campaign was institutionalised through
the support of a range of non-governmental organisations and became
internationalised, airing local responses to global debates. The third sec-
tion contextualises the campaign in the light of fundamental debates
concerning access to knowledge in the digital era.

Exploring counter-hegemonic practices in the digital era


The dialog between political economy and postcolonial anthropology
allows virtual spaces of resistance to the global order to be examined,
and suggests methodological tools for the analysis of practice.

Local Forms of Resistance and Global Challenges


Writings on the international political economy of globalisation have
offered a profound and systematic analysis of the structures of domina-
tion in contemporary capitalism. Two dimensions are particularly impor-
tant for contextualizing the case presented in this chapter.
First, the structures of domination have an ideological dimen-
sion. Neoliberalism moulds the globalisation process at both discursive
and practical levels. Neoliberalism is, above all, “a theory of political
180  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be


advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills
within an institutional framework characterised by strong private prop-
erty rights, free markets, and free trade” (Harvey 2005, p. 2). Where
markets do not exist or have limited reach, neoliberalism requires them
to be created or strengthened. There are discrepancies between neo-
liberal doctrine and “actually-existing” neoliberalism (Cahill 2014), in
particular because neoliberalism does not develop in opposition to the
state as its doctrine demands, but thanks to its support and actions.
Nevertheless, the idea behind strong intellectual property rights and the
need for an essentially market-based regulatory regime applicable in all
spheres of social life are key elements of the knowledge-based economy
that today constitutes the dominant—or hegemonic—point of reference
(Jessop and Oosterlynck 2008; Sum and Jessop 2013).
Second, the structures of domination under globalisation have an
important geopolitical dimension. The contemporary dynamics of glo-
balisation operate according to a hierarchical schema. Inequalities
between states have been described in terms of the centre and the
periphery (Wallerstein 2012) or as being organised around a North
Atlantic “core” (van der Pijl 1984). In the digital economy global value
chains (Gereffi et al. 2005) tend to favour the actors of the Global North
over those of the South. The location of actors in the flows of globalisa-
tion provides a significant clue to understanding the ways in which the
structures of domination limit their behaviour. Knowledge obeys forms
of economic logic that reproduce these structures of domination and
limit access to knowledge for those in the Global South.
The critical approach to international political economy highlights the
role of ideal/discursive and geopolitical dimensions of domination in the
process of globalisation. It describes the ways in which the commodifi-
cation of knowledge places marginalised actors at a disadvantage when
it comes to accessing information. It emphasises, also, the difficulty in
the Global South of escaping from and resisting the economic logic of
globalisation. However, several authors have criticised the approach for
failing to take into account the forms of resistance and alternatives that
emerge, even though they fail to amount to a real counter-hegemonic
bloc (Gill 2008; Carrol 2007). Structural approaches tend to examine
the reproduction of domination rather than the micro-practices that
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  181

modify or even propose alternatives to the dominant model (Knafo


2010). Furthermore, by focusing on more traditional forms of resistance
this focus has a tendency to reproduce a Eurocentrism that is not entirely
compatible with its critical intent (Hobson 2007). The aim of this chap-
ter is to analyse a non-traditional form of resistance, which does not nec-
essarily fit with traditional models used to explain social movements that
do not demonstrate a coherent anti-capitalist or alter-globalist ideology.
Without ignoring the overall critique of globalisation, of the asym-
metries that mark global politics and neoliberal ideology, an analysis of
non-traditional forms of resistance in the digital era in the Global South
requires different tools.
In parallel to this, as with the material geopolitics of the flows of glo-
balisation described above, the social sciences themselves are produced
within –and reproduce– a geopolitics of knowledge (Mignolo 2000).
One way of avoiding the repetition of a Eurocentric critique of the digi-
tal era is to study the great variety of micro-practices that constitute var-
ied forms of resistance to the dominant economic model. This kind of
critique “from below” (Young 2003) forms a part both of the postco-
lonial project in International Relations and of interdisciplinary studies
of globalisation based on the perspective of the Global South (Ribeiro
2007; Santos and Rodríguez-Garavito 2005). Although the case exam-
ined here is limited, it is located within a “diversality” that generalizing
approaches of the international political economy are unable to capture.
Anthropology offers tools and methods that are better adapted to repro-
ducing and permitting the existence of global structures of domina-
tion, though at times these diverge from expected behaviour, and may
even create local micro-alternatives (Ribeiro and Escobar 2006). It is
only by studying these micro-practices of resistance that it is possible to
understand the birth of more traditional social movements that have the
potential to operate transnationally and to offer elements that might con-
tribute to change at the global level.
Building on these considerations, the chapter reconstructs the birth
of a transnational social movement based on an alternative vision of the
production and dissemination of knowledge in the digital era and con-
textualises it in then the light of local micro-practices that have emerged
from very specific needs concerning access to scientific knowledge in the
Global South.
182  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

Methodology
The process that transformed local practices of resistance into an online
transnational social movement is analysed in the following sections using
three principal methodological tools.
First, the study utilises an anthropological examination of the cam-
paign. To do so, the ethnographical field work recurs directly to those
involved, in order to understand social phenomena (Guber 2001). This
approach permits the creation of a process of description/interpretation
(Jacobson 1991) of social practices allowing, thereby, power structures
to be examined. A focus on social subjects or actors does not imply a
reductionist or trivial analysis. On the contrary, the data obtained from
the ethnographic work is located and problematised in historical con-
text, within a geopolitics of knowledge and with reference to the global
ideological panorama (Wodak and Meyer 2015). In this case, the ethno-
graphic perspective consists of interviews, written documents in the pub-
lic sphere, the specific iconography of the campaign designed to mobilise
support, and the perceptions of those involved in the campaign. The
analysis seeks to locate these discourses within the different existing ideo-
logical approaches to knowledge in the digital era: the commodification
of knowledge as a key aspect of the neoliberal project, the social use of
knowledge, and libertarian positions that question the notion of intel-
lectual property.
In order, then, to record the direct perceptions of people involved in
the campaign, the chapter uses three in-depth interviews with key actors.
First, Diego Gómez, the initiator and raison d’être of the campaign,1
and second, with members of the institutional driver of the campaign:
the Fundación Karisma. Two interviews were conducted with different
members of the foundation in order to understand its role in the trans-
formation of an isolated practice of micro-resistance into an international
campaign on access to knowledge.2,3
Finally, the chapter maps the campaign by carrying out an analysis of
social networks. Social Network Analysis is particularly useful for exam-
ining online campaigns (Kazienko and Chawla 2015). First, the authors
used NodeXL software to analyse 1708 tweets sent between 8 and 17
August with the hashtag #CompartirNoEsDelito. This provided a snap-
shot of the network of campaign participants who used Twitter. This was
complemented by an examination of the network of hyperlinks directed
to a number of web pages that were key to the campaign. The pages
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  183

selected for this analysis belong to a local participant (www.redpatodos.co),


two articles on the case that appeared in Colombian newspapers (El
Espectador and El Heraldo), a Latin American regional participant (www.
digitalrightslac.net), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an
organisation recognised internationally for its commitment to defending
the rights of ICT users (www.eff.org). The hyperlink network lists the
pages that mentioned the campaign.4 Created using Uberlink’s VOSON
software it includes 311 groups of pages that linked to target pages cho-
sen by the authors. A second step involved the creation of visualisations
of the different social networks using Gephi software. The mapping of
these networks constituted the starting point for the qualitative analysis
of the discourses involved and was used to identify and visualise the key
players in the internationalisation of the campaign.

Internationalisation of the campaign and the creation


of virtual spaces of resistance

The campaign converted Diego’s case into a national and global political
discourse, entering into conflict with the dominant models of access to
knowledge.

The Fundación Karisma and National Campaign: Diego’s Blog


On 14 July 2014 the Fundación Karisma (FK) launched a campaign,
Compartir no es delito, on its website. In doing so, it sought to support
the Colombian biologist Diego Gómez who had been sued for having
shared a Master’s thesis on the digital platform Scribd.
As an organisation committed to rights in the digital sphere, the FK
frequently uses its website to advance campaigns on matters considered
of importance in the field, including copyright legislation, free culture
and gender violence on the internet. However, the Compartir no es del-
ito campaign differed from its predecessors in that it was written in the
first person. That is, in reality the campaign was a kind of blog written
by Diego Gómez, in which he told the story of his case and advanced an
interesting critique of scientific knowledge and copyright in society.
In the words of Juliana, a researcher at the FK: “we decided that basi-
cally it was going to be a blog by Diego and this was an important deci-
sion that we do not take in relation to all [our] campaigns. Not all the
184  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

campaigns are fronted by a real person”.5 Diego’s face became a central


aspect of the campaign, which revolved around letters sent by him from
Costa Rica (where he was pursuing postgraduate studies), and which
were addressed to a broad cross section of internet users. In his first
entry, Diego wrote,

I thought it was something that could be of interested [sic] for other


groups, so I shared it on the web…. [N]ow the author advances a criminal
case against me for “violation of economic rights and related rights.” I was
told that this could result in jail sentence of 4 to 8 years.6

Natalie (responsible for communications at the FK) and Juliana decided


to initiate the campaign by posting a tweet that linked to the campaign
page, on which users would find a series of “postcards” comparing the
punishment Diego might receive with those for other crimes for which
the Colombian Criminal Code specifies lighter sentences (see Figs. 9.2
and 9.3).
It is apparent that the title of the campaign suggested that Diego’s
case was somewhat absurd, especially in a country like Colombia where
there are serious doubts about the objectivity of the judicial apparatus.
The outline of the case provided by the FK led to a degree of indig-
nation among internet users who responded by discussing the injustice
and absurdity of Diego’s case in the “virtual public space” of the internet
(Ribeiro 2002), resulting in the rapid spread of the campaign.
The upshot was a campaign that, as Juliana said, by focusing on
Diego, argued “that what [was] being shown [was] how this could hap-
pen to anyone and that in this case that ‘anyone’ is him”.7 This statement
has powerful implications for the academic community, whose members
frequently do what Diego did in order to advance scientific knowledge.
This emphasis of the campaign resulted in growing support from the
national, and subsequently international, academic communities.

Open Access
Thus, the campaign grew from a defence of Diego to insisting on the
need for practical approaches and policies designed to ensure open
access to scientific knowledge which, if they existed in the Colombian or
international context, would avoid situations such as those Diego faced.
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  185

Fig. 9.2  Comparison of sentencing for different crimes. This example com-


pares sentencing for smuggling with the sharing of knowledge on the internet,
created by authors

Fig. 9.3  Comparison of sentencing for different crimes. This example com-


pares sentencing for smuggling with the sharing of knowledge on the internet,
created by authors
186  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

Open access became the premise of the campaign, summed up in its


slogan compartir no es delito, or “Sharing is not a crime”.
The Twitter hashtag #ComparirNoEsDelito was the mobilizing force
behind the campaign and was used at different points during Diego’s
ordeal. The focus on open access as a central demand of the campaign
meant it was possible to maintain a prudent distance from the court case,
in order to ensure no influence was exerted over it (Fig. 9.4).

Fig. 9.4  Snapshot of the Twitter hashtag #CompartirNoEsDelito (August


2016) and identification of some key players, created by authors
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  187

Furthermore, as a result of a decision made by Diego himself, the


campaign made no mention of the claimant. This was an attempt to
prevent the focus falling only on criticisms of the claimant and thereby
diverting attention from the matter that both the FK and Diego consid-
ered most important, namely to draw attention to the problem of access
to scientific knowledge in the Global South.
In Juliana’s words, “open access provided us with the opportunity to
focus on the question of licensing and on the fact that ‘I am sharing’, and
this accounted for a whole arrange of activities in the campaign. The effer-
vescence lasted for a month, and we then kept it going for three years, or
two”.8 In this way, framing the campaign in terms of open access allowed
the FK on the one hand to avoid interfering with the legal proceedings
and on the other to establish a debate about the obstacles to accessing
knowledge. This, while it is a significant aspect in the Colombian con-
text had not been highlighted in public debate. In time (rapidly, as it
involved the internet), Diego’s case and the campaign achieved interna-
tional reach.

The Internationalisation of the Campaign


The FK’s communications team sought to give the campaign the high-
est levels of outreach it could. To achieve this they made direct contact
with newspaper journalists asking them to cover the story. Another strat-
egy they used was to write Diego’s blog in both English and Spanish.
On this, Juliana said, “There is a lot of information in English too because
thanks to the networks in which Karisma participates, the case became
known elsewhere, and if we were to ensure it was covered in other places we
could not send out the information in Spanish”.9 These two strategies led
to rapid dissemination, referred to in this text as the internationalisation
of the campaign (Fig. 9.5).
According to Natalie, the fact that the entire content of the blog is
covered by a Creative Commons license, meant that the content had a
life of its own, as it could be reproduced by other media without con-
straints. Thus, media outlets such as El Tiempo, El Espectador, Blu Radio,
Caracol Radio, the Revista Semana and even international media includ-
ing Newsweek, the Open Policy Network, The Guardian, Boing Boing,
ScienceInsider, and Digital Rights covered the story.
At this point in the campaign Diego’s case seemed to be gaining more
coverage internationally than in Colombia itself. This may be due to the
188  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

Fig. 9.5  The important role of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the


global campaign (Visualisation of English language web pages mentioning
Diego’s case that link to the EFF.), created by authors

fact that the case drew attention to the need to reform copyright laws in
the digital context, an area in which there is a degree of ambiguity when
it comes to differentiating between digital practices such as those associ-
ated with free culture, and piracy, which is identified with theft or the
usurpation of rights.
The EFF supported Diego’s case from the US (see Fig. 9.6), creating
an alternative campaign on its website called “Stand with Diego” for the
purpose. In parallel with the FK’s campaign the EFF’s page explained
the case and invited internet users to sign a petition titled, “Let´s stand
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  189

Fig. 9.6  Comparison between the EFF and FK campaigns, created by authors

together to promote open access worldwide”. The petition has obtained


over 8000 signatures. In addition to this exercise in online participatory
action, EFF activists such as Maira Sutton wrote on the case. According
to Juliana, “The EFF really identified with the campaign. [But] they felt
they couldn’t say Sharing is not a crime, they didn’t want to, they weren’t
too convinced… because sharing can be a crime, indeed it is one. What EFF
did do was go with the open access stuff and they opened up some interesting
angles there. Their slogan is Stand with Diego”.10 In this way, though the
EFF campaign supports the same cause as the FK’s it was presented in a
different way, stressing open access: arguing that if open access were the
rule, cases like Diego’s would not occur.
The open access arguments behind the “Support Diego Gómez”
campaign meant that the campaign went global. On this, Diego says,
“Definitely yes, support spread a lot … to see that it was a global problem
and not just a Colombian one, to see that many people around the world
are fighting it, even though cases like mine are not that common …”11 At
this point it is important to recognise the deep personal significance of
the case for Diego himself. While he is not an activist on digital mat-
ters he is when it comes to the field of conservation. The fact that he
was sued gave him an opportunity to examine the production and use
of scientific knowledge in today’s world. On this, he argues that most
research is financed using public money and that it cannot be right that
large companies should be paid by people wishing to access the results of
190  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

this research. The matter is complicated when it is borne in mind that,


according to Diego’s argument, these research results are necessary if
conservation activities -the current focus of his work- are to be possible.
Diego argues in this connection that, “[t]hose of us who work in the con-
servation field don’t do it because we want to get rich; we always end up
working more than we should. Most people expect to work for eight hours a
day…. But we work for the common good”.12

The Common Good as a Political Commitment


For Carolina Botero, the director of the FK, the emphasis of the cam-
paign on “sharing” rather than the EFF focus on open access responds
to the need in the Colombian context to speak of the commons. On this
matter she stresses that “one of the problems we have in this community
is to use the concept of ‘the commons’, because in Spanish ‘común’ does not
convey the meaning that ‘commons’ can in English. ‘Común’ has come
to mean ordinary.… So, we believe that in contexts such as those found in
Latin America, what we need to do is load the word with positive mean-
ing, because otherwise we’ll end up scared like the gringos who sometimes
say share and sometimes not”13 (see Fig. 9.6). Carolina’s words could
be taken as an argument in favour of a political commitment to ‘the
common’.
From the perspective of the political commitment that emerged
from the national and international campaign to support Diego in his
demands, it is a question of establishing a worldwide debate on the need
for open access and of general, or common, respect for the develop-
ment of science. That is why this text argues that “the political matter” is
based more on a practical than an ideological basis. In practical terms it
is a question of discussing the need to remove the barriers to knowledge.

Free access and alternative models of knowledge


production

Despite its very local origins and the fact it was based in the Global
South, the campaign dealt with essential matters concerning the function
played by knowledge in a knowledge-based economy.
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  191

Local Needs and the Social Meaning of Science


Diego was a studying at the Universidad del Quindío, in the Department
of the same name, in the central region of Colombia. The principal eco-
nomic activity of the Department is the production of coffee. It is, then,
a rural region, with tremendous biodiversity and a well-established peas-
ant population. These two aspects contrast with the physical isolation
that usually typify zones considered to be located in the periphery of
countries like Colombia, which tend to be very centralised economically,
culturally and politically.
As a student and inhabitant of the region Diego faced difficulties in
accessing information, but also an excellent setting in which to pursue
biological research. Both of these circumstances are related to his imme-
diate context, namely the pursuit of a scientific education in a univer-
sity in the periphery or in the “provinces”. On this situation he has said,
“[at] the time, there were no professors of herpetology at the Universidad de
Quindío, that is, people who worked on amphibians and reptiles, so we stu-
dents began to get together to study.… [W]e had no experience of studying
at large universities”.14 This autonomous learning initiative mean that
they had to seek out information on a range of internet sites, on which
they were able to access sources that were not available to them at the
university. These were the circumstances in which Diego accessed the
thesis over which later he would be sued and in which he posted it on
the file-sharing platform Scribd, which, at the time was free, though sub-
sequently the company instituted a payment scheme.
Seen in this light, the internet has come to constitute a platform
that makes it possible for people in the Global South to access informa-
tion. Concretely, it provides an opportunity for the academic commu-
nity to advance scientific research. Diego’s case involves a practice that
is habitual among Latin American students and academics. On this,
Juliana comments that “Diego is a real case of a person who has been sued
for doing something we all do every day…. We were therefore sure that [the
case] would connect with the student community”.15 Looked at like this
it appears to be a local problem or, as Carolina Botero said, “a costum-
brist [criollo] novel of a Colombian researcher who produces something
with money, some of which is public; of a Colombian student writing on a
Colombian topic”.16
However, thanks to the internationalisation of the campaign it became
clear that there is a worldwide conflict involving the academic world, the
192  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

production of knowledge and current legislation governing intellectual


property. The growing commodification of knowledge is manifested in
the existence of subscription data bases, access to which requires pay-
ment of large amounts of money. For their part, academics and research-
ers have to obtain information and publish if their work is to have an
impact and is to be recognized. Although in general the procedures to
which academics are subject if they wish to publish are pretty taxing, they
are not paid for what they produce although, paradoxically, if third par-
ties wish to access their work they are obliged to pay for the privilege.
Consequently, it is possible to speak of a commodification and/or neo-
liberalisation of scientific practice and of knowledge that, according to
the arguments contained in this text should be directed to improving liv-
ing conditions and sustainability. And if this is to be achieved access must
be made more open.
This commodification of knowledge leads, as is clear from Diego’s
case, to a criminalisation of academic activity, whose research practices
are, in the current realities of the digital world, classified as piracy. It is
important here to emphasize the social role of science. As Diego put it:
“one way to mitigate and solve problems is to break down as many barri-
ers to knowledge and its application as possible. In other words, I think we
can make much more progress by investing in research, in science, but it’s
also important not to block these processes; we shouldn’t have to wait ages for
[knowledge] to enter the public domain”.17

Practical Mobilisation Against the Knowledge-Based Economy


The campaign illustrates the existence of three levels of mobilisation,
through which the relations between local practice and resistance to the
global structures of power may be analysed. At the same time these three
levels provide a critical perspective on the ideological and geopolitical
factors that constrain action, and on potential emancipatory spaces.
The first level involves the practical (and local) actions described
in the previous section. The roots of mobilisation lie in necessity.
Knowledge and information are the most valuable assets in the neolib-
eral ­knowledge-based economy. The creation of value in post-industrial
capitalism requires knowledge to be privatized and barriers to its dissemi-
nation to be constructed. According to this perspective any proposal in
the field of education or economic development, whether at the personal
level or that of the state, enters into conflict with the foundations of the
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  193

knowledge-based economy. The everyday practice of students from the


Global South when it comes to knowledge-sharing become, in practice,
counter-hegemonic actions. In most cases, as in Diego’s, these actions
do not form part of an ideological project but are based, instead, on eve-
ryday need. While authors who critique globalisation seek out compre-
hensive and coherent alternatives to neoliberalism, the daily practice of
persons who are marginalized from globalisation proposes practical alter-
natives that respond to concrete and specific problems.
The second level is that of the national and/or regional campaign.
The FK took on the task of leading a campaign that would demonstrate
the link between the everyday practices of ICT users in Colombia and
global policy issues. Diego went from being an individual in a diffi-
cult situation to representing a pattern of use of the internet and of the
possibility of sharing knowledge in ways that are considered “normal”
in Colombia and Latin America as a whole. The campaign represents
an attempt at translation, intended to explain that day to day practices
common in the Global South are considered illegal and deviant by the
knowledge-based economy. The involvement of free internet activists led
to a more political discourse. However, as is apparent from the discussion
of the campaign in Sect. “Internationalisation of the campaign and the
creation of virtual spaces of resistance”, the fact that it was personalized
and based on the needs practices of Diego as an individual ensured that
the political discourse on open access was rooted in local practices. In
this sense, the campaign did not become an abstract critique of the laws
governing intellectual property and was not a denunciation of the per-
verse effects of the knowledge-based economy. Nor did it lose its local
characteristics even though it dealt with global themes.
The third level concerns the international element. When it became
international the campaign necessarily became more abstract and
less place-specific. The needs of a student at a public university in the
Global South are, perforce, alien to most readers of a newspaper like The
Guardian. The Electronic Frontier Foundation tried to maintain a link
between local practice and the spirit of the FK campaign, as is apparent
from the slogan #StandwithDiego. However, institutional and political
constraints stopped the global campaign from adopting the idea rooted
in the practices of the Global South according to which Sharing is not a
Crime.
The perspective provided by these three levels highlights the need
to engage in a process of translation that permits local problems to be
194  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

articulated with global reflections on the future of the knowledge-based


economy. A combination of the three levels requires a balance to be
found between practical resistance to the structures of power and the
norms of the knowledge-based economy and a more comprehensive cri-
tique of both. The comprehensive, global, critique confronts the two
characteristics of global capitalism mentioned in the first section of the
chapter, namely: the ideological and the geopolitical. The aggregation of
different forms of resistance to the dominant rules governing the field of
intellectual property must accommodate both an anti-capitalist critique
of the knowledge-based economy and a libertarian vision of communica-
tion flows in the digital era.
Although in intensely practical cases such as that of Diego these
two visions have similar goals, they differ when it comes to defining
an alternative to the current model of the production and dissemina-
tion of knowledge. In terms of the geopolitical dimension, a traditional
demand of the Global South that has been heard since the emergence
of the idea of the New World Information and Communication Order
in the 1970s is for equilibrium between the flows of information to be
restored. Nevertheless, this dimension is less important for the countries
of the Global North. Open access is an important matter for the whole
world but its implications are different for people in the Global North
and the South. The personal nature of the campaign, focused on the fig-
ure of Diego, a Colombian student, meant it was possible to highlight
the geopolitical aspects of the question, even in the international cam-
paign and in the Global North. For example, the Newsweek18 article on
the case develops an analysis of the spread of copyright laws from the
United States to the Global South and locates Diego’s problem in these
North-South dynamics.

Conclusions
The case of Diego Gómez and the subsequent development of the
Compartir no es delito campaign by the Fundación Karisma encouraged a
debate on the question of open access and the role of knowledge in con-
temporary society, both in Colombia and internationally.
The campaign and the social mobilisation through Twitter were,
according to the terms advanced in this text “political practices in favour
of open access to information”, which, emerging from micro-practices
“from below” (Young 2003) or from the “Global South” (Ribeiro 2007;
9  #COMPARTIRNOESDELITO: CREATING COUNTER-HEGEMONIC SPACES …  195

Santos and Rodríguez-Garavito 2005), generated counter-hegemonic


actions that are practical more than they are ideological.
The social appropriation of knowledge enters into conflict with the
knowledge-based economy. This is a factor that leads actors who have
been marginalized from the centres of power by globalisation to propose
and execute practical alternatives in response to concrete and specific
problems, as was seen in the description of Diego’s case in this chapter.
The chapter sought to illustrate and to analyse the ways in which scien-
tific practice and knowledge are, to an extent, criminalized because the
practices of internet users are interpreted as piracy.
Although the case and the campaign became international, and syn-
ergies were found at global level, the tone of the national and interna-
tional demands were different. Thus, the Colombian campaign argued
in favour of the “commons” at the same time as it translated the laws of
intellectual property for the Global South. It was at this point that the
slogan Compartir no es delito took on meaning as an idea that was rooted
and relevant both locally (in Colombia) and in the digital sphere.
On the other hand, at the international level, the campaign failed to
emphasize this political dimension of “sharing”, and focused instead on
open access, because of a legal interpretation that “sharing” is indeed
a crime. In conclusion, open access is relevant for the whole world but
its implications are different for actors from the Global North and the
Global South.
Thus, the chapter analyses a non-traditional form of resistance that
does not belong to ideological categories such as anti-capitalism or alter-
globalisation. Nevertheless, its political demands are deeply complex
and relevant as it argues for open access and/or ‘the common good’ in
times when knowledge and the internet—which plays such an impor-
tant role in making access to knowledge possible- are increasingly being
commodified.

Notes
1. Interview with Diego Gómez by Armando Castilblanco, 7 May 2016.
2. Interview with María Juliana Soto, researcher, and Nathalie Espitia Díaz,
coordinator of the area of communications, Fundación Karisma, by
Armando Castilblanco, 9 September 2016.
3. Interview with Carolina Botero Cabrera, Director, Fundación Karisma, by
the authors, 16 September 2016.
196  J.-M. CHENOU AND R.A. CASTIBLANCO CARRASCO

4. The software classified pages according to the name of the second-level


domain. For example, all the addresses containing www.eltiempo.com are
grouped as a single page (eg.,: www.eltiempo.com/tecnosfera or www.
eltiempo.com/colombia).
5. Interview with Juliana and Natalie, FK office. 9/9/2016.
6. Taken from: https://karisma.org.co/compartirnoesdelito/, last accessed
on 10 November 2016.
7. Interview with Juliana and Natalie, FK office. 9/09/2016.
8. Interview with Juliana and Natalie, FK office. 9/09/2016.
9. Interview with Juliana and Natalie, FK office. 9/09/2016.
10. Interview with Juliana and Natalie, FK office. 9/09/2016.
11. Interview with Diego Gómez via Skype. 7/05/2016.
12. Interview with Diego Gómez via Skype. 7/05/2016.
13. Interview with Carolina Botero, FK office. 16/09/2016.
14. Interview with Diego Gómez via Skype. 7/05/2016.
15. Interview with Juliana and Natalie, FK office. 9/09/2016.
16. Interview with Carolina Botero. 16/09/2016.
17. Interview with Diego Gómez via Skype. 7/05/2016.
18. See: http://www.newsweek.com/colombian-biology-student-falls-afoul-
hollywoods-copyright-laws-263357, last consulted 10 November 2016.

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University Press: Oxford and New York.
CHAPTER 10

#OcupaEscola: Media Activism and the


Movement for Public Education in Brazil

Ana Lúcia Nunes de Sousa and Marcela Canavarro

We refer here to #OcupaEscola as a synonym for the “high school stu-


dents’ movement” (or movimento dos secundaristas, in Portuguese) that
spread around Brazil after late 2015. The movement blossomed in São
Paulo when the state administration announced a plan to cut expenses
on its high school public system. The relative success of the students’
mobilization forced the governor Geraldo Alckmin to step backward
on his reform and built a path that was followed by other students in
Goiás, Rio de Janeiro, Ceará and Paraná, in the resistance to similar
educational reforms also announced by the state administration. These
later events took place asynchronously throughout the whole following
year. The attempted reforms would lead to a partial privatisation on the

A.L.N. de Sousa (*) 
Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
e-mail: anabetune@gmail.com
A.L.N. de Sousa 
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
M. Canavarro 
University of Porto/Inesc-Tec, U.Porto, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, 4200–465
Porto, Porto, Portugal

© The Author(s) 2018 199


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4_10
200  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

core of school logistics, decreasing the number of schools and relocat-


ing students/teachers to other institutions. In late 2016—one year after
#OcupaEscola blossoming in São Paulo—a Federal educational reform
was announced by the president in charge Michel Temer, creating a syn-
chronous national wave of reaction that arose in a few weeks. At this sec-
ond phase of the movement #OcupaEscola, occupations also figured as
the main direct action in the movement’s repertoire. Likewise, it used
digital spaces and online tactics that were inaugurated by the move-
ment at its first phase. Some schools were taken by the students for sev-
eral weeks and the whole country counted more than 1,000 educational
institutions—mainly secondary schools but also universities—occupied in
at least 21 states1 and the Federal District Brasília (Brazil is constituted
of 26 states and the D.F.). The educational system in the country is a
tripartite responsibility shared by Federal, State and City administrations,
and the State level is mostly in the duty of secondary schools besides a
few universities.
All states’ and the national reforms had in common a strong focus on
cutting expenses on public education and decreasing the number and
geographical availability of classes. Besides the general sense of reduc-
ing public education quality, the reforms were also meant to be enforced
amidst a lack of public debate. The undemocratic process to impose the
reforms fostered popular reaction, in a bottom-up movement where the
students themselves were the starting and central points.
The movement was geographically and chronologically distributed
though not necessarily fragmented. Likewise in Brazil, the emergence
of networked movements in the 2000s global uprisings highlighted
the importance of understanding how a perceived fragmented political
mobilisation assembles, grows and reaches massive numbers of people
through processes of emotional contagious (Toret et al. 2015; Toret and
Calleja 2014; Alvarez et al. 2015) and information diffusion.
In this chapter, we analyse the online presence of the #OcupaEscola
movement, which is mainly concentrated on Facebook and YouTube. We
propose a cross-method of analysis, correlating a study on video-activ-
ism narrative and a network analysis to Tiller’s WUNC factors for social
movements studies. More than finding answers to explain the impressive

1 http://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/pelo-menos-21-estados-tem-escolas-e-institu-

tos-ocupados-por-estudantes.ghtml.
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  201

reach of the student’s movement in Brazil, this chapter aims at exploring


methods to investigate this type of social phenomena by mixing classi-
cal concepts on the Social Movements Theory, Communications Studies,
digital methods and the rising idea of Technopolitics.

Data Collection and Preparation


We used Netvizz application to collect data from Facebook public pages
based on their involvement in the #OcupaEscola movement. Netvizz
generates a group of data sets per query (see Table 10.1 for summary).
The query type 1 gathers data from 95 pages. Its focus time2 ranges from
September/2015 (pre-occupations) to August/2016. This covers the
first phase of the movement, from preparations before its blossoming
in São Paulo and throughout the following year, at the state-level asyn-
chronous mobilizations. Data sets generated by the query type 1 were
our source for investigating the application of Tilly’s WUNC factors on
the #OcupaEscola video production. We retrieved 33,589 publications
(by pages and users) from 95 Facebook pages that were either: (i) cre-
ated and managed by students while occupying schools in São Paulo,
Goiás, Rio de Janeiro or Ceará; (ii) created and managed by a support-
ing community in the solidarity network around #OcupaEscola. We then
selected on the data sets only publications categorised by the platform as
“videos”, with a total of 2,520 posts, published by users3 (n = 803) and
by pages (n = 1,717). We then ranked all video posts by their engage-
ment (which means the sum of all likes, reactions, shares, comments,
and replies to comments). Based on this rank we identified the 100 most
relevant videos, considering two categories: (i) pages managed by a sin-
gle occupied school mostly focused on own-produced videos (n = 50
most relevant videos) and (ii) pages that gather and disseminate pub-
lications by a range of other pages (n = 50 most relevant videos). For
analytical purposes, we categorized these two types of pages, respectively,
as Satellite pages and Hub pages. This collaborative communication

2 In data and information retrieval, different senses of time may be considered such as the

query time (when data is collected) and the focus time. As Campos et al. (2014) explain, “in
the web context, focus time is the time mentioned or implicitly referred to in the content of
web pages. (…) focus time should be represented by a set of time intervals rather than as a
single point in time” (15:6).
3 Users identification and metadata are anonymized by default by Netvizz.
202  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

approach has worked as a constellation: single-school pages were like


minor stars flying around their main stars.
From now on, our analysis will take this classification into account.
Satellite pages’ and Hub pages’ videos were separately analysed (see
Table 10.2). That means the 100-top videos analysed are actually the
50-top videos by Hub pages summed to the 50-top videos by Satellite
pages. Through human evaluation, we then categorised the top-100 vid-
eos accordingly to Tilly’s WUNC factors: Worthiness, Unity, Numbers
and Commitment. This way, we avoid hiding relevant results on single
school’s page’s engagement thus falsely decreasing its importance for
the whole emergent system. Though satellite pages have lower numbers
of followers and therefore lower rates of engagement in the comparison
with hub pages, they have played particular roles that are worth investi-
gating (Tables 10.1 and 10.2).

Table 10.1  Satellite pages’ and Hub pages’ videos on Facebook (summary)

Page type Posts with video Posts published by pages Posts published by users

Hub (n = 10) 1,502 976 526


Satellite (n = 85) 1,018 741 277
Total (n = 95) 2,520 1,717 803

The query type 2 generated two data sets compiling statistics and rela-
tions of a network of 162 core pages selected by observational criteria
based on its activity on #OcupaEscola’s Facebook spaces. The platform’s
feature of recommending similar pages also helped to find and to add
more related pages to this mapping effort. All pages selected for the
video analysis based on the query type 1 were also included in this sec-
ond group of pages. For the network analysis, we assumed the previously
described categorisation as Hub pages and Satellite pages as we will see
in subsequent sections.
The data gathered on the query type 2 was processed on Gephi in
order to provide aerial views of the #OcupaEscola network of relations
on Facebook. Pages are represented as nodes and the edges are page-
like relations (“who follows who”) among them. The visual outcome
is social graphs (see Figs. 10.3, 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6), which work like
topographical views of physical landscapes, offering a still picture of the
digital landscape formed by actors relations on Facebook at the time
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  203

of data extraction. Thus, the focus time for the query type 2 is just the
same as the query time. We collected this data in October 2016 in order
to observe topological and mesoscale factors of the network created by
#OcupaEscola in its first phase, during the asynchronous mobilizations at
the state-level.
The query type 2 compiles data into two different though related data
sets that provide statistics and network relations: the first data set gathers
the 162 core pages seen with a one-degree distance, which generates 230
edges (pagelikes in any direction); the second data set targets the same
162 pages but adds up all Facebook pages that have established an edge
with them. Thus, the 509 pages compiled into this data set are either: (i)
one of the 162 core-pages or (ii) following or being followed by at least
one of these 162 pages. They generated together 1,579 edges. This is a
2-degree representation of a network and it gives some clues on the net-
work’s capillarity and its potential for information diffusion.

Table 10.2  Data sets attributes/Facebook public pages data retrieved with


Netvizz

Query File type # of retrieved pages Provided data

Type 1 .tab 95 Page label and ID; number of likes, shares


and comments on posts; unique user ID
(anonymized); original post text, permanent link,
picture link and shared link address; users com-
ments original text; statistics per day (number of
posts, shares, likes, reactions and comments)
Type 2 .gdf (i) 162 Pages label and IDs; number of likes, shares
(ii) 509 and comments on the pages; unique user ID
(anonymized); types of posts (photo, video,
picture, link, status); page categories; network
relations and statistics

Although we dealt with a large amount of raw data for a qualitative


investigation, this method allowed us: (i) to filter content and to refine
our target by selecting only the most relevant content among the 2,560
publications with video, (ii) to keep a focused analysis both for Hub
pages and for Satellite pages, avoiding to dismiss the importance of pages
with less followers for the whole emergent system; (iii) to proceed to
applied network analysis for social movements studies comprehending
204  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

some WUNC factors hidden on topological and mesoscale relations on


the movement collective action.

The Technopolitics of Collective Identities


#OcupaEscola is an emergent networked movement and therefore
should be analysed from different perspectives. In this chapter, we do
not focus on individual participations nor only on topological network
relations. Instead, we set a method to proceed to a mesoscale analysis
(Monterde et al. 2015) of #OcupaEscola’s Facebook layer taking into
account video content and network properties. We look into the “net-
work of recursive interactions among heterogeneous autonomous actors
[that] emerges and differentiates itself, as a macroscopic unit with respect
to its environment, showing high degrees of distributed cohesion, trans-
versal participation and transient adaptive poles of reference” (p. 944).
Though highly distributed (both on physical and digital spaces), the
#OcupaEscola movement is recognisable as a “macroscopic block” by its
community, scholars, the public opinion and the government. Our analy-
sis on video storytelling and network cohesiveness looks into the ways
the #OcupaEscola’s movement forged its collective identity on the most
popular social network in Brazil while also incorporating communicative
practices into its repertoire.
The distributed organism #OcupaEscola share a storytelling effort,
seeking to offer to the public opinion an onsite narrative that often con-
fronts with mass media’s and the government’s. Diverse groups assem-
ble for sharing “purposes, resources and limits as a purposive orientation
constructed by means of social relationships within a system of opportu-
nities and constraints” (Melucci 1995, p. 43).
The #OcupaEscola movement resonates what Melucci called “a pro-
cess of ‘constructing’ an action system” (idem, p. 44). The movement
has recursively played a game between the physicality and the virtual-
ity (Toret et al. 2013; Toret and Calleja 2014), creating a set of regular
practices which can be “conceived as a process because it is constructed
and negotiated through a repeated activation of the relationships that
link individuals (or groups)” (Melucci 1995, p. 44). An always evolving
empirical actor (idem, p. 49) emerges from these processes and produces
“new definitions by integrating the past and the emerging elements of
the present into the unity and continuity” of itself as a collective actor
(Melucci 1995, p. 44).
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  205

The system of relations and representations (idem, p. 50) created by


distributed actors set the conditions for building an integrated action sys-
tem which is also seen as the collective identity #OcupaEscola. At this
recursive performance—which is simultaneously online and offline—the
network centralities are dynamic and multi-layered suggesting that the
poles of reference are “transiently adaptive” (Monterde et al. 2015). In
other words, a temporal soft leadership can emerge at particular times
becoming a pole of reference for the whole network and helping to inte-
grate the system around same purposes and discourses.
Since Leonhard Euler introduced the graph theory, in 1736, mathe-
matical studies on networks have evolved based on visual representations
of nodes relations, considering any object as a node and any connection
(also called edge or link) between the nodes as a relation. Just alike maps
as a manner to represent territory and natural/social distributions over
it, the graph structure is an aerial view of social relations tracked by a
digital platform where real people’s interactions take place. A number of
network studies have unfolded from Euler’s graph theory and are now
revisited as important analytical tools to investigate technopolitical prac-
tices and the emergence of 2000s networked movements in the world.

WUNC: Worthiness, Unity, Number and Commitment


Accordingly to Tilly (2006), social movements are major platforms for
political action in the contemporary world. He understands social move-
ments as an encounter of three elements: (1) a campaign, which means
a sustained and organized public effort to make claims; (2) a reper-
toire, put into practice by the social movement and display at particular
forms of political actions such as meetings, vigils, street demonstrations,
petitions, statements to public media, etc.; and (3) representations of
Worthiness, Unity, Numbers and Commitment (WUNC) by the par-
ticipants (Tilly 2004). Tilly points out some similarities common to any
social movement and suggests us to look into four key-factors. He repre-
sents WUNC as follows:

Worthiness: somer dress; the presence of clergy, dignitaries, and mothers


with children.

Unity: wearing badges or headbands, marching in ranks, chanting.

Numbers: filling streets, signing petitions.


206  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

Commitment: braving bad weather; visible participation by the old disabled.

W+U+N+C = IMPACT (Tilly 2006, p. 291)

WUNC is a fundamental concept to understand the relationship between


social movements and public opinion because the mainstream media, the
government, the police and the general public tend to measure collective
action’s effectiveness and social movement’s strength intuitively based on
what WUNC displays. Tilly and Wood (2010) also discussed how social
movements have incorporated digital technologies into their practices in
order to organize campaigns, to show their repertoires and to build con-
ditions for reaching a strong WUNC.

Digital Narratives
Once scarce, the possibility to narrate the world is now an accessi-
ble good (Couldry 2008; Antoun and Malini 2013), and capable of
operating outside of the mainstream media (Couldry 2008), imply-
ing on changes in the representation of the world. Antoun and Malini
(2013) point out that the main characteristic of this type of narrative is
its democratizing aspect: “nowadays, the capacity to narrate the world
belongs to everyone” (p. 248). They highlight that “storytelling net-
works” are widely shared, promoting multiple voices and points of view,
from many to many, and generating conflictive, subjective and perspec-
tivist narrations on the same event. Accordingly to Alexander (2011), a
new type of online video is emerging through digital narratives, which
allows an immersion into our daily lives.
During and following the recent wave of protests around the world
(2010–2016), an activism-oriented video has arisen as a central form of
narrative to understand protest dynamics. This type of video is made to
be published online and to spread onto the social media ecosystem of
platforms. Not rarely, citizens get involved in the storytelling itself, by
interchanging information to build a “narration of many”, which “makes
life and narratives the conductors of the real time, not by the means of
stopping the time, but by appropriating it and re-territorializing it as
a coordinator of the narrative on the collective action” (Antoun and
Malini 2013, p. 188).
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  207

Digital storytelling—which online video-activism is a fraction of—is


usually “created using nearly every digital device in an ever-growing
toolbox” (Alexander 2011, p. 3). Video activist practices addressed
here were applied as tactical tools to fuel the debate and to influence
the public agenda towards particular claims, making use of the camera
as a powerful political instrument (Harding 2001). By publishing on
social media, the activists aim at building their own narratives, told and
produced from inside the social movements and often onsite at politi-
cal physical stages, in order to create a conversation with larger pub-
lics that rest outside the boundaries of the mainstream media (Couldry
2008).

Discussion: Communicative Practices

WUNC and Digital Storytelling at #OcupaEscola


The movement #OcupaEscola has used video as a central tool to com-
municate with the outside community and to spread information
within its own network. Video content was published on hundreds of
Facebook public pages and YouTube channels. Common narratives were
related to the movement’s campaign, showing their repertoires of protest
and strengthening its WUNC displays. We describe in this section how
#OcupaEscola applied each kind of the WUNC factors to its video-activ-
ism practices, accordingly to the top-100 videos found in the data set
described in Sect. “Data Collection and Preparation”.
As for worthiness, we look into videos that highlight the importance
of #OcupaEscola and attempt to reinforce the movement’s dignity and
value. These videos usually show students explaining the movement’s
claims and cleaning or rebuilding schools’ facilities. They also focus on
the support by the students’ parents, the surrounding community and
public personalities, such as artists and authorities. They seek to build a
counter-narrative in face to mainstream media coverage which was fre-
quently more favourable to government claims. Instead of referring to
the movement’s direct action as “occupations”, the usual vocabulary
on mass media reinforced the idea of illegal “invasions”. Also, the ref-
erence to the students as “vandals” who were supposedly destroying
schools facilities was a common claim shared by mainstream media and
the government.
208  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

Nevertheless, onsite images have shown the opposite. A video (#13


of 50 of Satellite pages) published by the students at “Ocupa Adauto”4
focuses on the Brazilian Army’s support to the occupation while show-
ing images of students and soldiers cleaning up the school courtyard
together. “Fernão Dias”, the first school to be occupied in São Paulo,
posted a video5 (#15 of 50 of Satellite pages) where two students explain
the reasons that led them to occupy the school. These two thematics
were common in the analysed videos as 40% portrayed the students while
improving conditions of schools facilities and 31% focused on giving the
voice to students to show their claims in rational and balanced means.
The video ranked as #4 (of Hub pages’) on our analysis was published
by “Não Fechem Minha Escola” (Do not shut down my school) and is a
clear response to the usual frame chosen by mainstream media coverage.
It shows a live interview for the leading network TV Globo where a stu-
dent warns a reporter that he used the wrong word when referring to
it as an “invasion” instead of an “occupation”.6 With another approach,
three videos by the same page ranked respectively as the 7th, 19th and
36th most popular on the collected data sets, feature support testimo-
nies and volunteer performances at occupied schools by popular singers
Criolo,7 Paulo Miklos, Pitty8 and Chico Cesar.9 These examples support
the idea that video-activism at #OcupaEscola was an important tool for
the movement’s strategies to strengthen its perceived Worthiness.
As for Unity, we looked into videos that showed a collective reper-
toire or a communication practice applied by different schools or pages,
adapting Tilly’s proposal to the online activism practices analysed here.

4 Video published on May 6, 2016. Available at: www.facebook.


com/1570293559966621/posts/1581976495464994.
5 Video published on November 27, 2015. Available at: www.facebook.
com/1717151681852360/posts/1719783198255875.
6 Video published on November 18, 2015. Available at: www.facebook.com/
naofechemminhaescola/videos/1494046334223662.
7 Video published on December 2, 2015. Available at: www.facebook.com/
naofechemminhaescola/videos/1497194920575470.
8 Video published on November 14, 2015. Available at: www.facebook.com/
naofechemminhaescola/videos/1498358270459135.
9 Video published on April 1, 2016. Available at: www.facebook.com/
naofechemminhaescola/videos/1494985264129769.
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  209

Call for collaborations were the most frequent type of video categorised
at Unity. Also, many videos showed a significant number of students
at street demonstrations, or working together on the school’s facilities
improvements, or even performing at the occupied schools.
Accordingly to Tilly (2006, p. 291), “chanting” is an activity that
expresses unity and helps to build more cohesion. The #OcupaEscola
network relied on songs and slogans that were collectively chanted as a
true mark of the movement. Different songs were composed or remixed
at the occupations as some of the spontaneous activities to “kill the
time” were actual musical gigs and the pages usually posted videos to
register these moments. A video published by “Ocupa Adauto”10 (#17 in
50 of Satellite pages), for instance, features dozens of students chanting
and singing common songs at the movement or composed/remixed at
their occupation at school.
Perhaps the most interesting case is the protest chant performed by
theatre students at downtown Rio which went viral at a number of occu-
pied schools though not without an ever-changing local seasoning. The
original song was parodied in diverse ways as students included particu-
lar claims addressed to local authorities. Videos posted by “Ocupa Nova
Cidade”11 (#26 in 50 of Satellite pages) and “Ocupação João Mattos
Escolas”12 (#1 in 50 of Satellite pages) are examples of the customised
chant that spread around the #OcupaEscola network.
The Number was the least displayed WUNC factor on the videos’ sto-
rytelling unless when they showed images of high attendance of street
demonstrations called by the movement. Mostly, videos which displayed
the factor Number also count on the factor Unity. This category’s images
also show the students acting together, performing on artistic presenta-
tions or explaining the reasons of the movement in a call for the outside
community’s support. Some personal testimonies seek to motivate new
occupations at other schools. Nevertheless, the WUNC factor Number
can be easily measured by data provided on users’ engagement and the

10 Video published on May 5, 2016. Available at: www.facebook.


com/1570293559966621/posts/1581446612184649.
11 Video published on January 26, 2016. Available at: https://www.facebook.

com/1680233622219486/posts/1693199030922945.
12 Video published on May 5, 2016. Available at: http://www.facebook.
com/578542045638974/posts/579752585517920.
210  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

number of shares, likes and comments on each video. Summing up the


statistics from all the 100 analysed videos, they motivated together more
than 390,000 reactions on Facebook, considering thousands of likes and
shares as well as about 17,000 comments posted by users—a preliminary
sign that video-activism is capable of involving a number of people in the
conversation about the movement.
The Commitment was the most common WUNC factor displayed
in the analysed videos. Many images focus on the occupation resistance
in the face of police repression and institutional violence by the State.
Other themes are related to the students’ commitment in taking care of
the school and in supporting other occupations. Perhaps the most cen-
tral and important role played by the video-activists was to ensure a rela-
tive level of safety for the group as the images could be used for advocacy
purposes. The students were submitted to several cases of Human Rights
violations such as intimidation by the police at schools’ surroundings
who prevented them from receiving water and food from outside. There
is also evidence of violent attempts to reintegrate the public building
without judicial authorization and appealing to illegal detentions. Thus,
videos showing police abusive behaviour were common, representing
25% of our video sample. The students at “Escola de Luta Raul Fonseca”
created a guide to record the police violence,13 which was shared by sev-
eral pages on Facebook.
By comparing WUNC displays in the video-activism practiced by Hub
pages and by Satellite pages (see Figs. 10.1 and 10.2), we noted that
they play slightly different roles. The Commitment factor was the main
focus of the vast majority of Hub pages’ videos (44.07%) while it repre-
sented only 23.81% of videos published on Satellite pages. That might
be explained by the higher capilarity of Hub pages to denounce and
reverberate the State violence. Since they gather more followers, they
are more capable of guaranteeing some visibility to issues related to the
students safety. Hub pages showed a balanced distribution on the others
WUNC factors: the Worthiness is the central value of 18.64% of the ana-
lysed videos, the Unity represents 20.34% and Numbers are highlighted
on 16.95% of the sample.

13 Video published on December 2, 2015. Available at: www.facebook.com/

naofechemminhaescola/videos/1497174070577555.
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  211

As for the satellite pages, the Worthiness was the main WUNC factor
displayed on the analysed videos (30.16%). As mentioned before, they
portrayed the daily life at the school during the occupation as well as
the students’ claims and the community support to the movement. As a
feature of a satellite page, this kind of content was often targeted at local
audiences, such as neighbours and parents in order to convince them to
actively support the occupation. Though the strengthening of the previ-
ous WUNC factors—Commitment and Worthiness—may result in more
Unity, this factor appears with more impact on 26.98% of the analysed
content while the Number represented 19.05%.

Fig. 10.1  1—WUNC display on Hub pages’ top-50 videos

Fig. 10.2  2—WUNC display on Satellite pages’ top-50 videos


212  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

WUNC at #OcupaEscola Network Topology and Cohesiveness


In order to investigate WUNC factors at the #OcupaEscola movement,
we also proceeded to an applied network analysis, taking into account
its topology and other mesoscale factors, such as the cohesiveness
among different nodes. This method allows us to see values like Unity
and Number at the network structure and, simultaneously, to investi-
gate the influence of Hub and Satellite pages in keeping the network’s
cohesiveness.
Network theories have shown that

large, complex networks often have what is called a giant component, a


deliberately informal term for a connected component that contains a sig-
nificant fraction of all the nodes. Moreover, when a network contains a
giant component, it almost always contains only one (Easley and Kleinberg
2010, p. 31)

We see the cohesiveness and the representativeness of the group of highly


connected actors as a network feature for the WUNC factor Unity.
Therefore, we focus the analysis on #OcupaEscola giant component and
its sub-networks.
Figure 10.3 shows the giant component which gathers 68.7% of all
nodes and 92.6% of edges present in the network seen by 1-degree sep-
aration. Figure 10.4 is the 2-degree network’s giant component which
includes 93.5% of all nodes and almost the totality (99,9%) of the edges
present in the whole network. Note that Fig. 10.4 gathers the 162 core
pages showed on Fig. 10.3, plus any page on Facebook that follows or is
followed by, at a total of 509 pages.
In order to clarify the topology in relation to our classification in Hub
pages and Satellite pages, we manually classified on Gephi the two groups
of pages in the 1-degree graph (Fig. 10.3): black nodes represent the Hub
pages while grey nodes are the Satellite pages. Note that the black nodes
are actually at the centre of little sets of pages that “fly” around them.
Black nodes are also bigger than the grey ones. Bigger nodes represent
pages with more edges targeting them (indegree), which means that these
pages receive more connections from other nodes in the network than the
smaller ones. Analysing these two factors together—topological position
and indegree—we conclude that the page we classified as Hub pages are
truly Hub points on the #OcupaEscola network topology.
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  213

Fig. 10.3  Hub pages show high indegree. This graph considers the 112 nodes
that constitute the giant component of the 1-degree network. That means 68.7%
of the total network (nodes size = indegree; nodes colors manually = hub pages
in black and others pages in gray)

For the 2-degree network, we were more concerned about identifying


the most cohesive nodes among the 509 pages represented on the graph.
Therefore, we set node colours to highlight in black the most connected
nodes in the giant component degrading its colour into lighter tones
of grey as long as its connectivity lowers down (Gephi’s colour attribute:
component-ID). Note that most of Hub pages highlighted in Fig. 10.3
keep the highest indegree on the extended network on Fig. 10.4, show-
ing that other pages on Facebook also tend to follow these same nodes,
214  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

which may indicate some kind of external recognition of its relevance for
that network information diffusion.
Based on the seminal ideas by Barabasi (1999), a number of authors
have discussed the preferential attachment property which attracts
more connections to already well-connected nodes. For the analysis
of a social movement network, it is important to note that the “use
of the Internet is ‘shaping the movement on its own web-like image’,
with the hubs at the centre of activities, and the spokes ‘that link to
other centres, which are autonomous but interconnected” (della Porta
2013, p. 32).

Fig. 10.4  Connectedness and Unity: hub pages play a relevant role in link-
ing nodes at the 2-degree network’s giant component, which gathers 476 nodes
(93.5% of the total network). Graph: directed network; gephi layout = Force
Atlas 2; size nodes = indegree; nodes colors = strongly-connected ID (black rep-
resents the most connected nodes while lighter grey indicates the least connected
nodes in the giant component). Data collected in October, 21, 2016
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  215

In the comparison of #OcupaEscola network topology in


October 2016 and November 2016, it is possible to identify that a
few main hubs keep their relevance on both graphs while a number
of new nodes appear in highlights as well. This finding corroborates
Monterde et al.’s (2015) observations on the Spanish 15M movement
network where “a dynamic core consists of a process of transiently syn-
chronised activity between different sub-networks of the system. The
parts of the network that are involved in the dynamic core continu-
ously change, thanks to their flexible connection and disconnection
(synchronization and desynchronization), while the system maintains
(or only more slowly changes) its own organization” (Monterde et al.
2015, p.940). Further studies are needed to understand which specific
processes and mechanisms define transitions on soft leadership. For
now, we are concerned in confirming the role of Hub pages in build-
ing cohesiveness at the #OcupaEscola network and therefore its rel-
evance for the system’s Unity online.
Figure 10.5 shows part of the network represented on Fig. 10.4,
now applying the highest k-core possible before the network com-
pletely disappears. The k-core is used to measure the connected-
ness of a network and its sub-networks, applying an integer value to
the network. By increasing the k-core integer successively, the graph
excludes all nodes that have a degree (number of connections) below
k, and keeps visible only the nodes with a minimum degree equals or
higher to k. This methodological path is inspired by Seidman (1983).
He defines the connectedness of a graph as “the minimum number
of points whose removal will produce a disconnected graph” while
“cohesive subsets of social networks should correspond to subgraphs
of high connectedness” (p. 272). Note that after applying the maxi-
mum k-core possible before the network disappears (k-core = 9),
some—but not all—of the Hub pages appear amongst the 51 nodes
(10% of the total network) left in the giant component. They also
show the highest indegree (bigger nodes) from remaining nodes in the
system, which seems to confirm their important role in keeping the
network cohesive.
216  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

Fig. 10.5  Giant component’s most cohesive core (2-degree network). Network


cohesiveness: some of the hub pages appear amongst the 51 nodes (10% of the
total network) left in the giant component, when the highest k-core possible
before the network completely disappears is applied (k-core = 9). Data collected
in October, 21, 2016

Another sub-network extracted from the 2-degree network of 509


pages is the main Hub page’s ego-network. It is viewed by filtering out
all nodes that are not in the selected node’s sub-network. We chose
the page “O Mal Educado” due to its topological relevance in all other
graphs presented here. Its ego-network seen with 3 degrees of separation
(Fig. 10.6) gathers 63% of all nodes of the original network and 87% of
all links, showing its relevance for information diffusion. With no inter-
mediaries at all (1-degree graph), “O Mal Educado” could reach almost
1 3 of the network with direct edges.

10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  217

Fig. 10.6  O Mal Educado’s 3-degree ego sub-network (103 nodes) gathers


63.2% of the total 1-degree network (103 nodes) and 87% of all links, showing
its relevance for information diffusion

For a longitudinal analysis, we compared the network statistics at three


different focus/query times: October 9, October 21 and November 17.
Although the number of nodes is expectedly crescent, the average path
length is relatively stable while the average degree is higher in November
than in the other measures. Both these metrics are indicators of prox-
imity/distance between nodes in the network. Larger distances mean
networks less connected. Similarly, the number of strongly connected
components is crescent at the analysed time-window. These metrics sug-
gest the network capability of receiving new nodes without decreasing
its cohesiveness or compromising its connectedness. The number of tri-
angles—an indicator of strong ties in the network—is nearly four times
higher in November if compared to early October. This is an important
clue that the network is absorbing newcomer nodes in the heart of the
connected core while it creates more ties within it. In other words, its
information diffusion system grows by reinforcing its Unity.
218  A.L.N. de Sousa and M. Canavarro

We have analysed the WUNC factors Numbers and Unity from a net-
work perspective by taking into account the relations between the pages
that constitute #OcupaEscola network. However, the network should
not be analysed only in relation to itself. It is important to find external
factors that show its evolution in the overall context. The number of fol-
lowers is an important external factor that suggests how a page’s popu-
larity evolve with time. The network data collected on October 9, 2016
gathers nearly 532,000 followers that are potentially reachable by the
cascade of information typical of the networked flow. On November 17,
2016, that number jumps to approximately 828,600 individuals, that is,
a 55.75% increase (note that we are not considering unique users exclu-
sively but the absolute number of pages’ followers).
An increase in the quantity and popularity of pages created by the soli-
darity network around the movement is also a sign of the community’s
Commitment with and sense of Worthiness for #OcupaEscola. Some of
the Hub pages identified in this research do not produce content directly
from the occupied schools. Instead, they share publications by other pages
who upload from onsite. They are channels exclusively created to help to
spread information, to mobilise people, to keep the movement strong and
to ensure some level of safety since they provide the students an increasing
visibility while strengthening the movement’s WUNC display.

Conclusions
From a technopolitical perspective, our analysis has taken into account ref-
erences on the digital layer of #OcupaEscola mobilisation, where the story-
telling built on the physical layer circulates and is collectively appropriated
while it spreads around. Taking the classical WUNC concept proposed by
Tilly, we link these two layers into an analysis of #OcupaEscola evolution
during its first year of existence. The results corroborate the real-world
evidence that the movement has strengthened since the first steps in São
Paulo, with a national wave of mobilisations in a one-year time window.
Regarding online video activism and social media activism, we point
out that these types of communicative practices are capable of involving
large audiences in a conversation related to the movement’s struggles and
claims. Our data sets collected about 17,000 comments only in the top-
100 analysed videos, suggesting that audiovisual content is a powerful
tool for activist digital narratives. Further studies and content analysis are
needed to better comprehend how the cascade of users activity unfolds.
10  #OCUPAESCOLA: MEDIA ACTIVISM AND THE MOVEMENT …  219

It is also important to notice that the original posts reached better


engagement rates when published by the pages in comparison to origi-
nal posts by users, showing that some content deliberately produced for
activism purposes is a key part of the information diffusion.
From a methodological perspective, the video analysis proved to be
more efficient to investigate WUNC factors Commitment and Worthiness
while the network analysis was best suited to look into Unity and
Numbers. It is no surprise that the kind of data considered for the con-
tent classification take into account more qualitative aspects, which are
intrinsically related to Commitment and Worthiness on WUNC display.
On the other hand, the type of data used for network analysis is more
centred on quantitative aspects, which is easily applied to the concept
of Number. The concept of Unity is also inferred from quantitative data
when applied basic concepts of network science and graph theory, such
as connectedness, cohesiveness, the number of triangles and indegree.
Therefore, a mixed-method approach is preferable than a monolithic
block of social theories in order to research WUNC relations with tech-
nopolitics practices by the #OcupaEscola movement. This study is rel-
evant for revisiting the classical theory of WUNC on social movements,
adapting Tilly’s lessons to a digitally-mediated space for collective action
and its repertoires. We argue that well-known and classical concepts on
Social Movements theories are yet valid, indicating that the technology
itself may not have intrinsically changed some of the core mobilization
practices. Also, a technological approach to social phenomena is possible
and desirable in order to understand the complexity of emergent systems
on contemporary political mobilisation.

Acknowledgments    Both authors have equally contributed to this chapter.


Ana Lucia Nunes has contributed with the storytelling analysis methodology
and Marcela Canavarro helped with the network analysis methods. Both have
discussed together all outcomes and results. This work was financially supported
by CAPES—Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate
Education within the Ministry of Education of Brazil.

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Index

A Connective action, 122


Alternative models of knowledge pro- Creative resilience practices, 23
duction, 192 Crowdsourced data, 96, 97, 102, 103
Armed conflict, 133, 134, 139, 141, Cultural artefacts, vi
142 Cultural hybridization, 6, 19, 26
Cyberactivism, 44, 51, 54
Cyberdemocracy, 134
B Cyber-optimism, 152
Big data, 95, 96, 99, 105 Cyberspace, theory of, 70
Brazil, 199–201, 204
Brazilian movement for public educa-
tion, 200 D
Brazilian protest wave, 114, 120 Data activism, 95–99, 101, 102, 104,
106, 107
Datafication, 95, 96
C Democracy and digital media, 135
Citizenship, 5 Digital activism, 121
Collaborative communication, 201 Digital divide, 67, 68
Collective identities, 204, 205 Digital media, 17–19, 21–30, 32–35,
Colombia, 133–137, 139, 141, 178, 115, 126, 130
184, 187, 191, 193–195 Digital media practices, 33
Communicology, 150 Digital narratives, 206, 218
Community communication, 2, 27 Digital storytelling, 207
Community media, 19, 28, 33, 35 Digital utopianism, ix
#CompartirNoEsDelito (Sharing is not Direct democracy, 69, 70, 85
a Crime), 182, 186

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018 221


F.S. Caballero and T. Gravante (eds.), Networks, Movements and Technopolitics in
Latin America, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research -
A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65560-4
222  Index

E J
Echevarría, Javier, 3 Jornadas de Junho (June Journeys),
E-government, 44 113, 114, 117, 120
Emotional aspects, 56 Journalism, 95–97, 99, 101–103, 106
Emotional contagious, 200
Emotional dimensions, 19, 23, 24
Empowerment, 18, 19, 30, 31, 34, 35 K
Escuela de Datos (School of Data), 101 Knowledge-based economy, 180, 190,
192–195

F
Facebook, 117–120, 122, 139–141, L
200–204, 207, 210, 212, 213 Latin American cyberspace, 151
FARC, 134, 139–141 Latin American School of
Flickr, 120 Communication (ELACOM),
Free acces, 179, 190 18, 33
Free Pass Movement (Movimento Passe Latin American social movements, 36,
Livre—MPL), 115 48, 50, 53
Fundación Karisma, 177, 182, 183,
194
M
Macroscopic block, 204
G Media activism, 218
Geoactivism, 99, 101 Media appropriation processes, 22, 25
Geojournalism, 99, 103, 104, 106 Media Networks, 152–155, 160, 162,
167, 170, 171
Media participation, 17, 25, 30
H Media, performative function of, 10,
Hacktivism, 44, 51, 55 19
Havana talks, 139, 142 Media process, vii
Hybrid political action, 54, 55 Mexico, 148–150, 153, 154, 156,
160, 164, 170
Multitude, 123, 124, 129
I
Impeachment, 113, 114, 128, 129
Independent Media Centre, 118 N
Indigenous people, 97, 98, 100, 103, Net activism, 19, 23, 24, 26, 27, 31,
105 33–35
InfoAmazonia, 96–101, 103–106 Netvizz, 201
Informational exuberance, 68 Ninja Media, 119
Index   223

O Social mediation, 1–4, 6, 8–12, 23,


#OcupaEscola, 199–205, 207–209, 27, 32, 33, 36
212, 215, 218, 219 Social movement nanomedia, 138, 141
On e-democracy, 65, 80 Social movements, 21–23, 36
Online parties, 66 Social Network Analysis (SNA), 153, 182
Online video, 206 Social networks, 116, 118–120, 122,
Open access, 178, 184, 186, 187, 189, 125, 127, 136–138, 142
190, 193–195 Spanish social movements, 51–53
#StandwithDiego, 193
Students’ mobilization, 199
P
Participation, v–ix, 3–8, 13, 65, 67,
68, 70, 79, 82, 86, 87 T
Participatory practices, vii Technology transfer, 44, 46
Peace talks in Colombia, 139 Techno-participation, 150
Political commitment, 190 Technopolitical ecologies, 3
Political parties’ online strategies, 66, Technopolitics, 1, 2, 5–10, 12,
71, 72 44–50, 51–57, 201, 204, 205,
Political sphere, 44, 47, 54, 56 218, 219
Power-sharing, process of, vi Technopolitics, concept of, 44, 52–57
Practical mobilisation, 192 Televoting, 67
Public sphere, 67 Twitcast, 120
Twitter, 118, 120, 122

R
Repertoires of communication, 43 V
Revoltados Online (Online Rebels), Video activism, 200, 207, 208, 210, 218
128 #VivasNosQueremos (we want us—
Rights in the digital sphere, 183 women-alive), 150
Rousseff, Dilma, 113, 128, 129

Y
S #YaMeCansé (I’ve had enough), 150
Scientific innovation, 44, 46 #YoSoy132 movement, 164
Scientific knowledge, 179, 181, 183, Youtube, 118, 120
184, 187, 189
Social appropriation of knowledge,
195
Social change, 18, 22, 30, 34, 95–97,
107
Social conflict, 135, 138, 139, 142
Social media activism, 218