Thesis Defence. Arnau Monterde: Emergence, evolution and effects of the 15M network movement (2011-2015): A technopolitical approximation

Thesis defence by Arnau Monterde entlitled The integration of the uses of digital technology in adult persons in their training activities at the university, in Barcelona at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. December 22, 2014.

Arnau Monterde: Emergence, evolution and effects of the 15M network movement (2011-2015): A technopolitical approximation

Methodology

  • To investigate the 15M Spanish Indignados movement in the network society.
  • Systemic and multiscale approximation.
  • Situated and networked research: technopolitical practices, collaborative knowledge building, online/offline interaction.
  • Methodological combination: quantitative analysis (15M2014 survey); network analysis (Twitter, Facebook, hyperlinks); qualitative analysis (in depth interviews); participatory observation.

Emergence of the 15M

Emergence: the whole cannot be explained after the parts, but has to be approached differently.

The 15M begins its formation before the 15 May 2011: with the Sinde Law, the NoLesVotes movement, Democracia Real Ya, etc. The 15M is organized on the Internet between February and May 2011, after the prior technopolitical movements. It conquers the street after consolidating online. But why does the 15M bursts? The Arab Spring and the events at Tahrir Square are very important, being these factors multipied by what happens on social networking sites. The main factor, though, is lack of democracy (or lack of quality democracy), and not the economic crisis — which is a factor, but not as important as democracy or corruption.

Besides determinants, the form is also very important: the decentralization and distribution of the movement play a very important role, as emotions also do: both hope and indignation are very important parts of the movement.

Last, but not least, language will play also a role in the movement, mostly in first person, transversal, inclusive, affirmative, easy to own.

Communication

Indeed, technology will be crucial both for organization and communication, with many different tools and uses, including a meta-debate of what technologies and what for, about technological empowerment, autonomy, technological sovereignty. There is a synchronous multichannel communicative ecosystem. Networks will be new space of socialization and collective action.

On the other hand, media seem to be quite out of the debate, not even being able to capture and explain what is actually happening.

In the meanwhile, the movement evolves on a multilayer basis, where none of the participants will only participate in just a single platform/layer. There is, thus, no distinction between online and offline: layers overlap constantly and are chosen depending on the task to be done, on the level of engagement that it requires, the goals to be achieved at any given time, etc. And when layers synchronize, the movement begins to walk.

Evolution of the 15M

Most people think that the 15M has changed and evolved from its origins, but there is a consensus that the movement is still relevant in the public agenda. 84.5% of the participants (in the survey) still have an interest in the 15M and form a collective identity. Even more important, whatever the initiative linked to the 15M analyzed, the same communities and collective identities arise.

There is an open, transversal, systemic and dynamic identity of the 15M, which cannot be reduced neither to the aggregation of the individuals nor to the personaization of the connective action.

Technologies

Evolution of multiple technologies, especially pads, videostreaming and Twitter.

Centrality of technologies for a political use.

Usages are multiple, but allowing the accumulation of learning to better use technology, especially to find out the most appropriate users.

Different networks: structural (for inner organization) vs. functional (for a specific purpose). Within the networks, there is a high functional specialization, always collaborating and not competing. With dynamics of continuity (where they are active) and discontinuity (when they remain in stand-by, but not dismantled). Sinchronization of netwokrs and a strong dialogue between structural and functional networks.

Temporal distributed leadership: networks take the lead depending on the initiative.

Multitudinous and networked self-organization, self-consciousness of the 15M, temporarily (synchronicity and latency).

Impact on politics

Institutions will not let the movement in, added to an institutional counterpart will help to give the impression that the movement is not reaching out or making an impact. But as time goes by, there are events that are difficult to explain without the 15M, such as the crisis of bipartidism, some political practices, the appearance of new political parties, etc.

For instance, network analysis shows how Podemos during the European Elections seems to be “adscribed” to the movement. In the case of the local elections, the integration of some parties is even higher, with dynamics of some parties very much like the 15M.

Other impacts: open voting lists, collaborative crowdfunding, transparency, open elaboration political programmes, local parties that partly come from the “plazas” and act alike, autonomy of the local parties without a central hierarchy, etc.

On the cons part, the frontier between parties and movements blur, there is a tension between the institutional and the movement tempos, etc.

The 15M will not create new parties, but will set the conditions upon which new parties will emerge.

Conclusions

  • Centrality of the interaction of the 15M with the technologies of network communication.
  • The evolution of the 15M after the uses of the networks, action and organization.
  • The 15M transforms the conditions of the electoral arena.
  • Technopolitial contribution to the study of th 15M and its evolution.

Discussion

Joan Subirats: how to identify the phenomenon of technopolitics? Besides the techno- part, what happens with the -politics part? Is it “new politics”? Monterde: it is difficult to delimit what technopolitics is, because there neither is a beginning not an end to it: it just evolves. Notwithstanding, the analysis that the research of content, emotions, organizations, programmes and proposals, etc. clearly have a political weight. This includes the reasons for the different actors and platforms to participate in the movement and the events around it. But it is important to note that in technopolitics the most important aspect is the how, not the what. The movement is built after the practices. So, its the form that constitutes the 15M, not the content: the political programme is not put in the middle, although it of course exists.

Paolo Gerbaudo: differences and similarities between traditional (and new) parties and the movement? What are the organizational challenges and dilemmas? Marina Subirats: what happens with leadership? It was about distributed leadership, but Podemos is as traditional as any in terms of leadership. Monterde: the logics of the many new and old parties are very different, and in the field of political parties there are many factors that converge upon them to force a change. And it is very difficult — if not impossible — to make a simple statement about their relationships with the movement. There is not a single relationship of causality between the 15M and how it evolves into the parties: there are a lot of correlations, but not an identified causality. The issue of leadership is that our political culture strongly pressures towards identifying a unique leader, and this does not come from the movement, where leadership is very much different.

Joan Subirats: who is part of the movement? What is a collective identity? Can we define this? Monterde: What the research aims at answering is that there are many factors why people join, act, participate, leaves the movement, comes back to it, etc.

Joan Subirats: what it’s at stake in the debate of the 15M is representation. How is that solved by the evolution of the 15M? Monterde: quite often, it is active participation what decides membership and, in some terms, representation. You do something, you somewhat represent the movement. But it is true that this is a very difficult aspect of the movement and its relationship with representation, especially a shift towards institutional representation. Indeed, the most crucial aspect is not representation, but de-representation: how can we articulate measures and policies that work towards a de-representation (a de-institutionalization, a de-intermediation, etc.) of politics and civic action: direct democracy, participatory and deliberative democracy, etc.

Marina Subirats: what is the relationship with the Catalan Independentist movement? Monterde: part of the research heavily relies on the 15M2014 Survey, which is Spain-wide. The factor does appear in answers coming from Catalonia, but it is not relevant elsewhere. And even if the topic is dealt with during the camps, after the camps and during interviews, the issue disappears from the agenda of the 15M.

Marina Subirats: where is the ideology in the 15M movement? Did they read the “main authors”? Or did they pretend to begin from scratch? Monterde: 50% of the participants meet their very first political experience during the 15M, and many more describe the 15M more than an agora where to debate, a school where to learn politics.

PS: Congratulations doctor Monterde!

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2015) “Thesis Defence. Arnau Monterde: Emergence, evolution and effects of the 15M network movement (2011-2015): A technopolitical approximation” In ICTlogy, #147, December 2015. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.