Towards cyberactivism 2.0? Understanding the use of social media and other information technologies for political activism and social movements
Type of work: Article (academic)
Information technologies are increasingly important for political and social activism. In particular, web 2.0 tools and social media applications have recently played a significant role in influencing government decision making and shaping the relationships between governments, citizens, politicians, and other social actors. After the Arab Spring and the uprisings that have led to significant political changes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran, commentators argue that information technologies have the potential to strengthen social movements and ultimately transform society. However, this influence is not new. There were movements in the 90s, using the new technologies of e-mail and websites, which were able to gather significant social attention and generate political pressure. Based on three Mexican social and political movements that span close to 20 years, this article identifies key similarities and differences in the use of information technologies and proposes a framework to understand the evolution of cyberactivism. Initially, activists used information technologies to promote a movement's main ideas and gain global support. More recently, a single tool or application, such as Twitter, has been the technological basis for certain social and political movements. However, there is a trend towards a more integrated use of social media tools and applications, generating what could be called cyberactivism 2.0. In addition, there are some distinguishable stages in the development of social protests using information technologies; this evolutionary model seems to be useful to understand very different social and political movements using very different levels of technological sophistication.