ICTs and Social Movements under Authoritarian Regimes: An Actor-Network Perspective
Work data:ISBN: 978-1-905469-32-1
Type of work: Working Paper
There has been significant recent interest in the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in social movements protesting against authoritarian regimes. Much of the literature on this topic can be framed in terms of dualities: seeing either technology or (less often) society as the cause of impacts characterised as either liberation or repression. This paper seeks to move beyond those dualities by using actor-network theory (ANT) to study the role of ICTs in Iran’s Green Movement; specifically by applying Callon’s moments of translation.
This analysis turns the focus from causes or impacts of social movements, to the dynamics of their trajectory. It presents ICTs as an active actor within this social movement of protest; an actor which rapidly made this movement into a global network. Yet ICTs also betrayed the protest. They simultaneously worked for the Iranian regime. And they allowed a shallowness of translation which enabled quick problematisation, interessement and enrolment, but which equally enabled quick de-enrolment, and which undermined the full mobilisation of this social movement and ultimately led to its disintegration.
Recognising the limits but also the originality of actor-network theory, the paper ends by suggesting directions for future ANT-based work on ICTs and social movements.