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


  • 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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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!


DemocraticCity (I). Democratic-common cities vs. Smart-private cities

Notes from the Network democracy for a better city, organized by the D-CENT project, in Barcelona, Spain, on May 5th, 2015. More notes on this event: DemocraticCity.

Democratic-common cities vs. Smart-private cities
Chairs: Arnau Monterde

Gemma Galdón, Eticas Research & Consulting
Cities: smart vs. democratic?

Different concepts of what a smart city is from 2000 to 2012. If in 2000 the definition is based on efficiency and integration of data, in 2012 the definition includes citizen empowerment. But all of them have a certain degree of technophilia, that technology will solve all of our problems.

The smart city, all in all, is an overdose of sensors that gather data everywhere, all the time.

There is a risk in too much trusting technology: if we do not believe well how technology works, we may incur in making worse decisions, in buying in any kind of technology just because, with no objective reasons to buy it.
Smart cities run on data, smart is surveillance. So we have to aim for a responsible smart city, taht takes into account:

  • Legal issues.
  • Acceptability issues.
  • Responsible innovation.

OECD’s principles:

  • Notice.
  • Purpose.
  • Consent.
  • Security.
  • Dislcosure.
  • Access.
  • Accountability.

Carlo Vercellone, Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne
Welfare systems and social services during the systemic crisis of cognitve capitalism

Can we move from a traditional welfare system into a commons-based welfare system? Can we build a smart city based on this approach?

Social welfare services should not be regarded as a cost whose funding should depend on wealth created by the private sector, but instead be recognised as the driving force behind a development dynamics based on knowledge-intensive production and behind an economy whose main productive force is the intellectual quality of the labour force (or, as it is usually called, using an ambiguous expression, human capital).

We are witnessing the growth of the intangible part of capital. The driving sector of the knowledge based economy correspond most closely to the public services provided by the welfare state. It supports a mode of development based on the production of man for and by man (health, education). The aim of capital is not so much to reduce the absolute amount of Welfare expenses, but to reintegrate them within the financial and mercantile circuits.

There are two opposite models of society and regulation of an economy based on knowledge and its dissemination. A rentier model of ‘accumulation through expropriation’ of the commons, and a model of common-fare organized around the priority to investment in non-mercantile collective service and in the production of man for man, and the establishment of an unconditional Social Basic Income (SBI) independent from employment.

Francesca Bria, NESTA
Democratic-common cities vs. Smart-private cities

The making of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities implies the industrialization of the Internet and the convergence of energy, logistics, communications, IP network as a service platform, data-intensive welfare and money and payments systems.

What are the problems?

  • City infrastructure lock-in: the black box city, vendor lock-in, proprietary and non interoperable technologies, public and user data lock-in.
  • Digital panopticon, algorithmic governance based on deep personalization, behavioural profiling, pervasive surveillance.
  • Financialization that comes with smart city: project financing, debt financing, smart bonds, etc.
  • Austerity policy: financialisation of welfare, outsourcing of public services, etc.

Building democratic alternatives:

  • Technological sovereignty and alternatives to platform capitalism.
  • Network democracy and infrastructures for citizen participation.
  • Data politics: data ownership, data portability, encryption, standardises identity management, citizen control, regulate identity marketplace.
  • Anti corruption measures.

Evgeny Morozov, Author & Editorialist

Why all these issues matter in the context of the city?

It seems that the smart city could be an answer to many problems that we found as society. But it is an answer with a very strong baseline: the city is a place for consumption and entertainment. And smart cities are specifically addressed to answer all problems by improving consumption and entertainment.

For instance, personalization may sound appealing, but overindividualization makes it more difficult to think about the city as something that is a common project with your neighbours. Individualization makes it more difficult to think in public terms, but in term of how easy it is now for me to consume or be entertained.

Another issue is data and infrastructure ownership: smart city companies are not city companies. Companies own the infrastructure and the data, not cities. And most companies have nothing to do with the city. Thus, most cities have not the ability to harness technology. Citizens have to contest the fact that data will be privatized and ceased to be theirs.

Most services that companies provide to smart cities are not free, despite the fact that they do say so. These companies are not the new welfare state.

Xabier Barandiaran, Floksociety
Wisdom of crowds and free knowledge open commons against the ‘smart ass’ city

Cognitive capitalism is the set of processes where the private accumulation of capital is made by means of control (production, accumulation, restriction, privatization) of the signs: exploitation of immaterial goods that act upon the mind, attention, imagination and social psique, and including nature and machines. Cognitive capitalism exploits the intellect of the citizen, social communication to extract value, exploits popular knowledge and culture, controls the wisdom of crowds, sets up artificial barriers where there were none (because goods and assets were immaterial), etc.

There is the risk that some supposedly initiatives of the collaborative economy are not genuine: AirBnB, BlaBlaCar or Uber are not really open or transparent, nor collaborative, etc. but just another approach of cognitive capitalism.


Q: What is the transition like towards a new kind of smart city? Gemma Galdon: by getting rid of automatisms when it comes to using personal data, by being critical, by looking for real alternatives to automatization and data collection.

Q: Any model of open data alternative to the ones used in mainstream smart cities projects? Gemma Galdón: yes, there are alternatives but the more radical alternative is whether we can do things without using personal data. Not using personal data in different ways, but with no data at all. Indeed, the vulneralibilization of data is a collective thing: if I make public my data, I am also making available data from my family, friends and acquaintances.

Q: How can you measure the value of Wikipedia?

Q: How do you explain the success of initiatives like AirBnB, BlaBlaCar or Uber? Francesca Bria: they are not only technological platforms, but they are markets, they act as marketplaces where the rules of the game are set by their owners. They are successful because the work well upon network effects, including a certain “social lock-in”: “everyone is in there” or “everyone is using it”. Evgeny Morozov:


Network democracy for a better city (2015)

Global Revolution (III). Challenges, problems and innovations in the phase of evolution of the network movements cycle 2011-2013 (I)

Notes from the Three years of interconnected riots. Emergence, evolution and challenges of the network movements in the context of the #GlobalRevolution, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 23, 2013. More notes on this event: globalrev.

Arnau Monterde (Communication and Civil Society Programme at UOC and DatAnalysis15M research group)
Evolution of the 15M network movement and its mutations (201-2013)

How is it that the movement can mutate and update so quickly? What is the role of “forks” within the network movement? It is quite clear, though, that (1) the Spanish Indignados Movement (#15M) is a “movement in movement” and that (2) emotions are a substantial part of the network movement, affective mobilization is crucial. There is a need for new forms of organization as a network that are capable of making decisions and fixing errors in real time.

It is also important the policentric and/or distributed character of the network, as a live or mutating organism. Codes are open and are replicable. Networks are open and contagion becomes global.

The #15O movement (global demonstrations on October 15, 2011) is a good example of both fork and evolution of the movement, of replicating it at a global scale. How are these replicas created? These movements that aim for the global movement hold powerful links and relationships between the collective identities of the different nodes or movements or sub-networks; they share codes, they share memes and hashtags; they also have in common bridging the physical and the virtual layer.

These new movements, and in an increasing way, begin to have a major impact on mainstream media.

The movements also have the capability to hack and transform forks or parallel movement, “embed some code in them” and transform their very nature to turn it towards the movement’s goals, thus mutating the original fork into part of the core movement.

Some mutations become single-issue movements, such as:

  • The Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), on mortgages (truly speaking it existed before the 15M movement, but the nature is the same one).
  • The 15MpaRato project, to try presumably corrupt bankers.
  • The “tides”, movements to defend specific public services (public health, public education, etc.)

One of the latest mutations is the Citizen Network Party X, a political party born within the 15M movement, with the formal frame of any other political party, but with an inner organization very much like a network movement.

Joan Donovan (Univeristy of California. InterOccupy)

It’s not only the words that are being said, it is also about the things people are doing while saying these words or just because they said these words.

Net Work: the use of one’s free time in a specific project by using one’s own resources. Most of the people that participate in Net Work are already knowledge workers whose job is to move around (create, mix, disseminate) knowledge.

No one is in charge of infrastructure, as infrastructure is decentralized and is used indistinctly and flexibly by net workers.

Occupy uses multiple channels for collecting, sorting, collating, and broadcasting information for the purpose of coordinating action: the public space, websites, etc. Rhizomatic communication: multiple channels for collecting sorting, collating, and broadcasting infromation for the purpose of collective action.

From #SandyVolunteer to #OccupySandy

After hurricane Sandy, many turned to the Net to help the victims of the hurricane — and #SandyVolunteer was born. But quickly the demands for information outpaced the supply of it. Then InterOccupy, an already established group, reorganized and turned towards the goal of helping #SandyVolunteer, and then came #OccupySandy.

Many matters of infrastructure usually come after ideas are put into practice: first act, then build. The website, the channel to accept donations, the mailing list and e-mail account, voice conferences to massively broadcast information and answer questions… a whole constellation of tools and people were put into work to support the network of volunteers contributing to alleviate the impact of Sandy.

A principle: Occupy Sandy is mutual aid, not charity.

Networks can be reconfigured, reoriented. It just takes a clear and legitimate goal, and finding out the right people with the right skills to leverage the power of the network.

Alberto Escorcia (Coordinador de México)
From #InternetNecesario to #1Dmx

The history of YoSoy132 can be traced back to 2009, when the government provides no satisfactory answers to the influenza pandemic during that year. It is the same people that would protest against the government for such poor information that will reorganize themselves around the policy to tax the Internet and create the #InternetNecesario movement.

After that, mass media begin to acknowledge that what happens in social networking sites can no more remain ignored. This is especially relevant when protests shift again, this time to ask for a null vote in the 2009 elections.

With time, we can see that social movements begin to create patterns of behaviour that can somewhat predict the evolution of the movement, its degree of participation, etc. So, social movements are certainly impredictable but some likelihoods of specific events and evolutions can be established after data analysis.

See the analysis on Google Trends by several terms causing citizen unrests developed by Alberto Escorcia.


Q: How do we measure impact? Is it the PAH the only one making an impact? Arnau Monterde: Indeed, most networks are if not integrated they are connected, even if many people do not realize that. For instance, much of the muscle behind and besides the PAH comes from the 15M network movement. The PAH is a school of activism just because it shares not only the values but the resources and the people of the 15M movement. So, the impact is actually not the PAH’s, but the impact of the whole network, despite the fact that one of the nodes may be more visible than others.

More information


Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)

The reinvention of democracy in the network society

Paper cover for La reinvención de la democracia en la sociedad-red

During the year 2012, the research programme on Communication and Civil Society of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute carried on a series of research seminars on Internet, net neutrality, hacker ethics and digital culture and on Internet, institutional crisis and new institutionalism — the later, coordinated by myself.

The result of that work is the recently issued working paper La reinvención de la democracia en la sociedad-red [The reinvention of democracy in the network society], coordinated by Arnau Monterde Mateo, Adrià Rodríguez and myself, and which has been published in Spanish.

I want to very sincerely thank Arnau Monterde for the opportunity he gave to me to take part and coordinate one of the seminars, and acknowledge the huge amount of work that Arnau Rodríguez devoted in putting all the pieces together. On the other hand, the final paper would not have been possible without the contributions of the participants that attended the seminars. In no particular order, and besides Arnau, Adrià and I, those were Pablo Aragón, Cristina Cullell, Débora Lanzeni, Carlos Sánchez Almeida, Javier Toret, Gala Pin, Carlos Tomás Moro, Joan Coscubiela, Gemma Galdón, Tomás Herreros, Rommy Morales, Pedro Miguel Da Palma Santos, Joan Subirats and Alicia Domínguez. A warm thank you to all of them.


From the Arab Spring, through movement occupywallstreet or 15M it has been opened a new cycle of political network movements which propose many new elements regarding the political use of new technologies and the Internet to collective action. These new movements see the network not only as a tool or battlefield, but also as an organizational form, establishing a relationship that commonly has been linked to ethics and ways to do of hacker communities.

Moreover, the financial crisis in Europe is deepening blocking political institutions that have been building since the beginning of modernity. This crisis is expressed not only in the inability of these institutions to tackle the current economic, social and political, but also in its complicity with the mechanisms of financial dispossession. Such institutional crisis determines the need to exercise both a critical and process of invention and construction work that starts from the new technological possibilities and lessons of network movements, hacker culture and free software, which enable reinventing institutional and constitutional forms, and therefore also of democracy itself.


logo of PDF file
Monterde, A., Rodríguez de Alòs-Moner, A. & Peña-López, I. (Coords.) (2013). La Reinvención de la democracia en la sociedad red. Neutralidad de la Red, ética hacker, cultura digital, crisis institucional y nueva institucionalidad. IN3 Working Paper Series, WP13-004. Barcelona: UOC-IN3.


From the Arab Spring to the Global Spring. How to think on the global relationships of the new movements in the digital age

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Presentation of the 2n day of the Conference: Joan Coscubiela

Most social structures of the industrial society seem inadequate for today’s problems.

On the other hand, in times of change not only aren’t there many solutions, but existing solutions are far from being global or valid for all problems and contexts.

Another big problem is that people that have lived in previous social models usually do not have the keys for transformation.

Can we go forward with a de-constituent process that is followed by a constituent one? How will be build the required consensus? What is exactly the social conflict of the XXIst century? Is it capital? Is it the control of information? Of networks? Is it the control of the economic powers that are beyond the political power? How do we combine short-term solutions to daily problems with long-term, systemic ones?

Round table: From the Arab Spring to the Global Spring. How to think on the global relationships of the new movements in the digital age
Chairs: Arnau Monterde (Programme in Communication and Civil Society, UOC/IN3)

#yosoy132 #15m #ows #tahrir have implied more thatn 10 millino tweets in the last year. What is the impact of the whole set? What are the relationships between these movements? What is going to be next in these movements and in the very nature of these movements?

Nizaiá Cassián (UOC); Israel Solorio (Member of YoSoy132 Mexico)

Israel Solorio

The nature of YoSoy132 was quite different form the 15M Indignados, at least in its origins.

The nature of YoSoy132 was quite different from the 15M indignados, at least in its origins. The movement originated in universities to fight poor democracy, but quickly grew outside of the educational environment and thus YoSoy132 International is like the assembly of the circa 70 assemblies that generated after the initial spark of the movement.

Nizaiá Cassián

YoSoy132 is a Mexican students protest that initiates when the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto is haunted during a conference at a university because of denyal of human rights violation. After mainstream media minimize the impact on the image of the candidate labelling the students as a “few violent misfits”. The response of the students is a major, decentralized campaign, led by 131 students, stating that they are neither “a few” nor “violent misfits”. The result is that thousands of students support the initiative of the 131 by stating that they agree with them and that they are the 132 student.

This movement has determined the development of the electoral campaign, the way students have been more engaged in politics, etc. It is important to stress the point that the movement did not only address the political parties and politicians, but most especially mainstream media and their lack of neutrality and ethics. The criticism against Mexican media powers was very strong and as part of a demand for more and better democracy.

Israel Solorio

There is a deeper digital divide in Mexico than in Spain. In Mexico the usual way to diffuse (alternative) political messages is the bridageo, consisting in delivering leaflets in the underground or the streets. But YoSoy132 somewhat brought into the spotlight the power of social networking sites, and how they could bridge the Net and the street.

Indeed, having an influence on the communication agenda was always one of the main goals of the movement.

The movement YoSoy132 acknowledges the great wealth that the 15M movement generated by documenting procedures, sharing tools and opening their source code, analysing how people communicate and got engaged, etc. The 15M still is a good reference to be able to know the pace of things.

And the other way round: all movements feedback one each other, as “Rodea Televisa” was an inspiration to “Rodea el Congreso”.

If power goes global, let’s globalize the resistance.

Pablo Rey Mazón (OccupyResearch)

Pablo Rey analyzed the coverage that newspapers did of the 15M which can be seen in the following links:

A similar analysis with Occupy Wall Street and the pepper spray incident also shows that what people talk about and what media show is closely related, but unlike what used to happen in the past, it is interesting to see that social networking sites are beginning to condition what ends up in the front page of newspapers.

The relationship and mutual feedback between social media and traditional media is increasing, many times creating “transmedia” pieces of news that are originated in one platform and then is transposed to the other one, creating a dialogue across platforms and actors.

[click here to enlarge]

The Occupy movement generated around it a group of researchers and communicators that focused on gathering and curating content about the movement, in order to record what happened, diffused it, and, above all, analyse it, like #OccupyData NYC or Occupy Research.

Main things learnt: activists have learn new ways to mobilize and, more important, to communicate. Many citizens have seen new movements (and Occupy specifically) as new and fresh ways of engagement and of changing the typical political discourse. The movement has also acted as a bridge between collectives (immigrants, unions, etc.) that usually did not work together and that now are part of a same network, [added after numeroteca’s comment] though this bridging was not broadly achieved.

Lali Sandiumenge (Author of: Guerrilleros del Teclado)

The Arab Spring really is a regional phenomenon, not a collection of isolated/national unrests. There really is a collective conscience that transcends the boundaries of countries. The increase in the number of blogs since 2004 in the Arab World is exponential: from just some dozens to literally hundreds of thousands, many of them speaking one to each other about human rights and civil liberties. Of course, every country has its own revolution (or transition in some of thems), but the collective sense prevails.

In the case of Egypt, even if now in a political transition, the revolution is still going on: there still are protests, there still are victims, there still are struggles to speak and be heard. There is a symbiosis between the fights in the streets and the fights that happen online: the street and the online world are not separate worlds. Indeed, one of the acknowledged flaws of the revolution in Morocco is that it has not succeeded in taking the streets.

On the other hand, despite the fact that all the Arab revolutions are part of a bigger network and share a lot of knowledge (tactics, tools, etc.) there still is the feeling that a closer relationship and collaboration could take place. Added to that, the different regimes are also fighting back the movements on the Net too. And, still, one of the problems to be informed of what a network does is being part of the network.

Kazeeboon’s channel on YouTube shares footage taken on the streets on protests and human rights violations. But these footage is taken “outside” of the Internet and shown in the streets, on walls, on the ground or even on people so that everybody (with or without Internet access) can see what has been taped.


Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

From wikileaks to the Global Spring. Logics of the Internet in collective action

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Presentation of the Conference: Manuel Castells

In recent years there have been social movements that address the lack of representativeness and legitimacy of their politicians and governments. Institutions have been emptied of content.

It is not that democracy has ceased to be “democratic”, but many citizens believe so, which is a serious issue. And that is why many citizens look for alternative and more effective ways of participation.

So, what we are witnessing is not a minor protest, but a new pattern of behaviour that leads to change. Change of institutions and forms of institutionalization that should lead to new ways of decision-making that affects people’s lives. It is not (only) about building a new future, but about fixing our present. And it is not (only) about finding new ways of participation, but about designing new democracies.

We should be able to tell the difference between the actual mobilizations that imply occupations, fights with the police and some times some violence, from the ideas that boost these mobilizations. There of course is much debate and disagreement around the way mobilizations take place, but the consensus arises when the debate focus on the reasons and foundations of the mobilizations.

What forms of activism and mobilization in the public space can be carried on so that they affect the public agenda, real politics and decision-making? And this is the field of experimentation that we are witnessing. And what happens when the red line of violence is trespassed, as it implies the death-sentence of the movement.

This is what is at stake and it is very likely to intensify until it finds a solution.

Round table: From wikileaks to the Global Spring. Logics of the Internet in collective action
Chairs: Arnau Monterde

Marga Padilla (

Protests in the Internet have their own specificities, fights in the Internet work, if not different, with their own rules of the game.

So, what is the Internet? What is the cyberspace? In his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, John Perry Barlow defines it as a free non-physical space where physical violence cannot be enforced, where the rules of a material world do not apply any more. Despite the romantic approach of the declaration, it is absolutely true that the cyberspace, or the Internet, does imply many challenges to law and governance as we know them. This feature of an disembodied space implies:

  • The Internet can be experienced in many ways depending on the interests that drive action on the Net, interests that are often opposed. Ambiguity is, thus, the very nature of the Internet.
  • If a device can work in many ways and its not physical, it cannot be controlled. The Internet, and the messages that go through it, cannot be controlled.
  • Last, a very specific thing about the Internet is that we have its code, we know how it works.

What is then at stake is (1) how to control access to this virtual space and, as a consequence, (2) how to control access to virtual goods that are not scarce, that can be freely and costlessly distributed and replicated.

The case of Wikileaks

Wikileaks presents a paradigmatic case of ways to attack the freedom of speech in the Internet, taken as a separate space from “reality”: while Wikileaks was haunted all along cyberspace (attacking their hosting services, their domain names, etc.), newspapers publishing Wikileaks’ documents were not attacked. Why was that so? Was Wikileaks more dangerous on the Net that on paper? Or was it because of the nature of the Internet?

One of the explanations is that while newspapers are usually national and politically-biased, Wikileaks acted internationally, with no political-bias, attacking the core of governments without a political agenda behind (did not want to substitute a government by another, which would have been understood as “fair”), it provided raw data and not just interpreted or mediated information.

Wikileaks is an unfinished device, it needs a solidarity network that “completes” what Wikileaks is providing. Wikileaks contributes to the commons by resigning control. All other nodes in the network acknowledge that Wikileaks is providing wealth to the network, which is good in itself (despite agreement or disagreement on what is specifically providing). Providing content, networking, wealth, is of most value in a network. And it is that value that was attacked.

On the other hand, the Internet is still seen as a lawless space, where the rules and law of the “real world” somewhat do not apply. Freedom of speech, the right to have a name or a website, etc. can be more easily attacked on the Net that on the flesh-and-bones world.

The cyberactivism kit

  • Deep professional and technological knowledge.
  • Capability to react quickly.
  • Deliberate ambiguity, confusion, comfortability with chaos.
  • Decentralized information &mash; vs. centralized traditional independent news sources.

The case of Anonymous

Anonymous — a non-organization, with an undefined political goal — can be understood as the reply of the lack of (or violation of) human rights on the Internet. If governments and firms act illegally or a-legally on the Net, Anonymous will do tantamount from the approach of the citizen.

Anonymous can also be understood as the result of the clash of two different rights: the freedom of speech, the freedom to access culture, and copyright.

Anonymous adds to the cyberactivism kit:

  • Citizen politics with generic and plain English words
  • Aim of anonymization, in the sense of unselfishness.

Laura Pérez Altable (UPF)
Informative flows during the Arab Spring: the case of Tunis

Some examples of digital networks of communication helping social movements:

  • Castells labels the Zapatist Movement (1994) as the first informational guerilla: it used international media intensively to both diffuse their message and also to organize themselves around the message.
  • The Battle of Seattle (1999) used for the first time the blog to organize and also diffuse their message.
  • Iran lived unrests in 2009 against the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad where Twitter was broadly used as a tool to organize the protests.
  • The Arab Spring (2010–), which witnessed how the message was co-built and co-broadcasted by citizens and corporate media.
  • Others: Occuppy Wall Street, YoSoy132, etc.

Sampedro (Opinión pública y democracia deliberativa. Medios, sondeos y urnas. Istmo, Madrid, 2000) states that there are two different public spheres: the central one, where politics and media act, and outer or periferic public spheres that is where citizens act.

The traditional scheme of a political sphere that affects media that affect the public sphere is intercepted by a new actor: the digital networks of communication. These networks intercept the message especially between media and the public sphere, but actually affect all levels and actors in the scheme. With the appearance of the new actor, both the Agenda-Setting Theory and the Gate-Keeping Theory are altered and have to be explained from scratch, now including the new actor. Media are transformed: from being gatekeepers that filter information they turn into gatewatchers that make it visible.

Citizens hack local media and the official discourse of the government by aiming at international media and the international civil society.


Q: People on the Internet may not suffer violence in it, but they definitely do outside of it because of their virtual actions. So, it is just partially true that there is no violence in cyberspace. How can this be counteracted? What is disobedience in cyberspace? Marga Padilla: the best way to perform disobedience is by hacking, that is, not going against the law on a straightforward manner, but circumventing it or even using it for one’s own purposes.

Eduard Aibar: The decentralized structure of the Internet is it true or just an illusion? How can the Egyptian government shut the Internet down in a matter of hours? A: While it may be physically possible to shut down the Internet, alternatives to connect to the Net were possible. On the other hand, the social and economical impact of shutting down the Internet implied that shutting it down was not sustainable in the medium-term. Marga Padilla: the best way to avoid Internet shut-downs is the ability to have a plan B by creating mirrors, for which both knowledge and the physical layer are required. Any social movement should have a hacker in their lines: hacking should be in each and every political or citizen agenda.


Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)