Rodrigo Nunes (PUC-Rio. Riots in Brazil)
The increase of corruption and the fall in the quality of public services converge in generating a general unrest in the citizenry. It is acknowledged that the general status of the majority of the population has improved, but people disapprove the way this has happened, many times based on commoditization of services, access to financial credit, and regardless of the social and environmental costs of increased access to consumption. “Changing the country” (the motto of the Workers’ Party) is not about higher consumption levels, but about another thing. The agenda of the movement thus globalizes, and focuses on a constituent/destituent power.
When social movements perceive that the opposition in the Parliament is using the destituent approach to undermine the power of the government, they step back and shift away from the destituent approach.
Now we are witnessing a full reshaping of the movement, following a re-specification of the identities, and going back to the local arena somewhat setting aside the national-wide issues. The shift is also back towards the left, back to emergency issues.
Indeed, we have to take into account that media usually rebrand the message(s) of the movements, thus causing even more confusion.
Marcelo D’Elia Branco (Free-software activist. Current project: Conexoes Globais)
#VemPraRua was organized in a decentralized way, and using the images from police violence to fuel the protests.
We have witnessed a shift in Brazil politics from following the politics from the “West” to having its own politics and leading its own development. This has increased the self-steem of Brazilians and, at the same time, the awareness that the future of Brazil is in the Brazilians’ hands. Thus the unrests and demonstrations: Brazilians feel the main actors of their own development and thus they step forward. Unrests and demonstrations in Brazil are about showing out empowerment, commitment, and not mere criticism.
But since June 17, the protests begin to be populated with all kinds of people, especially people from the right that aim at weakening the government by appropriating the movement.
Now the trademark of the protests in Brazil are the Black Blocs, which is bad, because the forms are more violent (despite whether they are legitimate or not) and are kicking citizens out of the streets.
Ali Ergin (Sendika.org. Occupy Gezi)
(his intervention, taped on video, will be uploaded to the Net soon)
Q: What are the main challenges? Nunes: Black Blocs have been useful to keep the movement alive and to avoid that the movement was captured by extreme-right parties or organizations. But it is true that their behaviour has also caused some harm in the image of the movement. What is needed now is diversifying the ways to exert activism, as Black Blocs have a very specific type of activism and of activist. There is an urgent need for a tactic diversification of the movement at the same time that there is a global interconnection of the world movements.
D’Elia Branco: we cannot analyse the current social movements, so very much brand new, in the typical classifications of the industrial society. Most of these movements scape the definitions of many post-modernist thinkers and philosophers.
Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)
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.
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 YoSoyRed.com. 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.
Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)
Luis Moreno-Caballud (University of Pennsylvania. Occupy Wall Street)
Occupy Wall Street is built upon a general resentment against Wall Street, as films as Capitalism: a love story or Inside job clearly show. A new imaginary is created not against capitalism itself, but against obscene wealth of the so-called 1% (the 1% of richest people). There also is a major disappointment after Barack Obama’s election, as many citizens deny the “hope” that the new President was supposed to bring.
There also is another precedent in the march on Wall Street on May 12th, 2011, as others on May 21st 2011, or June 16th, 2011, these latter two against Mayor Bloomberg.
At last, Adbusters creats the meme and calls on September 17th 2011 to “Occupy Wall Street”, a call clearly based on Tahrir Square and the Spanish Indignados’ camps. It is interesting to note that Adbusters made the call, but would not organize any formal movement, infrastructure, camp or whatever.
The New York City General Assembly is the one that takes the commitment to turn Adbusters’ call into something real.
Most of the people around NYC General Assembly and the camp at Zuccotti Park had similar profile: white, educated and politically committed youngsters. This provided a homogeneous culture which made agreements be reached quite easily, but also represented a closed cluster that had serious challenges to get to other citizens outside of this specific group. They notwithstanding succeeded in reaching out to other local processes, like groups fighting racism, groups fighting for labour rights, etc. At this moment, the movement boosts and virally expands into “traditional” activism and many other areas of society, including mainstream media.
It is worth noting two very interesting characteristics of the movement. The first one, the power of self-organization, including self-propagation, P2P help to newcomers, etc. The second one, the ability to replicate a “city” in the camp of Zuccotti Park, setting up the services and infrastructures that are needed to guarantee the habitability and sustainability of the occupation.
Baybars Külebi (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Occupy Gezy Barcelona)
The “Guided” Autonomy of #direngezi
In Turkey there is no apparent crisis. But, there are three pillars of economic growth in Turkey that are harming many people and that can provide an interesting framework for the movements in Taksim.
- Urban transformation projects. There is an important bias towards policies based on construction and big infrastructures.
- Enclosure of commons. Including environmental injustices related to (among other) water supplies and hydroelectric power.
- Neoliberal transformations. Benefiting the “big family” of rich capitalists that act as “dispossession networks”, networks made by the government, media and firms.
Besides this framework, there is a timeline of events that can also help to understand Taksim: the Bloody 1st of May (May 1, 1977), the Military Coup (September 12, 1980), the first celebration in Taksim (May 1, 2010), closing of the square (September 16, 2011), the beginning of construction within the park (May 27, 2013), etc.
On the other hand, there is a strong culture of the Internet in Turkey, deeply rooted in 4chan and its ethos. The ekşi sözlük group thus served, in many senses, as a sort of school of cyberactivism.
After the initial phase in May 27th, 2013, where just 50-60 people camped in Taksim, then the movement quickly gained momentum, especially when other organizations came and joined the general movement. The fact that the demands were very concrete was also helpful in gathering people around clear, straightforward ideas. Though there was some criticism for these demands not being very ambitious. But, again, simplicity played an important role in making the message very clear and easy to endorse.
It is important to note that the movement came in time: just two years before, broadband penetration in Turkey was very low, just improving very quickly after 2011. The role of technological tools has been important, but instrumental.
Bernardo Gutiérrez (Journalist. Riots in Brasil)
There are some minor — but relevant — unrests in November 6, 2012, but it is in June 13, 2013, where the protests end up in violence by the police. This sparks the movement: some activist groups call for demonstrations (among them Movimento Passe Livre, Anonymous, Movimento contra a Corrupção. Many movements answer the call for June 17th, 2013, thus gathering different sensibilities, approaches, demands, etc. and making the movement a very powerful one. It is worth noting that the movement identifies itself not as a major protest in Brazil, but as part of a global worldwide protest. Indeed, this made the local nodes of global networks like Anonymous to increase their relevance and their legitimacy both inside Brazil as outside of the country. On the other hand, #ProtestoRJ is seen as the network of the “poor nodes”, that is, no powerful local nodes monopolized the debate but, on the contrary, the conversation was really plural and distributed.
Political parties did not understand the movement — especially, or not even, left-wing parties — and they tried to enter the conversation with very self-referential and top-down approaches.
The movement succeeded in creating a collective identity and imaginary which has created a whole process of artivism and hacktivism that has permeated all spheres of life.
Ismael Peña-López (to Bernardo Gutiérrez): is it possible to be both a journalist and an activist? where are the red lines? Gutiérrez: it’s difficult. The good thing is knowing the issues in deepest detail, as an insider, and also being able to talk to all parts and actors and see their points of view. The not that good thing is how to keep a distance when it is needed, or how to keep criticism on one’s own side even when one is a convinced partisan of the movement. The final balance is, though, very positive: being both things — journalist and activist — as produced more rigorous and informed pieces in comparison with other media that have covered the citizen movements worldwide.
Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)
Guadalupe Martínez (Universidad de Granada. Expert in the Tunisian electoral process)
The Tamarod (rebellion) movement. Expression in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine, Iraq.
The Tamarod phenomenon takes place in a specific geographical area — the one that was part of the Arab Spring in 2011-2012 — but an area that is expanding — now towards Syria. But we have to take into account that not all Arabic countries are experiencing this movement, and not all countries are from the Arabic world (e.g. Turkey).
The Tamarod movement stands for rebellion and is liked with the Arab Spring, but it is not exactly its extension. It begins circa Spring 2013, a major visibility during Summer 2013 and a later phase of active action during Fall 2013. The name Tamarod is used in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine an Iraq. In Libya it takes the name of Rafd (rejection) and in Palestine as Qawen (resistance). The focus of reference is Egypt 30 June 2013 and it is an interconnected movement with the Net as a main node (especially Facebook and Twitter).
There is a sociological mimesis: young, urban and educated citizens with experience in activism.
None of the movements questions the legitimacy of the governments, or how they did get to the government, but they do question how they use power once in office. This does not mean that there are no specific characteristics in each case/country: indeed, the focus of pressure is different as there is a defective illiberal democracy in Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya; a pluralist quasi-comptetitive authoritarianism in Morocco; or an restrictive hegemonic authoritarianism in Bahrain. And the distribution of power is also different: presidential republics (Egypt, maybe Palestine), parliamentarian republics (Tunisia, Iraq, Libya), absolutist monarchy (Bahrain), and constitutional (though authoritarian) monarchy (Morocco).
So, in general, the movement(s) aim at dissolving the ruling institutions, but they do put the accent or focus in different and specific aspects of their respective institutions. Tamarod is a movement for democracy, and in no case is a movement against a specific group (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood or the islamists). Thus, the relationship of Tamarod with the parties of each country depends on the context, the inner institutional structure of the country, the very same nature of the parties, etc.
The role of the security forces has also been slightly different in each country, ranging from frontal opposition (and fight), no implication at all, or even a positive implication — most of the cases, though, feature a negative implication of the security forces.
The Kifaya platform is born in Egypt in 2004, made up by experienced activists (“from the previous generation”) to ask for dire reforms in Mubarak’s government. Kifaya gathers, thus, people that have taken part in many other protests. The new thing is that the young wing of Kifaya trains other activists on how to use the new tools of technopolitics.
In 2006 there’s the blossoming of the islamist blogosphere. Youngsters belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood thus demand through the Net the freeing of imprisoned activists and, on the other hand, claim having a voice on their own without the mediation of media.
In Mahalla, during 2006 and especially in 2008, there are worker protests, which in 2008 becomes a complete riot, not only about labour rights but about basic needs like food (e.g. rice, which had seen its prices sky-rocketing).
The 6th of April Youth Movement is created in Spring 2008 to support the riots in Mahalla and it becomes the first hybrid movement which is born online but supports an offline movement and vice-versa: to try and spread an offline movement making strong an online movement.
After the murder of Khaled Mohamed Saeed (May-June 2010), a page is created on Facebook and quickly becomes a central forum of political debate around democracy (and the lack of it) in Egypt.
Little by little, the riots in Tunisia spread towards Egypt where activism escalates. The protests then quickly become an international unrest and evolve in parallel in both countries. Besides blog pages, Facebook pages, etc. in Arabic, increasingly lots of activists publish in English to escalate the conflict and place it outside of the region’s boundaries. At last, a general call is made to take Tahrir Square. Mubarak blocks the Internet, causing a Streisand effect and making the movement even more visible and gathering more international support.
Javier Toret (Investigador. Trabaja entre filosofía, política, psicología y tecnología, Datanalysis15M)
There are several factors that made the 15M movement blast, that generated a movement that became unrest and evolved into a huge movement.
There is a process of learning, specially in the field of technopolitics. “Hacking + activism + netstrike = hacktivism”. Added to this process, there is a context of an economic crisis, which is one of the determinants, but not the determinant of the 15M movement. Indeed, it is more important the political crisis around the legitimacy of democracy and a need to regenerate it: #nolesvotes, Generación NiNi against the bipartidism, Juventud Sin Futuro, etc.
Technopolitics is way beyond cyberactivism and is not at all slacktivism. Technopolitics is an idea of intervention, is feeding back the physical and the digital layers to improve political activism.
The 15M movement started in social networking sites: 82% of the initial participants new about the movement online — especially Facebook. 1.5M were very active and circa 8.5 participated in any way. 76% of the participants came not from traditional political activism: it was initiated by a brand new generation of activists.
The different movements were interconnected: 31% of the participants of the #nolesvotes movement then came to participate in the 15M. In other words, the 15M movement was slowly born in many other movements that evolved, merged and exploded into a new one.
There is a multilayer activism, which begins in the physical layer (i.e. the streets and squares), then up to the digital layer to try and impact the mass media and political layers.
What the 15M does is to gather all the energy spread across different social networking sites and digital platforms, and to make it go out of the Internet and onto the “plazas” or camps.
After that, the movement boosts. Searches on the internet about the movement, or even keywords as “democracy” peak after the camps, the network dramatically increases its size, a network of camps and replicating nodes is created, nodes are empowered, etc.
Israel Solorio (Researcher. YoSoy132 Movement, Mexico)
In Mexico is difficult to think about any social movement without taking into account the Zapatist movement and how they used technological tools for their own political actions. Other movements that affected were, of course, the Spanish Indignados movemement of the 15M, and also the killings of Tlatelolco during the student mobilizations in 1968. Among many others.
A difference from the YoSoy132 movement and the 15M movement and Democracia Real Ya is that the Mexican case was totally unintended. It all starts with a boycott to candidate Peña Nieto at the Universidad Iberoamericana.
The movement achieved major visibility through individual spokesmen that made it to the headlines and mainstream media, especially TV channels — though a specific individual ended up being hired by the main corporation, Televisa, which was a blow to the credibility of the movement.
Differently from the Spanish 15M movement, which was against political parties in general, YoSoy132 was definitively against the candidate Peña Nieto. Then, when Peña Nieto won the elections and came to office, the movement went into a sort of stand by state, with some action, but mainly remaining latent.
Q: how are these movements being populist (or not)? Martínez: it is difficult to state. Many times they are just asking for a genuine regeneration of democracy, but it is also true that, in the Arab region, they often use populist messages and iconography to raise awareness and wake up people by the feelings.
Q: do you think mainstream mass media are censoring the news they do not like, or is it just that they do not understand or do not how to explain the movements? Martínez: it is interesting to state that many media — especially those that are against the government — in the Arab region, media are actually reinforcing and amplifying the movements. Toret: it really depends on the place. In any case, it is true that it is a common characteristic that these movements try to break the circle of power made up by governments and mass media and that determine the public agenda. Solorio: the role of media has been evolving along time. Initially they amplified the movement, as they wanted to foster political debate (or fight the candidate), but now they are more against it and aim at its destruction.
Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)