Weekly Notes: Self-Organizing

01 Mar

This week’s readings to me are particularly exciting, as now we’re getting into the part of social internet that I love the most: self-organizing. I’ve always found the ability of people to communicate, gather, and collaborate on a new medium simply amazing. Look at Facebook, and it’s ability to gather friends, allies, enemies, etc.-all to converse about ONE TOPIC. Even if it isn’t a mass group forming. A lot of people take for granted what is happening, or even still believe “What? Like a few people ‘liking’ something is going to matter”-it DOES. Granted, I’m not about protesting and such; that’s a whole separate slew of thought. There’s power to be had in large quantities, and there’s a saying for this: you can mock a stupid person, but never underestimate the power of 100 stupid people. But I digress-I just love people watching. ❤

Here Comes Everybody

The first article is a very basic explanation of how this phenomenon works and came about. It is true that before the internet, passing along information could very easily be viewed as tedious. I know back in high school, my friends and I were the queens of 3-way phone calls: one would start, and the new person would continue the chain, which eventually led to 8-10 people on the phone at once and saved us the time of having to get a ride, figure out who could/would drive, how long we could stay, etc. With the development and growth of internet, sharing news is, as this chapter puts it, effortless. Interesting (or provoking) news and thought can be shared with just a click and a few keyboard taps. This allows for collective and collaborative action to take place. Now, rather than having to organize, distribute, copy, convince, and barter individuals, the information is readily available, and we are free to attach ourselves to what we think is or is not important. An important point that this chapter strikes is one of geography: we no longer limit ourselves to the location in which we collaborate. With internet, groups/organizations can ‘meet’ without having to leave their homes. To boot, if an absolute need for face-to-face interaction is required, why not just organize it on the net, and take it from there? A quote from the chapter itself describes it best, “The classic model for the spread of disease looks at three variables – likelihood of infection, likelihood of contact between any two people, and overall size of population. If any of those variables increase, the overall spread of the disease increases as well.” Internet = disease(ok, not really, but I think it’s mildly humorous).

Nike Movement
This post explores the effects of self-organizing when it goes up against a larger entity-transnational corporations. The author takes note that this is the result of grassroots organizing, and thus a drive at the head of resistance. For many, Nike sweatshops are not foreign knowledge. This article discusses how collaboration and self-organization help bring to light to globalized resistance and corporate culture questioning.

Through social activism and the new social movement, the ‘word of mouth’ of the Internet was responsible for exposing and globalizing the harsh and cruel practices that Nike was embracing to generate more product and thus, more revenue. This article also brings up a very common reoccurring argument to be had about the Internet in general: is social internet serving to promote knowledge, education, and understanding, or is it slowly stifling us as a society? On one side of the argument, it is desensitizing us to the consumption of information: we will be lost in a mass of signs, data, information without the capacity to understand its relevance. However, it should be noted that the comprehension is still a matter of interpretation. On the other side of the argument, social internet is strongly advocated, as it supports a strategy of micro-politics as a way for individuals and groups to combat ever-novel challenges and forms of manipulation as presented by multinational capitalism and mass-mediated culture. With this argument is Diana’s theory of new social media (NSMs): NSMs are: ‘networks of relations between a plurality of actors, collective identity, and conflictual issues’. Thus starts the argument of social internet being the bane of many companies existence: you are what the population makes of you, but also what your gross revenues says of you. NSMs function on a community level; that is, they operate based on what the population says and does, not the company. This makes immediate friction for a company when a community forms for a cause against it: they do not have control over what others can or will expose about them.

The heart of understanding this concept lies in the actual anti-Nike campaign: a conglomeration of multiple groups sympathizing with labour workers for different reasons across different regions. The ‘outbreak’ started by small talk within the corresponding countries, and spread as a disease (similar to the description in the previous article). Once enough word got out, people found their own reasons to sympathize. For example, women in the National Organization for Women viewed the sweatshop labour wrong for unjust hours, but also violations of overt sexism. Asian populations were enraged due to the exploitation of Third World Labour. Of all the examples that could stem from this, the phrasing ‘globalized identity politics’ was coined. Enduring these scenarios and engaging them further across the Internet provoked a new wave of Internet activism which allowed for profound information to start with one person, and spread to millions at a very rapid rate. This brought up several ethical and political questions, some of which questioned the very reason and right we have to put these types of conditions on anyone. This article introduces the concept of a culture jammer. Culture Jamming is “directed against an ever more intrusive, instrumental technocrat whose operant mode is the manufacture of cansent is the manipulation of symbols; a receiver of a message maintains the freedom to interpret a message in an individual way.” This spurred about the anti-ad campaigns that were seen across the globe, portraying Nike runners or athletes with statements provoking the user to reconsider what they read and what they consume.

Protest Related Diffusion on the Web

The article opens up by discussing how protests offline are easy to document diffusion and innovations-what does and doesn’t work. However, many researchers in regards to online diffusion only tend to study the diffusion of information, not the diffusion of innovation and feedback. This article makes an attempt to do just that. The article discusses three specifics to diffusion online: diffusion of information, online protest forms and tactics, and protest itself as a heuristic for challenge and its scripts. Information diffusion is pretty straightforward: it’s the act of taking a piece of information and spreading it quickly across the internet. An important risk this author notes, however, is that the spread of faulty or incorrect information can be deadly, as it moves just as quickly. This can lead to internet riots, and a lot of explaining to be had. Just the same, information diffusion still plays a relatively large role in the spread of social activism…it’s somewhat hard to gather others and be active if your word isn’t getting out. Protest altering dynamics/innovations also play a relatively large role, as a change in tactic at an early stage can completely change a social movement process. How the information is distributed can easily stint or amplify how many people are involved. The author notes that, the big thing about innovations is that you don’t just ‘do’ them, it is a trial and error process; innovations are something that have to be learned and adopted. As far as using protests as a heuristic for problem-solving, it is described as such: new leaders and followers are drawn to the initial protest; that is the given part. What is noted is that new causes, derived from the original protest, begin to emerge. The topics are all inter-related in some way, shape, or form, but it begins to diffuse to a wider scope of issues, and starts touching on more mass media-be it on a personal or political stance.

Self-Organization of Cyberprotest
Cyberprotest is a global structural coupling and mutual production of self-organization processes of the Internet and self-organization processes of the protest system of society. In cyberprotest the self-organization of the Internet system and the self-organization of the protest system produce each other mutually in a self-organization process, hence cyberprotest is a self-organization of self-organization processes, a form of second-order self-organization. This article again reviews some of the things we know: implications of the internet. We can use it to organize, coordinate, construct, deconstruct, emphasize, or build anything we need in regards to a community/organization. It then discusses aspects of the cyberprotest: one of these is the cognitive approach, which is alternative online media. This is an approach where an opposing, or new, view makes itself known or present. According to the article these alternative media “are mostly non-commercial, articulate viewpoints that are dissonant from those of the dominant mass media, give visibility to unheard and marginalized voices and topics, and involve a great deal of audience participation and the subversion of the distinction between producer and consumer, author and writer (the emergence of the prosumer).” An example this paper uses is, which allows for Independent Media Centers to form, and start conversation and work on a topic that might not be as popular as a mainstream one. The next version it touches on is communicative cyberprotest, online protest communication. Communicative cyberprotest means that social movements make use of networked telecommunication infrastructures in order to communicate and co-ordinate protest. The last aspect it touches on, before the rhizome discussion, is co-operative cyberprotest, and electronic civil disobedience. This leads to the spawn of the hactivist, cyberattacks, hactivism, cybercampaigns, and cyberwar-all of which are relatively self-explanatory (in terms of emerging/well-known technology). It is noted that culture jamming is brought up a second time, as this is where the implications of said culture jamming start bearing an odd position. The idea of culture jamming is that the message is in the eye of the beholder…so what officially marks it as too far/too much? What absolutely needs to be done to get the point across? I think this is defined by the negative connotation associated with some of the vocabulary listed before. This is all described at the end of the article, as a growth pattern similar to that of a rhizome: a subterranean plant growth process involving propagation through the horizontal development of the plant stem. It is aligned with that of cyberprotest such that they both have to have the following be true for it to fulfill its role: the principle of connectivity (can it expand, even to just one other host), the principle of heterogeneity (taking on multiple forms), the principle of multiplicity (plurality), the principle of asignifying rupture (continuation; out with old, in with new), and principles of cartography and decalcomania (growth and unity from a source).

The final article has notes, but those will be saved for class, as I anticipate that it will get some good feedback given that it is based around the recent events involving the removal of Muburak, the uprising of Egypt, the strife of the Middle East, and how Twitter and Facebook played a HUGE role in all of them. I have noticed that activity in the classroom in general is much higher when the topic is an event that happened recently, or very specific to an interest. So, this post is long enough where it stands. 🙂

-Vanessa B!

1 Comment

Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


One response to “Weekly Notes: Self-Organizing

  1. Mihaela

    March 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thank you for posting your notes, Vanessa! One quick note, NSM=new social movement, in the Nike article.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: