Archive for the ‘Overview of Protest Movements on the Internet’ Category

ARIN6902: Why is cultural protest important?

May 24, 2010

I wanted to wrap up this blog by writing a reflective post on why I believe cultural protest matters. Some factors came up more often than others and many are intertwined.

Sure, there are plenty of examples out there of lightweight and downright ridiculous cultural protests, but there are also many more that are representative of something more meaningful and get to the heart of what it is to be human and what it is to be part of a society.

Identity formation and maintenance

Culture and cultural artefacts have a strong role in the formation of both individual and societal identities. The production of and our relation to cultural artefacts is one aspect of identity formation. Other factors may be things such as genetics, experiences and environment.

In a historical context, it is often the culture of a civilisation which provides most insights to historians about how it operated and how its members lived their lives.

As John Cusack’s character in the film High Fidelity says “what really matters is what you like, not what you are like…Books records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow, but it’s the f***ing truth.”

Protection of cultural artefacts

People may be driven to protest over a shared love of a cultural artefact that has played a significant role in their own lives. The Save BBC6 Music campaign is a prime example of that.

Economic reasons

During my research for the Save BBC6Music campaign, I often came across editorials and blogs where the argument revolved around the fact that UK residents pay an annual licence fee to pay for BBC services. Their belief is that they are paying for a service and perhaps this is the only BBC service they use personally – hence the BBC has an obligation to foster a broad range of content.

Passion for culture and a belief in its importance

Depending on the individual, some people are simply culture junkies and defenders of the arts. When a cultural artefact or practice is either directly or indirectly threatened (directly could be due to budget cuts, indirectly may be due to declining interest), those who believe in its importance enough are compelled to act.

Offense of beliefs

This factor is quite a common one when it comes to cultural protest, from the Racebending movement, which revolves around race discrimination, to the recent banning of Facebook in Pakistan over a competition to draw cartoons of Mohammed.

Desire for greater meaning

Fans of the Harry Potter book and film series loved its characters and messages so much that they formed the Harry Potter Alliance, an example of fan activism that works at “creating the blueprint for a new kind of civic engagement that combines pop culture, social change, and new media that amplifies each voice hundreds of thousands of times.”

Desire for involvement

Again, depending on personality type, some people may not feel comfortable or interested in political participation or forms of civic participation other than cultural protest. Culture is what matters to them and it is how they actively feel part of society. They may feel their influence can be felt in a cultural movement rather than a political one.


ARIN6902: Just what does the Internet mean for Protest Movements?

March 22, 2010

As I mentioned in my initial post, Protest Movements in relation to the Internet is an incredibly broad topic. So this next post will attempt to give a very broad overview of the topic and provide context for the focus of the blog itself: cultural protest.

Just why is this topic so broad? Firstly, there are considerations of what the Internet comprises (ie. endless websites, apps, RIAs, widgets, feeds, social networks), then you need to analyse definitions of “protest” and activities therein (“hacktivism”, and, Facebook groups, Twitter posts, email campaigns) and lastly, there is a need to take a look at what actual topic or issue is that is being “protested” – democracy in Iran, disliking the fashion sense of a colleague or perhaps a particular musical genre (Norwegian death metal anyone?).

Let’s start off by connecting the dots. The Oxford English dictionary, that  esteemed gatekeeper of knowledge and grammar, defines protest as both a noun and a verb:

noun 1 a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection. 2 an organized public demonstration objecting to an official policy or course of action.

verb 1 express an objection to what someone has said or done. 2 take part in a public protest. 3 state emphatically in response to an accusation or criticism: she protested her innocence.

So, taking the next step, “protest movement” implies a group of participants who are, to varying levels, unified in terms of just what is being protested against. It also suggests organisation, collaboration and action.

Now that we have that clear, we can look at the typical overarching topics that protest movements revolve around…and as can be expected, there are some very thorny topics indeed (not surprisingly, they are the topics your parents and those silly etiquette guides always told you never to discuss at dinner): sexual orientation, politics, religion, sport, culture, war…the list goes on.

And what sort of activities do people who engage in protest movements get up to? Well, they range from the benign to the definitely illegal, the maybe-illegal and the downright ingenious. The activities that get the most attention seem to be the ones that target large, international corporations or government agencies: in 1998, the Pentagon and Mexican government websites were affected by a “virtual sit-in” where hundreds of activists protesting the treatment of natives from an area of Mexico initiated denial of service attacks so that the websites became inaccessible. Other notable events in this vein constitute defacement of a website – unauthorised people gain access to the website and post messages on the homepage to gain attention and notoriety for their cause. More recently and locally, the website for the Melbourne International Film Festival was shut down due to denial of service attacks by Chinese protesters, who were against the inclusion of a prominent filmmaker from the Muslim Uyghur minority and is critical of the Chinese government.

Somewhat more benign and perhaps dumbed-down are the thousands of Facebook groups set up protesting anything from the discontinuation of a chocolate bar to the cancellation of Friends on UK Channel E4. Hadley Freeman at The Guardian picks up on this dumbing down of protest, suggesting that in many cases, it is simply a case of reactionary campaigning, where those that sign up are only doing it for the sake of it.

Let us now take a look at how the Internet has facilitated protest movements. The obvious points are that forms of publication on the Internet act as a mobilising and galvanising force, allowing for movements to organise themselves, spread their beliefs and to be active. The large potential audience of the Internet and its networked nature allow the development of dedicated and determined protest movement members. It also provides protest members with a gathering location that is not physical.

ARIN6902: Hello world!

March 19, 2010

Hello and welcome to my newly-born blog, set up for my university class Internet Cultures and Governance.

The blog topic I’ll be covering this semester is Protest Movements. I plan to start by outlining how protest movements have benefitted from the medium of the Internet, specifically due to the reach of the Internet and the modes of communication it facilitates.

Since it’s such an incredibly broad topic, I’ve decided to narrow my focus and look at forms and examples of cultural protest. In detail, I’ll take a look at “fan activism”, a quite specific thread of cultural protest, and will also track a high profile protest movement in the UK cultural sphere: the proposed shutdown of digital radio station BBC 6 Music which has generated reams of newsprint (and of course “webprint”).

I just realised my header image is all nice and pretty which may not fit with the topic, perhaps I need something a bit more….angry? 😉 Having said that, the original also features a pretty cool Japanese sword, which could be a little more angry.

I hope you enjoy!