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Gezi Park Protests & the Boom-Bust Cycle of Social Media- Fueled Protest Zeynep

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Presentation on theme: "Gezi Park Protests & the Boom-Bust Cycle of Social Media- Fueled Protest Zeynep"— Presentation transcript:

1 Gezi Park Protests & the Boom-Bust Cycle of Social Media- Fueled Protest Zeynep Tufekci@zeynep

2 Internet and Collective Action So far, often emphasized: Lower coordination costs Attention and publicity Shaping of narrative Overcoming pluralistic ignorance Criticisms: Slacktivism Surveillance Censorship & propaganda

3 Big Questions for Movements Why do people protest? Free rider problem? Resources? Do protests matter? Political opportunity structures? Political mediation?

4 Common Themes of Analysis Does activism count if it is not about «the streets...» Was it Facebook [Twitte/Skype] or was it the people?

5 My Proposal: Stop looking so much at outputs of social-media fueled protests, start looking at their role in capacity building. Stop using online/offline as the axis of analysis, start looking at protests as one form of signaling, among many.

6 Gezi, a short history

7 Once upon a time, there was this:

8 And it was a lonely bit of green

9 And Prime Minister Erdogan wanted to turn it into this:

10 Some people, mostly from the neighborhood, did not like this.

11 Then, this happened to their small protest

12 Some people thought it was a sign of this:

13 Meanwhile government friendly TVs (almost all of them) broadcast this:

14 So people got upset and took to Twitter and to the streets

15 After multi-day clashes in the area, coordinated and spread almost solely on social media...

16 ...Gezi Park was occupied!

17 So, I packed up my gear

18 And went to Gezi Park to interview & observe...

19 Gezi Context 11-year single party reign Polarized country Ineffective opposition Barriers to new opposition (electoral system) Fears of growing outreach and authoritarianism

20 Findings: Smurf Village!

21 Occasionally, Gargamel visits

22 Woodstock meets Paris Commune



25 «One No, Many Yes»es

26 Heterogeneous Coalition

27 Free Rider What?

28 Costs were real

29 Costs were paid

30 Grievances, as voiced by Gezi occupiers: Growing authoritarianism Media censorship Police brutality

31 Internets Role I.Break Media Censorship II.Construct Counter-narrative III.Logistics and Coordination

32 I. Break media censorship

33 I. Media, Media Add pic of fridge turning into TV

34 I. Media, Media

35 I. Media, media

36 I. Social Media

37 I. Twitter

38 II. Protest Coordination & Internet Significant real time coordination For the most part, internet worked Local businesses turned on Wi-Fi Internet modems Text to others who then tweeted Walk to place with internet

39 II. Counter Narrative Construction Youth/internet culture Humor oriented Spread on/through/ social media Very much on display in Gezi itself

40 Leadership Much was coordinated without much centralization No central leadership with delegation authority--though a meta- organization (Taksim Solidarity) was formed, it often followed, not led, what was happening.

41 Gezi Dispersed Brutal dispersion Moves to neighborhood forums

42 Neihborhood Forums

43 Impact? To understand impact (and the boom-bust cycle of social media-fueled protests) first let look at capacity building as a concept, and then to capacities built and made less necessary by Internet affordances.

44 Capacity Building Amatyra Sen introduces into development economics Look at capacity, not outputs as key variable For example, instead of GDP look at literacy or heath--health is capacity to do things as well as an output. What can/what are people empowered to do?

45 Internet and Capacity Building Internet adds new capacities but also undermines others (often by rendering them less necessary) Thus, Internets impressive capacity building in some aspects is matched with capacity destruction/negligence in others And that helps explain the trajectories of social-media fueled movementsovergrown capacities in some aspects (logistics coordination), trophied, neglected capacities in others that were, sometimes,side-effects of capacity building for things that are no longer needed.

46 Protests: Conceptual Notes Dampen online/offline conceptually (but do NOT forget in affordances bits and atoms ARE different, the new ecology is different) Also, separate «citizenship» protests (civil rights, or those in authoritarian countries) and «post-citizenship» protests (Occupy, M15, and, to a large degree, Gezi)

47 What Do Protests Need? Resource Mobilization: Need resources for protest call, coordination, organization Political Opportunity Structures: An moment in political structure that creates perceived opening

48 Capacity Building in Protest Resources Internet Enables lower, much lower barriers of necessary resources for protest: Protesters are easier to call for, organize, and support logistically Protest online (hashtag campaigns, petitions, etc) even lower Protest offline also can arise semi-spontaneously and be managed in ways that would have been almost impossible before. Need for central authority, infrastructure etc. less necessary, almost optional

49 Capacity Building in Political Opportunity Structure Political Opportunity Structures Depend on Perception and Agency Social Movements Can Create Political Opportunity Structures... See the Tea Party (Have we defaulted yet?)

50 What Do Protests Do? 1.They Grab Attention Highlight cause, grievances Put forth narrative/counter narrative 2.They Promote Social Interaction among protesters Homophily building Meet, greet, bond for future (especially in face of repression) 3.They Reveal Information «Im not the only one» Break pluralistic ignorance 4.They Signal Protests signal capacity «We are here and we have capacity for dissent»

51 My thesis: Internet altered the relationship between what protests need(ed) to exist, and thus had to built the capacity for, and what movements need for impact. In the Internet era, protests dont operate the same way & dont «signal» the same way as pre- Internet.

52 1. Attention Capacity Internet builds capacity for obtaining attention, a key resource if not the key resource for social movements, without media dependency Media dependency brought distortion, selective representation, counter propaganda, censorship But it also brought dominance, focus and singular narrative

53 1. Attention Capacity Media attention often signaled elite dissent & buy-in Nixon: «If I lost Walter Cronkite, I lost Middle America» Right now, movements can get attention, on their terms, but CANNOT get a singular or dominant narrative. Since there is no single «elite» voice, there is no reliable way to signal «elite dissent» (Except maybe the stock marketsee government shutdown).

54 1. Attention Capacity Hashtag campaigns, thus, are similar to offline proteststhey are a grab for attention. The key isnt necessarily online versus offline the key is ability to garner attention. Media has certain structures of awarding attention, something «easier» can be better at attention. For example: Komen vs Planned Parenthood.

55 1. Attention Capacity Win: Increased Tactical Capacity to Grab Attention Loss: Increased Attention in Environmen t Where Dominance of Narrative is Impossible. More movements can get attention, none of them can reach as high as they could before. Lower plateau, lower singular focus.

56 2. Social Interaction Capacity Much, much more ability for social interaction among the aggrieved Can be stronger than social interaction that depended on face- to-face meeting because can be farther flung, or find your mates Internet is a homophily machine Online interaction promotes offline interaction, mutually constitutive process

57 2. Social Interaction Capacity More movements... Of many kinds Anti-Vaccination movement Middle East & North Africa Activists before January 25 Global Voices Tea Party and Tax Day 2010

58 2. Social Interaction Capacity Win: Much, much more. Many more, stronger movements. Loss: Much, much more. Many more, stronger movements. In other words, much competition, many counter-publics, for good or bad.

59 3. Information Revelation Break Pluralistic Ignorance The initial «Arab Spring» Gezi: «I thought I was the only one» «Im not the only one who felt so bothered» Bandwagon or Cascade effects

60 3. Information Revelation Win for movement impact: Pluralistic Ignorance as a Ruling Mechanism is on the way out. Loss for movement impact: New/updated responses, of course, are happening.

61 4. Signaling: Protests as «Stotting»

62 You cant catch me!

63 What does the «jump» signal?

64 Old Style Protest Signaled capacity to organize Signaled infrastructure Now it only signals aggrieved groups

65 Not the same!

66 Network Internalities Capacity building that comes through network and infrasturcture building Network internalities for social-media fueled protests are weaker! Hence, a local optima (protest with less infrastructure) is at odds with later potential goal (sustained dissent with capacity to inflict cost on authority

67 Network Internalities... Operate differently on left and right Left internalizes, celebrates not building network internalities because it sidesteps important tensions. (Leadership, negotiation, representation and delegation which are long-term issues with dissent from the left). Side-stepping those tensions means that the day after the street protests is more unclear and muddy for the left

68 Hence, why many movements are stuck at no! Protest coordinated by social media No need to develop capacity for representation Disappointment with electoral and delegative processes Protest demand can only be coalesced into the one thing that started the protest. Mubarak resign. Keep Gezi. Or, in case of Occupy, remain vague and fizzle out.

69 To sum up! Long standing cultural and political trends, especially on the left, have coincided with the rise of social media which allows differential capacity building for protest, and avoiding building capacity to undertake the protest which then turned into structures of representation, pressure and delegation. Hence, enhanced ability to protest is accompanied by weakened ability to impact. Boom-Bust!

70 Thank you! Questions? @zeynep Or

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