CYERACTIVISM: ONLINE SOCIAL CHANGE MOVES INTO THE MAINSTREAM
Cyberactivism has become a cyberspace-based movement that strives to secure citizens’ interest by overcoming restrictions imposed on the transmission of information. Activism, itself, is a fixture of contemporary politics, both democratic and otherwise. At its core is the drive to enact or prevent political, cultural, and/or social changes by a range of means. Although nonelite citizens have advanced activist claims against the powers that be for millennia, in the 21st century, digital media offer unprecedented tools for activists around the world to help realize their sociopolitical visions.
Since the start of social media’s diffusion throughout Western societies, concerns have been raised about its efficacy for political participation. The structure of political opportunities can function as a precondition or momentum that vitalizes social movements. A remarkable form of social movement that has emerged in the new structure of political opportunities is cyber activism. Strategies of the civic groups that are based on the effective use of cyberspace are generating great waves of transformation in the organization, goals, and effects of social movements.
Cyberactivism attempts to use the strengths of cyberspace to enhance the effectiveness of citizens’ political participation. People participate in online activism along a wide spectrum of commitment levels, from liking and sharing content, to the back-and-forth of political discussion, to involvement as core movement leaders. Lowcost online actions do not harm activist goals; on the contrary, they help to boost activist topics and concerns to the levels of public visibility necessary to enact or prevent change.
While these new forms of activism have been praised for their wide reach, networkedness, immediacy, directness/ disintermediation,
interactive potential, and potential for empowerment, they have also been criticized for what has been judged low efficacy, the creation or reinforcement of political apathy, and potentially harmful consequences such as hacking and surveillance.
Recruitment and movement-building may draw on the same or similar repertoires, but are (arguably) more targeted at inclusion or mobilization than advocacy.
As such, these activities tend to implement and focus on collective action frames, i.e. organizationally initiated or supported activities and campaigns, rather than individualized or ad-hoc cumulative efforts. While advocacy includes activities that may require both little effort (such as liking, sharing or debating) or more commitment (such as creating websites for information dissemination), recruitment and movement-building require potential activists to commit to more than an individual case by joining a particular movement in some form. This is also the case when individuals are active on various causes synonymously, which may lead to a gradual development of a collective identity or community. As such, movement-building activities aim at creating collective action, compared to advocacy and political commentary, which may comprise the entire spectrum of connective and collection action frames depending on scope, content, and intent.
With the rapid development of Internet technologies, the nature of political participation
as we had known it before changed significantly. Despite this fact, many of the research papers in political participation still focus on more traditional, i.e., offline, forms of participation.
There is clearly more to learn about such new types of political participation as, e.g., online activism, hacktivism, civic journalism. For one thing, while it is proposed that political participation is a vital element of a stable democracy, it is still inconclusive if this fact holds true in the case of new types of political participation or, on the opposite, such types aim to change the established political system. In the light of such overarching questions about the implications for democracy, there is a need to expand on our knowledge of online political participation as such.
Despite the fact that online activism is often condemned for its ineffectiveness, a number of studies showed that social media can be an effective tool in mobilizing society into offline political actions, such as protests and even revolutions! It has to be acknowledged that in order to ensure the stability of democracy we have to understand who politically participates and what stimulates such kind of participation. Research has suggested that, for further positive development, we need to examine various forms of
political participation separately and developing a new classification of political participation forms, the one that also, will include other online forms of political participation not examined in this paper, e.g., hacktivism, cyberprotesting, cyber-vigilantism.
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__Kopacheva, E. (2021). How the Internet has changed participation: Exploring distinctive preconditions of online activism.
Ozkula, S. M. (2021). What is digital activism anyway? Social constructions of the “digital” in contemporary activism. Journal of Digital Social Research, 3(3), 60-84.
__Woo-Young, C., & Won-Tae, L. (2006). Cyberactivism and political empowerment in civil society: A comparative analysis of Korean cases. Korea Journal, 46(4), 136-167.
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