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Saturday, September 28 • 3:10pm - 3:45pm
More than Tools: ICTs Influencing Social Movement’s Opportunity Structures

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The objective of this research is to explore the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the emergence and development of Social Movements. We ask: what role do ICTs play in providing or impeding opportunities for social movements to participate in political processes?

Opportunity structures are signals identified as such by a group of actors, in this case members of social movements, who are sufficiently organized to act on it (D. McAdam et al., 1996; J. D. McCarthy, 1996). So far, research has shown that ICTs influence movements? opportunity structure by making it easier to identify elites, acquire information about international events, and make it more difficult for governments to regulate and censor the flow of information (Diani & McAdam, 2003; Garrett, 2006). However, research has not addressed whether ICTs represent an opportunity to access and participate in political processes.

We investigate whether ICTs are opportunity structures in their own right by determining two things: (1) if they are perceived as opportunity structures by members of the social movement, and (2) if they are strategically included in movement practices like forming alliances (Tarrow, 201; N Van Dyke, 2010; King, 2010; Smith 2010); and fighting repression (Althusser, 2001; Shurrman, 2012, Walder, 2009; Siegel, 2011; Carty, 2011; Shirky, 2011).

We conducted a mixed-method case study of the Honduran Resistance Movement, which rose after a Coup d?état in 2009. This case is relevant for two reasons: one, it was the first in wave of revolts around the world, which relied heavily in ICTs to get organized; two, it is located in Latin America, an area that is going through important political and economic changes, which has been overlooked in studies on social movements and ICTs. We interviewed members of the movement, civil society organizations, the government and international organizations. We conducted observation of mobilizations and meetings, and collected qualitative data from newspapers and social media.

Preliminary results indicate that ICTs play a determinant role in this social movement not only as mere tools, but also as integral part of their social processes and structures. Members of the movement conceive ICTs as opportunity structures; they make sense of them through their use and re-arrangements and include them strategically in their repertoire of mobilization. We deduce that ICTs are opportunity structures in their own right as they were used strategically to participate in political process by facilitating the creation of new alliances, fostering collaboration and dialog across institutions, and providing tools to fight impunity and repression. We propose a research agenda to further explore ICTs as opportunity structures.

The significance of this work is showcased in the increasing uses of ICTs by social movements around the world, like the Occupy Wall Street, the Egyptian uprising, and the Chilean student?s movement. It is also highlighted through governmental and international organizations support of policies to help civil society build their digital capacity.

Saturday September 28, 2013 3:10pm - 3:45pm PDT
GMUSL Room 221

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