Veronica Alfaro from the New School for Social Research gave an excellent presentation based on her paper entitled “Comparing Social Movements in the Virtual Public Sphere, From Silence and Disruption to Cyberactivism 2.0: Cyberzapatistas, Electrohippies and Global Voices.” Veronica opened her presentation at the Politics 2.0 conference with a reminder that most politics is not institutional; most politics is not state politics. What is particularly refreshing about her work is that she addresses the issue of cyberactivism from the perspective of sociology. To this end, Veronica does not refer to cyberspace as a tool but rather a space.
Veronica’s first case study analyzes the early stage of strategic silences, and the actions of the Electronic Disturbance Theater, the group that developed the virtual sit-in as an action of electronic civil disobedience in 1998. I found the example of FloodNet particularly interesting. The second case study assess the struggles for acting in concert through the orchestration of the protests in 1999 against the WTO in Seattle. The third case study focuses on the Global Voices project, which not only draws on blogging, but also in practices of e-advocacy that are exemplified by cyberactivism related to the conflict in Burma from August 2007 to date.
Taina Bucher from the University of Oslo presented the final paper on the same panel. Her presentation addressed “The Rhetorics of Participatory Culture: Investigating a Case of Citizen Journalism.” This was also a very interesting paper that drew on Assignment Zero as a case study. Taina seeks to understand what motivates individuals to blog and participate in the Social Web. She draws on “Kairos“, the ancient Greek word meaning the “ripe and opportune moment.” Her research findings suggest that we participate in the Social Web because it is a new, alternative and revolutionary medium for communication.
During the Q & A session, a member of the audience asked Taina whether the novelty of the Social Web would eventually wear off. I think this misses the point. The Social Web taps into the human desire to express oneself, this desire does not have a shelf-life in contrast to technologies.