Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RN25_10a: Digital activism and social media
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Cesar Guzman-Concha, University of Geneva
Location: GM.330
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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One Response To The 'Refugee Crisis' In Northern France. Cyber Union And The Mobilization Of A Responsive, Without Borders Social Work.

Lyndsey Kramer

The University of York, United Kingdom

This paper analyses the use of Human, Social and Cultural Capital in respect of the internet and social media as tools to create cyber union and mobilize e-collectivism within Social Work. It is argued and evidenced that technology has enabled a redefinition and reconstruction of Social Work, one ‘without borders’.

It has been argued, (Ferguson, 2008a, Lavalette, 2011), that Neo-Liberal agendas are dominant within Social Work in the UK and that these agendas prevent the social worker from viewing problems in the context of inequalities inherent within a capitalist, austerity-driven society. This has created a chasm between Social Work and the weakest members of society. However, it can be argued, that using Human, Social and Cultural capital it is possible to circumvent restrictive Neo-Liberal practices and thinking. This paper researches the response of a network of Social Workers to the politics of austerity, especially in respect of vulnerable refugees.

This paper argues that a different kind of Social Work is not just possible, but reflective of the essential nature of Social Work and the International Association of Social Work’s definition of professional practice. It is achievable through cyber union and e-collectivism.


Ferguson, I. & Woodward, R. (2009) Radical social work in practice Making a difference Policy Press:Bristol

Lavalette, M. [ed] (2011) Radical Social Work Today Social Work at the crossroads Bristol: Polity Press.

Digital Mobilization: The Social Movement Built Around A Telecommunications Network Based On A Commons Model Called Guifi·net

Joan Rodon, Daniel Arenas, Mireia Yter

Universitat Ramon Llull - ESADE, Spain

The growth of the new digital economy along with the need of having universal access to certain digital resources has led to the emergence of groups of activists who develop common goods online such as wikis or free software. In this context, the aim of this study is to analyse how a social movement around a telecommunications network based on a commons model called Guifi·net has been able to combine a mixture of hacktivists, associations, companies and the foundation behind it. While it was initially conceived as a Do-It-Yourself wireless network of activists, nowadays it is the most populated community network, agglutinating more than 35,012 working nodes.

The paper has one main research question: how can a social movement organize itself to protect and sustain the digital commons? Concretely, we focus on what governance mechanisms are developed to organize the movement allowing user-activists to co-exist with multiple for-profit actors operating in the same ecosystem in order to protect the digital commons.

The study relies on qualitative evidence following a longitudinal, in-depth case study design (Yin 2009) covering the history of Guifi·net between 2004 and 2018. It combines both primary and secondary data. So far, we have conducted 31 interviews within the ecosystem of Guifi·net: volunteers, user associations, local movements supporting Guifi·net, local network operators of Guifi·net, the customers of those operators, municipalities, county councils, policy makers, the Guifi·net Foundation, and private organizations that have contributed to the expansion of Guifi·net. Secondary data is composed by both non-participant observation and documentation.

Social Media Activism and the Impact of Urgency, On-line Solidarity and Resistance Upon the Perception of Time. A Case Study of a Patients’ Social Movement.

Antonello Bocchino

University of Westminster, UK

Through an analysis of the on-the-ground activities of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Castells describes ‘timeless time’ as an interruption in the routine of daily life, coupled with a hope “born from the material verification that another life is possible” (2015:172). This paper examines and validates ‘timeless time’ using a case study of an Italian patients’ social media-based movement (Vicari and Cappai, 2016; Della Ratta and Valeriani, 2012) that grew out of a medical discovery which challenged the existing medical orthodoxy (Kuhn, 1996), about the causes of the chronic disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This discovery also challenged the drug companies that profit from MS by offering alternative treatment options.

Based on auto-ethnography (Balsiger and Lambelet, 2014) and on over 60 semi-structured interviews (Della Porta and Keating, 2008) of the movement’s activists, this paper argues that, during its first year, the movement generated an experience of timeless time solely through its activities on social media.

Two elements were essential in fostering the experience of timeless time within the movement. Firstly, social media facilitated timelessness by allowing for simultaneous social practices (Barassi, 2015) and emotional condensation (Gerbaudo, 2012) at a distance in pursuit of justice, thus fostering connectedness (Van Dijck, 2013). Secondly, a sense of urgency fuelled the sense of timeless time, as MS is a disease which progressively worsens patients’ quality of life, thus any delay in funding research into the new discovery could result in further disabilities.

The Diffusion Of Radical Left-wing Activism Through Mass Media And Movement-controlled Alternative Media

Magnus Wennerhag1, Måns Lundstedt2

1Södertörn University, Sweden; 2Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, Italy

It has long been established that waves of protest unravel through direct and indirect mediation. According to the discursive opportunity structure framework, the visibility of protest events in the mass media signals new openings for a movement to reach a broader audience, which might lead to further protest activity. The mass media has therefore been considered an important factor in social movement mobilization. With increasing opportunities for movements to control their own communication – using alternative media and social media – activists might, however, be less reliant on the mass media for gaining public visibility. While there is a substantial literature on diffusion through mass media channels, there is less research on the diffusion effects of activist controlled media. Even less so have authors attempted to compare the two types of sources. This paper uses two merged protest event datasets to compare the diffusion effects of traditional (printed) mass media reporting (N=627) vis-à-vis reporting in (mainly online) activist-controlled alternative media (N=4,727), focusing radical left-libertarian movement groups’ protests in Sweden 1997–2016. We ask whether there is an independent effect of mass media or alternative media reporting on subsequent protest events, and whether this effect has remained constant across the last two decades despite far reaching changes in the media landscape. Since mass media generally favours reporting on large-scale and disruptive protests about controversial issues, while alternative online media tend to continually report about most protest events, we also control for the effect of protest size, protest type, and protest issue.