【文章全文】Active Citizenship or Activist CitizenshipA Framework for Studying Citizenship in New Social Movements and the Role of ICTs



The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed an upsurge in mobilization and collective action by a wide range of activists and groups engaging in social and political protest, all over the world, which continues to this day. New media are not only greatly facilitating the ways in which activists communicate and protest, but are also altering the relation of the movements to territorial boundaries and localities. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines have tended to focus on questions about the internet’s role in protest, without attempting to answer the changing meaning of what it means to be a citizen within such movements and through their practices. This article responds to this need by developing an analytical framework for studying the connection between citizenship and ICT-mediated social movements, drawing on existing scholarship on social movements, citizenship and ICTs. Specifically, using citizenship studies as a starting point, it brings together elements that are necessary for a two-level analysis: a) the tangible aspects that are seen as the concrete practices of movements and their participants and b) the ideational aspects that are seen as the abstract practices of movements and their participants. This provides a theoretical structure that facilitates connections between different disciplines that might otherwise be difficult to discern, so that the construction of citizenship can be studied on an interdisciplinary basis.

KEYWORDS  Civic engagement, civic participation, civic values, protest, ICTs.


Although the boundaries of collective action are certainly less static, there is no consensus regarding the role and the impact of ICTs on social movements. Recently, the relevant academic debate is structured between two lines of argumentation, namely the ‘cyber-optimistic’ and the ‘cyber-pessimistic’ camp. The first line of argumentation is represented by theorists, who have declared that technology, and particularly the internet, has a transformative power and can produce a variety of beneficial social and political outcomes in terms of activism (for example, Bennett 2003). More precisely, in debating the role of ICTs, many scholars advocate that the use of ICTs has caused a fundamental change in power relations that is significant for social movements (Castells 2012). This new paradigm in social and political activism is based mainly on the benefits of the interaction between the internet and its users, which leads to the creation of new spaces for discourse, action, participation and mobilization. Regarding social movements, some scholars argue that the internet has complemented the repertoires of collective action and has become a decisive tool for movements’ coordination and global diffusion (Garrett 2006). On the contrary, critics of digital action see the use of the internet as mainly negative, as social media are built around weak ties (Gladwell 2010, 45), and therefore are not sufficient to bring social and political change. Also, for authors such as Eugeny Morozov (2011), the internet offers a series of characteristics that can provoke political repression, and at the same time they do not allow social actors to mobilize themselves which means that more technology does not necessarily signify more democracy.



The recent protest movements that have sprung up in many countries, constitute a new phenomenon that deserves to be studied on its own right, not only as a form of social movements per se, but also with regard to the role of digital technologies in collective action.


Nonetheless, in this paper we have argued for an approach that goes beyond the movements’ direct demands aiming to examine how citizenship is constructed within such movements. Citizenship seems to function as a significant point of departure, but also as an overarching frame for contemporary movement activity. At the same time, movements are the prime site where citizenship can be enacted and citizens be born (and reborn).


Although this question can only be answered by the empirical study of social movements that have integrated online resources well into their routine action repertoires, we have suggested four ways in which citizenship and social movements are interrelated. Firstly, citizenship seems to function as a significant point of departure for political mobilization within social movements, not only in the form of a set of dispositions and values necessary for the construction of active political subjects, but more importantly through the deprivation of real civic agency and efficacy experienced today by citizens and non-citizens in several parts of the world. Secondly, citizenship seems to function as an overarching frame for contemporary movement activity, as social movements invoke the civic identity as their core identity, distancing themselves from established political ideologies and at the same time accommodating a plurality of subjectivities. Thirdly, contemporary social movements appear to constitute a site where citizenship acquires alternative meanings and translates to alternative practices, such as civic identities ‘unbounded’ from the nation-state and its official political agents, and activities taking place in a variety of sites and performative actions. Last but not least, civic identity within social movements becomes a dynamic process, subject to reconstruction or transformation according to the lived experiences of movement activists. In other words, movements are the prime site where citizenship can be produced and enacted.


A question that bears empirical study is what kinds of citizens are produced within current constellations of social movements. Are they simply active citizens or can we speak of activist citizens? To begin addressing this question, we have outlined a preliminary framework for analysing citizenship along the four axes of membership, participation, engagement and norms/values, in both tangible and ideational terms, that could be applied for understanding “what makes the citizen”, as Isin (2009) proposes, and how ICTs contribute to this making.


【文章作者】VENETIA PAPA, Cyprus University of Technology/Université Paris 8 Vincennes-

Saint Denis

DIMITRA L. MILIONI, Cyprus University of Technology



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