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Athina Karatzogianni * Confronting the difficulties of learning from the open source for contemporary social movements (was: [ox-en] Conference documentation)

Hi all!

The next documentation from the conference. Again as a paraphrased
plain text and a PDF.



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Confronting the difficulties of learning from the open source for contemporary social movements

Dr Athina Karatzogianni
4th Oekonux Conference
27-29 March 2009

Social movements and their use of the internet

* Instead of using traditional means like election campaigns or public
  relations and marketing

* Social movements use the internet putting forward new rules of the
  game: the rules of new technology

* Political communication becomes cheaper, faster, groups that were
  excluded in the past have a voice

* BUT goals remain the same: power, participation democracy, justice,
  social transformation

* Quality of life

* Redistributive issues

* Opposition to the present forms of life

* Issues that challenge modern state domination

* 'A challenge to authority can be directed at technology design in
  addition to or instead of being directed at technology policies.
  Campaigns for or protests against regulatory and research policies,
  also changes in consumptions patterns and lifestyles (technology use
  patterns)' (Hess 2005)

Social Movement Theory

* Two forms of explanations:

* Based on structural conditions

* Based on the differences in the values and psychology of individuals

* Europe: Systemic approach links NSMs to post-industrial capitalism.
  Others emphasize the identity-oriented paradigm

* United States: Resource Mobilization Theory (RMT)

* Central issues in NSM theory

* How new are new social movements?

* Are NSMs a product of a shift to a post industrial economy?

* The middle class argument

* Pursuit of collective interests

* Reconstruction of a cultural, social, political identity

* Changing the rules of the game

* Defense of status and privileges

* Social control of the main cultural patterns

* Creation of new order (revolution)

* National conflicts


* Resource Mobilization Theory

* Collective action involves the rational pursuit of interests of

* Grievances are permanent products of power, cannot account for the
  formation of movements

* Looks at changes in resources, organizations and opportunities

* Criticisms of RMT

* We know the how but not the why of collective action

* It sets out an impoverished interpretation of human motivation

* Reduces it to instrumental rationality

* The classical RMT model

* Mobilizing structures (participation, recruitment, tactics, goals)

* Strategic framing (issues, strategy, identity)

* Political opportunity structure

* Sociopolitical Cyberconflicts forms:

* Hacktivists attack virtually chosen political targets

* Persons organize through the internet to protest, or carry through
  email a political message

* Create FOSS software?

Mobilization Structures

* Mobilization

* NSMs are open, decentralized, networked, ideal for internetted

* Spectacular alliances between NGOs, culture jammers, small groups of
  activists, opinion leaders, ordinary citizens

* Network/rhizomatic politics: people are included not according to
  status, but because they have the resources needed

* Key issues of mobilization structures

* Ideology (many ideologies with FOSS, free and open, peer and p2p
  apolitical agnosticism and neutrality etc)

* Goals (e.g. Weinberg SM might distrust orgs developing or selling
  services seen as private sector vehicles, long term adherence to SM
  goals difficult to maintain)

* Tactics (e.g. main means of protest was creating an alternative
  technology/product (rare instances of protest politics in FOSS such
  as picketing Microsoft over refunding unused Microsoft OS)

* Participation --- private sector participation: major information
  technology firms incorporating open source

* Recruitment

* Entry

* Movement phase

* Influence

* Key issues and key organizations

Participation and Recruitment

* Participation and Recruitment

    The fewer and weaker the social ties to alternative networks, the
    greater the structural availability for movement participation, the
    greater the probability of accepting recruitment invitation (Snow,
    Zurcher and Olson, 1980)

* Identity formation (TOURAINE)

* e.g. 'The technical distinctions between licences are a primary site
  for the ongoing object conflicts in the open source movement as it
  negotiates its way through the incorporation and transformation
  process.' (Hess 2005)

* 'It is felt that if FOSS was directed towards a political end, it
  would sully the "purity" of the technical decision-making process.
  Political affiliation also might deter people from participating on
  development, thus creating an artificial barrier to entry into this
  sphere whose ideal and idealized form is transparent meritocracy'.
  (Coleman and Hill)

Framing Process (identity, issue, strategy)

* Frames are specific metaphors, symbolic representations, and
  cognitive cues that we use to evaluate and suggest alternative modes
  of action

* Symbols, frames and ideologies are created and changed through the
  framing process

* The framing process involves:

* The cultural kits available to would-be insurgents

* The strategic framing efforts of movement groups

* The frame contests between movement and other collective actors

* The structure and role of media

* The cultural impact of the movement in modifying the cultural kit

* e.g. Coleman 'Forms of political neutrality are immanent to free
  speech Critiques treat the contextualized neutrality primarily as
  ideological scaffolding that justifies a politics of individual
  liberties over those of structural equality.'

* It is felt that if FOSS was directed towards a political end, it
  would sully the "purity" of the technical decision-making process.
  Political affiliation also might deter people from participating on
  development, thus creating an artificial barrier to entry into this
  sphere whose ideal and idealized form is transparent meritocracy.

* A political tag is a hugely polluted association to conjure?

Strategy or Identity?

* Opposite sides to the same coin

* Ability of the actor to:

* Adapt to change successfully (elites)

* Secure protection from change (operatives)

* Or victimization by change (marginalized masses)

* Tactics

* Mobilizing supporters

* Neutralizing supporters

* Transforming mass and elite publics into sympathizers

* Influenced by: organizational competition and cooperation
  (internally) and public opinion and the state (externally)

* Political opportunity structure: The media-the internet

* Media sensitivity and event density

* Media are important means of reaching the general public, to

* link movements with other political and social actors

* Can provide psychological support for social movements


* The internet and mobilization

* Information dissemination and retrieval

* Recruitment

* Pickard - Poletta notes that the participatory model becomes
  strained once membership expands beyond the small group level. E.g.
  'Given the sheer enormity of the global IMC and its fast-paced
  growth, some of these strategic qualities may be diminished
  (increased solidarity, innovation and personal development)'

* Soliciting opinions, opinion polling and discussions

* Networking, communication and coordination within and with other

* Two broad groups:

* those concerned with global issues, the level of negotiation is open
  for debate

* Those concerned with their own liberation from the state, less
  inclined to negotiate


* The development and use of technology to foster human rights and the
  open exchange of information

* Radical geeks brought together by antiglobalisation protests and the
  Indymedia network have developed their own network of skills sharing
  free software and solidarity (example of open source movement -
  although issues with Political Neutrality remain)

* The internet has revolutionized protest

  but the leaderless and dispersed nature of online activism fails to
  reach the vast majority of the world, where many activists have
  little or no access to the internet


* 'Many dotcauses are prominent in the Movement such as the Globalize
  Resistance, Reclaim the Streets, and in many of the coalitions
  organizing protests at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World
  Trade Organization (WTO), and the G8 meetings. From a social
  movement perspective, dotcauses can be seen as "mobilization
  structures". That's is collective vehicles through which people
  mobilize and engage in collective action' (McAdam et al. 1996)
  [Clarck and Themudo]

* Fuchs

* 'Cyberprotest is a global structural coupling and mutual production
  of self-organization processes of the Internet and self-organization
  processes of the protest system of society.'

* Self-organization is a process where a system reproduces itself with
  the help of its own logic and components, i.e. the system produces
  itself based on an internal logic.

* The duality of structure, Giddens, has considered structures as
  medium and outcome of human practices 'According to the notion of
  the duality of structure, the structural properties of social
  systems are both medium and outcome of the practices they
  recursively organise'

anti-war movement

[See picture on slide 12]

Indymedia Pickard 2006

* all IMCs use technological platforms that allow for easy data

* For organizational processes, the platform consists of multiple
  local or network-wide email lists (running on Mailman, the GNU mail
  list manager) to which members can post using their own email
  clients of choice.

* IRC channels are used for more ephemeral exchanges. The transient
  nature of communication on IRC, however, makes it unsuited for
  transparent decision-making. Furthermore, relationships between the
  two communication channels are not always smooth.

* power asymmetries within the network (north/south,
  reformist/radical) and lingering traditional hierarchies dominated
  by white North American men.

* indymedia's radical democratic practice entails an active
  negotiation of all power relationships by democratizing the media
  (exemplified by an interactive web-based interface), levelling power
  hierarchies (exemplified by consensus-based decision-making), and
  countering proprietary logic (exemplified by open-source software)

* The ninth principle of unity states, "All IMCs shall be committed to
  the use of free source code, whenever possible, in order to develop
  the digital infrastructure, and to increase the independence of the
  network by not relying on proprietary software".

* These improved  models make it easier to replicate, update, and
  modify the IMC website; they usually run on the open source Linux,
  allowing activists to distribute information easily through shared
  calendars, group listings, and multimedia news discussions

* 'But several less tech-savvy activists whom I interviewed say wikis
  have mixed results. Some feel that introducing such a new tech-heavy
  tool - despite being user friendly - has alienated many people who
  were just becoming comfortable with web-based organizing.'

Why invest in social movements? Why social movements use FOSS

* Hung 2007 '...Why will big business invest money to develop FLOSS,
  for example, or to encourage any free content project in general?
  More generally, why will big business make donations to any social
  movement groups, again considering the free culture communities as
  special case of the social movement groups? Likely not because they
  think the investment in FLOSS or any other social movement is
  profitable, but because it improves the public perception of their
  business and/or meets their bottom line.'

* Coleman 'A number of prominent NGO-based FOSS success stories (both
  inside and outside the U.S.) have played a large role in widening
  FOSS enthusiasm in the sector. This enthusiasm belied - and
  sometimes ran around against - the considerable difficulties many
  organizations faced (and continue to face) in transitioning to

* green peace runs good portion of their servers on GNU linux;
  SchoolNet Namimbia; India Goa Schools Computers Project, Sakura
  Project, Ganesha Project, Nodo Tau in Argentina, Rigoberta Menchu
  Tum Guatemala

* Most NGOs use only three kinds of software, internet servers mail
  exchange, intranet and destop Linux distributions, for examples, are
  so well-stocked with applications ... that knowing what to use and
  trust has become a laborious and frustrating research exercise in
  navigating help programs and testing software.

* To minimize this source of confusion, several initiatives are
  emphasizing streamlined distributions that provide only "essential"
  tools to meet the needs of NGOs (Debian Non-Profit and TTC's NGO in
  a Box are two notable examples)?

Difficulties of using FOSS

* McLelland '...the value of open source software rises with one's
  technological experience. If you do not know how to program, what
  good is having access to the source code? Adoption of open source
  software and methods has progressed the furthest in subsectors where
  organizations are larger and have full-time IT Staff. ...'

* majority of nonprofit organizations are small, with less than one
  full time IT staffer?are not necessarily in a position to take
  advantage of open source software's flexibility.

* they aren't necessarily underwriting their development or enhancing
  the code themselves with phantom technical resources they cannot


* golden hammer 'common aim against corporatocracy on Slashdot and on
  the street'

* Dominique Cardon

* So it's the same kind of co-operation, where different organizations
  and social movements decide what they want to propose.

* But we don't have the second part of the Linux collaboration which
  is the collective and public appreciation and evaluation of what has
  been done and what has been said at the forum. We don't have the
  evaluation which asks: what is being done? What is being proposed?
  What is the agenda of all those people who want to contribute to the

* We could improve the WSF by having a collective reflection and
  memory of what is being said, a collective evaluation of what has
  been said in order to create a common language and common
  acquisition after the forum, if we are to try to take the Linux form
  for the organization of World Social Forums.

* Singer

* Bruce Perens 2003 at the LinuxWorld Conference

* 'This is a "Linux" show, focusing upon a product. But the real
  subject of this trade show - Free Software and open Source - is a
  social movement. Like other social movements, its advances its own
  ideas - in our case ideas about software equality, competition,
  copyrights and patents as property. It's extremely unusual in that
  few other social movements make real products. The only thing that
  comes close to it in the social space is art. We gave so far
  manufactured over $2 billion U.S. dollars worth of software for
  everyone's free use. And the fact that we make real products has
  made us real enemies'


* De Landa:

* What matters about the open source movement is not so much the
  intentional actions of its main protagonists, actions which are
  informed by specific philosophies, but its unintended collective

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