Yes, the Occupy Movement utilized the internet extensively. Yes, people in Cairo with access to internet utilized it to disseminate information and to report to the rest of the world. No, Castells has not provided a compelling argument suggesting that either movement was totally dependent on the internet, or that cybercommunication was the fundamental building block therein. This would be especially difficult to prove in the case of the Arab Spring, particularly considering a number of scholars and activists who were either witnesses or participants in these revolutions have firmly denounced such claims with a wide array of empirical evidence.
Moreover, Castells seems to be writing personal fantasy into these narratives in a really problematic way--to some degree, every writer does this, but the utter lack of critical engagement with any of the criticisms of his arguments or the movements themselves (which have been published continually and long before this book was made available) is a disappointment at best. For example, Castells recognizes the Occupy Movement was primarily comprised of white college graduates, but says nothing of why that was the case or how redundant and violent it is for a bunch of white BA-holding 20-somethings claiming public space in the name of All People Everywhere (except for POC and women, who were largely unsafe in these spaces before, after, and during these occupations)--as if public space isn't already allocated primarily for such people. Though Occupy Oakland was one of the more 'critical' protests, my experience living in Oakland at the time was that low-income and POC neighborhoods did not support the movement, which was again primarily comprised of white Berkeley and Mills students who had been gentrifying their neighborhoods for years, and at times were very angry with the ensuing increased militarization on Oakland streets (which disproportionately affects POC). Moreover, Oakland has a long history of activism re: classism, racism, police brutality, etc that Occupy protestors largely did not engage with, and to my knowledge one of the few times they attempted to work with a local movement, they physically antagonized riot police until violence erupted--that's a tactic and a luxury very few POC would indulge in...I realize this is anecdotal, but this is all to say that there are axes of privilege at work both in these movements and in Castells' writing that need to be interrogated.
- What does privileging the internet in terms of analysis do to the overall narrative of these movements? What could we be missing by centering the internet and cybercommunication as the primary means of spatial connectivity for contemporary social movements?
- Do we see Castells fall prey to the same romanticization and "seeing what one wants to see" that he criticizes Elizabeth Dmitrieva of (in her reports on the Commune de Paris)? If this is true, what can we learn from what Castells wants to see?
- What are the stakes in privileging the internet in activism? What axes of power are we investing in by investing in the internet? For the last several weeks we've discussed some of the ethics questions surrounding Anonymous--what can Castells show us about Anonymous' involvement in Operation Thunderbird (link & description posted earlier