In Networks of Outrage and Hope, Castells’ (2012) examined the role of new communication technologies, like social networking, and their impact on social movements around the world. Outlining several different social and political movements from around the world, Castells (2012) explored what he calls “the new public space”—that “…networked space between the digital space and the urban space…” (p. 11) which he sees as a space of autonomous communication. This new public space is ground for the coalition of what Castells (2012) saw as networks of outrage and hope. As he conceptualized it, social movements are often born out of outrage: outrage at oppression and hegemony, personal rights violations and abuses. These movements are sustained through hope: hope that these movements can and will illicit social and political change. His research demonstrates how these new social movements fluidly move back and forth between the virtual and physical realms and that while much of the social and political change happens in the physical realm, movements are sustained, organized and given a global audience in the virtual realm (Castells, 2012).
What I thought was of particular interest was the fact that movements like those of the Arab Spring were started by the actions one or a handful of people and those actions sparked the outrage of the many. For example, in Tunisia, Castells’ (2012) talked about how Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation sparked (no pun intended) the protests of the government by hundreds of youth. From there, the outrage spread both physically and virtually until a full-on revolution was taking place in Tunisia. The social movements in Egypt and Iceland followed a similar pattern, where one or a few people initially protest out of outrage, and soon their efforts grow and are broadcast within the virtual realm. Interestingly, as Castells’ (2012) pointed out, with movements like the “Occupy” movement, we are now seeing social movements that are initially born in the virtual realm and then find footing later within the physical realm. Originally conceptualized by the Canadian-based journal, Adbusters, the Occupy movement put out the call on its blog for people to coalesce and protest the flagrant abuses they saw Wall Street committing. What is interesting about this movement is that while it was born online, it got a lot of its visibility in the physical realm, soon mirroring protests like those in Tunisia and Tehrir Square. Like the aforementioned movements, the Occupy movement still relied heavily on virtual social networks and the Internet to connect people as the protests spread to communities across the globe. Perhaps the most interesting part about the Occupy movement that was because it was a “non-demand movement” (Castells, 2012), it can be concluded that there was not much policy change that resulted from it. There were, as Castells’ (2012) stated “…multiple campaigns everywhere that obtained partial corrections in a number of unfair practices” (p. 191). Because the Occupy movement did not result in sweeping changes, many have seen it as a failure. I, however, am interested in how not only are these movements moving more and more into the virtual realm, but also how we are now conceptualizing success of social movements. For many, the Occupy movement did signal progress in regards to how neoliberal capitalism functions in regards to financial management between big business and the little people. At the very least, it also signals to the government that there is outrage in the hearts of American citizens, and as Castells’ (2012) has very minutely detailed, outrage can lead to sweeping, dramatic changes.
Some of the concepts that Castells’ (2012) examined in the Occupy Wall Street chapter are of particular interest to me, especially in regards to my research project for this class. The first is the concept of the non-demand movement. My question for the class is this:
1. Are non-demand movements successful in the long run at creating tangible change? Or is there a need
for specific “demands for change” that are required for a movement to create a true shift in political
ideology and rule?
My other question is about movements that are actually born online, like the Occupy movement. As was seen in my research project proposal, I am also interested in a movement that was first born online: the movement to stop homophobic bullying whose catalyst was the “It Gets Better” campaign. In the Occupy movement, Adbusters was trying to create a physical protest that grew from a single event. In the It Gets Better campaign, Dan Savage and Terry Miller were not trying to create a movement, but simply voice their outrage at the apathy shown toward homophobic bullying and suicides. This leads me to my second question.
2. Can the protests and calls for change as generated by the It Gets Better campaign be considered a social
movement? Is it a hybrid between a social movement and a media event? Can something that was
never considered to be a movement develop into one?
Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope: Social movements in the Internet age. Maiden, MA: Polity.