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Social movements have characterized most social, political, religious, and cultural struggles in the world history. It is already ten years into the 21st century but it is clear that technology, as a cultural tool, is at the epicenter of an emerging sociocultural struggle in which Facebook is a major player. Facebook tries to persuade users of its vision for technology.
The study of social movements, their ideology and function, should be approached by comprehending how their public pedagogy is persuasive (Melucci, 2006). This paper attempts to examine some of the cases in the recent past where social sites, and in specific, Facebook, have been instrumental in social movements.
The paper traces the origin of the phenomenon of social movements and social media, provides evidence for the recent influence, and concludes by recapping some of the key discussions in the body of the paper in an effort to support the thesis stated below.
In the last several months, there has been a heated debate in the last couple of months concerning blogging, theories, and hype on the responsibility of the Internet in today’s social movements. The social media includes Internet applications such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. All these have enabled the formation and exchange of user-related content.
In deed, the Internet has been making the world a much smaller place in which democracy and the market are sure to thrive. The latest testimony to these propositions has been the Occupy Wall Street protests in the late September and the Arab movements early this year.
This paper holds that social media, and in particular facebook played a pivotal role in fuelling these protests. Facebook allowed people to experience what others were feeling through a simple post.
Intuitive studies in the milieu of social movements can be dated back in the 1950. Initially these movements were visualized as historical movements. They were perceived as attempts to develop or demolish institutions in the society through the art of rhetoric.
It is no surprise that today; the two subjects are still being studied under one roof. Scholars in the field of communication usually researched and analyzed social movements from a rhetorical paradigm based their arguments on concepts of meaning and discourse (Altinkson, 2010).
On the other hand, social scientists studied the topic from an empirical perspective based on the effects and measurement. In the later years of the research on social movements, the focus shifted to the examination of how the new social movements slough to establish political identity instead of creating or demolishing social institutions.
This was achieved through the use of images and visual rhetoric. Towards the end of the 20th century, communication scholars started to include the phenomenon of network in their research on new social movements (Touraine, 2001).
Initial research on the phenomenon of social movements identified two types of movements, as well as the various chronological stages for the development of the movements. The two types of movements found in the society are pro-movements and anti-movements. Pro-movements are meant to create or defend institutions while anti-movements are aimed at removing or demolishing institutions.
In the inception phase, the movement is mainly unknown and unseen by the general public. At this stage, the aggressor rhetoricians emerge to take the vanguard, creating arguments for or against particular institutions in society (Hardt & Negri, 2004).
In the stage of rhetorical crisis, defendants of the status quo take notice of the growing arguments made by the aggressor rhetoricians. The defendants begin to mobilize their resources and arguments. At this point, an event takes place, which triggers a public and visible clash between the groups. This, definitely, disturbs the equilibrium existing between the two groups existing in the minds of the general public.
This clash marks the end since the movement enters into the phase of consummation. At this stage, the aggressor rhetoricians leave their work. They feel they have succeeded in their cause, they have been defeated, or there is a new cause that they should attend (Downing, 2001).
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Social scientists began to concentrate on collective behavior in social movements with regard to stages that rise as a result of different political and social factors. The researches demonstrated that social movements are marked by social strain, growth, and spread of beliefs, triggers for localized social action, mass mobilization, and social control (Touraine, 2001).
The social movements or collective action, as early researches called them, start with the strain experienced by an initial group of social actors as they come to realize that something is wrong with society (Schock, 2005). Those beliefs sprout outward beyond the original group. As the other phases unfold, the participants’ collective behavior increases in momentum.
The early years of research on social movements saw rhetoricians focusing mainly on the stages of historical movements. The works shifted focus to discourse and exigencies in the social environment resulting to the adoption of concepts of rhetoric, image, and identity by researches.
However, with the origin of the new social movements, the concept has come to describe contemporary social movements aimed at shaping political identities or challenge social roles and norms. This is achieved through the use of radical performance, image politics, and interactive technology (Castells, 2006). The last category forms the bulk of this research.
The use of interactive technology in social movements has made such organizations smaller, non-hierarchical, and more decentralized compared to their predecessors. The first case to be considered in this research in order to substantiate this claim by modern researches in social movements is the Arab movements. It is well known that social movements are as a result of the union of social, economic, cultural, and political factors.
This held true to the case of the Arab Spring movements. Years of government corruption, bourgeoisie economic self-interest, arrogance of the authority, as well as milestone economic inequalities, were the main reasons as to why these social movements arose (Kaldor, 2003).
In Egypt, Facebook is the second most popular site. By the time of the protests, Egypt had five million Facebook accounts. Protesters used Facebook to organize, schedule and ”peercast” protests. The latter refers to the sharing of mobile pictures and videos with peers. The pictures captured disseminated through Facebook offered an intuitive view into the protests than what many people could seen on TVs.
This demonstrated a people with a common cause willing to transform their country (Hann & Dunn, 2006). The Arab Spring Movement supports the idea that the civil society is becoming a truly global phenomenon. In deed, some scholars like Kaldor argue that such types of movements are becoming more important than domestic, civil society (Kaldor, 2003).
The protesters are using Facebook to organize their schedules. The site makes it possible for protesters to communicate with one another, as well as aids in recruiting new participants (Schock, 2005). The site also comes in handy in updates concerning change of locations, strategies, or latent dangers.
Photos and videos of police’s response to protesters are shared and disseminated instantaneously before the other forms of media can do so. This concept of social movements is best explained by Tarry when the scholar posits that such movements begin as local networks (Tarrow, 2005).
However, they spread through the diffusion of contention and ultimately either disappear or scale up to regional and national levels. In the case of Wall Street protests, the movement is gaining momentum in other cities, courtesy of social networking propagated by Facebook.
In conclusion, the above-discussed case studies show a rising trend amongst protesters to underscore other forms of media in support of user-generated media to disseminate news.
Owing to the fact that recent social movements hit the Internet via sites such as Facebook long before the local news, the conventional media channels may be headed to a future of irrelevance and uncertainty if they fail to recognize to see the stories before can be ignored.
Altinkson, J., 2010, Alternative media and politics of resistance: a communication perspective. New York: Peter Lang Inc.
Castells, M., 2006, The rise of the Network Society, the Information Age: economy, society and culture, Vol. I. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell
Downing J., 2001, Radical media: Rebellious communication and social movements. London: SAGE Publishers.
Hann, C., & Dunn, E., 2006, Civil society: Challenging Western models. London: Routledge.
Hardt, M., & Negri, A., 2004, Multitude: War and democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin Press.
Kaldor, M., 2003, “Global civil society,” International Affairs, 79: 583-93.
Melucci, A., 2006, Challenging codes: Collective action in the Information Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schock, K., 2005, Unarmed insurrections: people power movements in non- democracies. Minnesota: Minnesota Press.
Tarrow, S., 2005, The new transnational activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Touraine, A., 2001, The voice and the eye: An analysis of social movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.