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The Cyberconflict Approach: Laying Bare The First Decade of Online Collective Action.

Athina Karatzogianni
University of Leicester
Athina Karatzogianni
University of Leicester
Open Panel

Abstract

From the Zapatistas, to Sri Lankans; from Palestinians to every contemporary insurgency in the world; from the global justice movement to the anti-Iraq war protests; from the free/open source communities to information age ideologues and the Wikileaks; from anti-censorship and human rights groups to net freedom hacktivists; and from cybercrime discourses to cybersecurity and cyberdiplomacy, the last decade of online collective action has it all: Media convergence, the merging and clashes of theories and frameworks, the absence or failure at governance and regulation, the threat to states for the first time in human history by networks thriving in cyberspace, the optimistic ideologues and messiahs, and the unprecedented effects on mobilization, organization and political opportunity structures of movements, on-off protest groups and ad-hoc mobilisations. This paper explains major incidents of online collective action through the Cyberconflict theory lens and showcases methods in individual case studies, such as the ones described above, while discussing several movements and their online presence. It traces genealogically online collective action all the way back to the Zapatistas, showing how collective action itself has been transformed, due to cyberspace. It is also demonstrating how theory for the explanation of collective action has evolved at times, but at other times, was violently revolutionized to cope with the rapid global media transformation. To manage this mad endeavour, I draw from previous and recent work on the subject, demonstrating how several elements of diverse areas, such as new media theory, social movement theory, political communication, political economy and conflict analysis, as well as network theory are necessary for tackling the theorisation and analysis of online collective action (Karatzogianni, The Politics of Cyberconflict, 2006). I also situate this in the current world system through theorization of networked resistance groups and the reasons behind mobilization against hierarchical capitalist apparatuses (Karatzogianni and Robinson, Power, Conflict and Resistance in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies, 2010). Lastly, the paper suggests there is a missing link between cyberconflicts, real conflicts, and the global system by discussing the affective spectrum to be found in the in-between.