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Movements from Civil Society to the Political Community

Michael Jensen
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Henrik Paul Bang
Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra
Michael Jensen
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Abstract

The occupy and indignados movements encourage us to rethink some of the basic claims of regarding participation and new movement forms, defying conventional categorization. They were not founded by formal movement organizations. They have no constituency within the cleavages of civil society. The ad hoc nature of their participation belies conventional notions of membership that entail temporal duration and explicit role differentiation. Their mode of organization involves thin rather than thick ties. Yet, these movements cannot be regarded as prompted by individual action frames at the expense of collective ones. They provide an outline of a new notion of political community as an ensemble of discursive practices that are endogenous to the constitution of political regimes from the 'inside-out', so to speak. They involve a variety of different political tactics and strategies for influencing the way policy makers (formal or informal) articulate and perform social policy. The data include a sample of Twitter communications collected in October 2011 during a weekend of coordinated protests spanning 82 countries. Using iterated queries to the Twitter search application programming interface (API), approximately 120,000 tweets were downloaded over a 24 hour period. From these tweets, the screen names of the participants were extracted and their profiles retrieved. Both the tweet texts and the description fields of their profiles were analysed using natural language processing to identify terminological clusters in profile self-identifications and the movement identities enacted. The evidence indicates a high degree of heterogeneity in the ideological and personal frames articulated in relation to the occupy and indignados movements as well as in the backgrounds of those who identify with the movement. Nonetheless, these terms discursively enact movement publics through the flows of communications founded on contingent and varied identifications through which the distribution of labour with the movement is negotiated.