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The Italian water movement communication infrastructure on the Web

Matteo Cernison
European University Institute
Matteo Cernison
European University Institute
Open Panel

Abstract

Although social movement literature is moving its attention to the participation processes taking place on social media, the ''traditional'' web still remains a unique place where to find organized and freely available data on how organizations interact. Furthermore, after a long period of methodological exploration, the research dedicated to the web – outside the commercial web 2.0 platforms – is now entering in a new phase of methodological consolidation, to which this paper would contribute. The aim of this paper is to analyze the online communication strategy of the Italian movement against the privatization of water, focusing on the websites that local sections and organizations create. Adopting an approach that conceives these websites and their connections as a decentralized communication infrastructure of the entire movement, I explore the web domain of the movement combining two methods: i) The first one is a consolidated version of techniques that have already been used, within the Hyperlink Analysis framework. In order to map the websites connections and trace the boundaries of the social movement on the web, I use a tool called Navicrawler, which lets to the researcher a stronger control on the network tracing process, and the possibility to actively and qualitatively decide which sites and links to include in the results. Thanks to it, I can: a) observe to what extent the online communication of the movement is centralized; b) position this infrastructure on a geographical map; c) explore if the organizations dealing with public water depend on broader networks to diffuse their messages. ii) The second method is more exploratory. Relying on tools that submit multiple queries to Google Images, I investigate the previously traced website network, in order to trace how activists spread symbolic images – such as campaign banners – on the web domain that the public water movement creates.