Invisible machines. Collective action through digital space

Bachelor Thesis 2011 157 Pages

Philosophy - Miscellaneous



This thesis involved a lot of learning on my part, and a lot of teaching on the part of others. Foremost in this regard was Dr. Michael Heaney, who introduced me to many of the core concepts used in this work and who agreed to supervise my independent study used to preparefor the writing of this thesis. That theoretical socialization focused on three authors withoutwhom much of this thesis would lack grounding; Sidney Tarrow, Doug Mc Adam and Charles Tilly. However, the critical concepts used derive in large part from Gilles Deleuze, and in thatrespect the work of Manual De Landa, Graham Harman and Nick Srnicek played a vital roleboth in elucidating difficult concepts and demonstrating their application in particular disciplinary contexts. Ian Buchanan was also enormously helpful in patiently explaining some ofthe more difficult concepts. Furthermore, I am grateful to Desaix and Buford Anderson forhelping me better understand some of the local contexts for the Zapatista movement in Mexico,and how that movement is understood in Mexico today. CC Huang and Cheewoo Kim wereinstrumental in helping me learn about the situation in South Korea in 2008, and CC alsodirected me to the text Digital Activism Decoded, which has proven an invaluable resource. I amalso indebted to thank Parker Cronin and Michael Bloom for providing key feedback on the textitself. My thesis advisors, Laura Ruetsche and Thom Chivens, have been extremely patient inserving as official readers, defense supervisors and providing feedback during the writingprocess. This thesis would not have been possible without them, as with the support of David Smith, Donna Wessel-Walker and Sara Buss, who allowed me to pursue this in fulfillment ofboth Philosophy and International Affairs concentrations, and are to be commended forrecognizing the value of interdisciplinary scholarship.


What is a social movement? How does a social movement come to be? How does asocial movement influence institutions? Why do social movements, forming indifferent parts of the world and out of different cultures, appear to use similartactics? Do social movements use issues to advance the empowerment of theirmembers, or do individuals become empowered through social movements toaffect issues that affect their interests? How do social movements respond topolitical repression? How do they use media and available social technologies toclaim legitimacy?1

These questions demonstrate some of the profound ambiguities intrinsic to the theorizing ofcollective social entities, questions that begin to sprout up with disturbing persistence after oneinsists upon a frame of analysis that privileges the empiricism of embodied experience; thataccounts for affect, ephemerality and emergence. Does it make sense to talk about a socialmovement as having agency, possessing wants, desires and goals? How can we speak of politicalagency in a collective sense? Here I will argue that such questions may productively arise from aprior challenge to the metaphysical assumption of essentially homogenous social units, anassumption which is a necessary requirement for universal notions of objective data in a greatdeal of social science research. This smooth and featureless social unit frequently grounds themodel-based approach to social systems, and enframes the process of generating hypothesesand specifying the experimental conditions under which researchers become entitled to drawdefinitive conclusions. Yet what justifications for this homogenous metric do we truly have? Arethere any empirical features of social space that suggests it can and should be understood through the metrical logic of grid-think?2 In spite of the homogenous blank unit’s hegemony within social science research, there are many good reasons to be suspicious of this presumed metaphysics of same-ness. One needs no arcane instruments or equations in order to observe a surprising degree of variance in social reality, embedded in diverse local contexts and specified moment by moment through the non-linear spider web of multi-valent causation. A cursoryglance through the basic fieldwork on evolved cultural practices around the world suggests that in fact difference may be more appropriate basic assumption operative principle than that of a universe populated by unitary static identities that seems to underlie the creation andmanipulation of these homogenous units of analysis.

Social science’s grid-think and the application of metrical conceptual technology to socialsystems should not deserve insulation from critical scrutiny simply because of its longmethodological history, the grand accumulation of studies and citations. The conceptuallaboratory approach towards social systems itself has never been adequately justified. It is as ifmodernist social scientists have formed some compact to pretend that there are no significantdifferences between evolved social systems and say, mitochondria, or hydrology. As if socialsystems were insular closed circuits that in no way co-inform the way that they are understoodfrom a theoretical perspective even as theoreticians attempt to work against (or don’t) theinfluence of how certain arrangements of power seem to want to be understood. There is no natural logic of fitting units to categories, or categories to one another, because there is, at base,no such thing as social nature. Only contingent iterations of material relations. Social scientistshas been searching for a fantasy world of static knowable objects conforming to totalizingtheories of social nature, and in doing so they have created this fantasy world for themselves.The history of scientific mis-steps is littered with the over-eager application of assumedtheoretical principles to local contexts where they met with either hubristic catastrophe or endless tinkering to no great end. Western philosophy itself has not fared much better. As Graham Harman observes:

The world resists our efforts even as it welcomes them. Even a system of metaphysics is the lengthy result of negotiations with the world, not a triumphant deductive overlord who tramples the details of the world to dust. The labour of fitting one concept to anotherobsesses a Kant or Husserl for decades, and even then the polished final product will be riddled with errors detectible by a novice. 3

The machine of theory-creation for social sciences seems to be in trouble. It seems like we’ve raised the bar to impossible heights: one must simultaneously presuppose some notional expectation of the behavior dictated by underlying properties without scripting reality accordingto some highly appealing and universally applicable schema composed of homogenous units ofanalysis. These Ptolemaic rotations drawn first and only in our imaginaries of false mastery tosimplify reality to our liking will inexorably fragment into ever-tangled epicycles, escaping ourgrasp and finally bursting like soap bubbles. The world is more complex than a Newtonianmechanism; the universe of culture exponentially more so. Our experience of highly complexand internally variant social systems should make us highly skeptical at the outset of assumingthat a mereology of homogeneity (where the assumed sameness of the parts is axiomaticallygeneralized to the social whole) can adequately represent the chaotic becomings of any collectivesocial assemblage. There is no grand ‘social’ as such, merely an aggregate of the local.In this thesis, I shall seek to explore the multiplex dynamics of groups of people who engage in political activity digitally, through the communications technology that grounds the internet, often at great distances from one another. However, at a very fundamental level I am still talking about groups of people, and the properties that emerge from the complexity of these groups. The social distance between two lovers divided by the Pacific Ocean may be significantly smallerthan the social distance between two reclusive neighbors sharing the same apartment building, or two students at the same school. We perhaps have grown used to thinking about groups ofpeople in a particular way that artificially generalize ascribed qualities of individuals tomacrosocial behavior, when in fact the behavior of groups may be radically internally distinct.In other words, our grammar for collective entities is the same of individual people, allowing usto attribute a singular consistent subjectivity to the group or organization, syntacticallysuspending our disbelief that “it” somehow possesses needs, wants and desires (“the Partywants this”, “the Corporation desires that”, “the People require” and so on). This grammarinsinuates an odd mereological disjunct by appearing to suggest that the Group is somehowseparate and free-floating from its constituents, as if understanding groups as social unitsnecessarily entails understanding them as unified, and internally homogenous.In many cases, there may be good ideological reasons for creating this conceptual distance between collectivity and constituent, particularly when what “the People want” is in fact only what certain elites want and what most people might happen to want is dangerous to thestability of controlling interests. As Slavoj Zizek has noted, this is the paradigmatic mode of Stalinist propaganda, and became a rhetorical means of coopting the revolutionary democraticpotential of the Leninist revolution for the bureaucratic totalitarian form of the consolidated Soviet state. However, it is by no means unique to that historical period, and in fact seems to behistorically evolved from the arrangements of medieval feudalism after which, as Zizek argues,the notion of Good becomes an ideological stand-in for the subjectification of the State: “...Good... assumes the form of subjectivity: instead of the substantial State, we obtain the Monarch whois able to say ‘l’Etat, c’est moi.’”4 Because Good functions as an absolute, the relation itconstructs between the social subjects of a given state is one of inexorable bound-ness withoutpolitical agency; like it or not, subjects of the Monarch become who we are. Zizek identifieswords like “God”, “the Nation”, “the People” and so on as “master signifiers” in the structuralistsense, by which he means that they don’t really refer to anything tangible that can be experiences as itself, and thus come to function as the point in a social order where the operation of ideology becomes most bare.

However, one need not rely on structuralist analysis (or a Lacanian understanding of thesubject) to see that there is something about our vocabulary for collectivities that conceals theinternal pluralism for any social formation even as it seeks to reveal an external unit in play withother macro-scale social formations. These group identities can also be understood through thelens of what Gilles Deleuze refers to as “transcendent signifiers”; understood as supra-organisms or and framed in a language of modern idolatry which is already willing toaxiomatically sacrifice on its behalf (“in the name of God, Nation, Father”, “to preservefreedom”, “to secure the peace,” “for the greater good.”) The axioms surrounding collectivitiescome to function as unspoken Zizekian absolutes, but insinuated at a much more mundane levelthat ground the very conditions of possibility for social action. For it is a much-observedhistorical fact that once one has accepted certain axioms as necessary, one can draw almost anyconclusion from them, since they have become reasons in themselves. Anti-state Leninismbecomes statist Stalinism, anti-elitist Christianity becomes the Catholic Church’s indulgences,anti-taxation American revolutionaries becomes the IRS and so on. The formation of socialorganisms as “wholes” or constellated through units is both a form of rhetorical tyranny and away of romanticizing the calculation to organize collectively. The formula of axioms is lessimportant than that they can be properly inculcated and disseminated, to function at a level sobasic that they are essentially no longer up for debate. Rationality can only be internallyestablished within a particular set of axioms, but after that in only relates extrinsically todifferent registers of axioms both social and physical. As Deleuze has argued, this is how suchsignifiers function to underlie many other collective orders:

Every society is at once rational and irrational. They are necessarily rational in their mechanisms, their gears and wheels, their systems of connection, and even by virtue of theplace they assign to the irrational. All this presupposes, however, codes or axioms which donot result by chance, but which do not have an intrinsic rationality either. It's just like theology: everything about it is quite rational if you accept sin, the immaculate conception, and the incarnation.5

The creation and manipulation of units of collectivity that grammatically operate as subjects canbe understood as a part and parcel of a larger project of nested sense-making, populating aconceptual world with knowable objects that obey particular rules . No rationality can beintrinsic, it must function in relation to some external arrangement of motivations, whetherphysical or social. The move here follows the an implicit ideological tradition in the West frommedieval times; the goals and needs of a social group (say, for example, a social movement) aredetermined by the leaders, who also act as the voice of the group in relating the subjectivepreferences of the holized collectivity. Social movements become organismic in the sense thattheir constituents are made into organs; some assuming the roles of the passive sensorium(looking, listening; gathering data, collecting intelligence), while others form the active physicalcomponents of the musculature (the “leg-work”; striking, collecting signatures, participating indirect action) and those that assume the privileged position of the cogito are named the leadersand are responsible for making decisions, expressing preferences, allocating resources and soon. They become the name of the movement in the same way that our identity (the ‘I’) isassociated much more powerfully with our conscious states, wants and desires than our eyes,ears, noses and muscles. The subtle grammar of totalitarianism is at work here, constructing aseries of implicit axioms, of absolutes that bind individuals to a total unit, and yetsimultaneously stir the passions of individuals to feel as though they share an unquestionablecommon purpose in ways that perhaps would be otherwise unachievable.Applying the critical concepts of both social theory and metaphysics should thus not beunderstood as fatty verbiage, but rather as the crucial methodological work necessary tounderstand the limitations that scholars ought pragmatically adopt when establishing the unitsand selection criteria of doing social research. Questions of what can be said to exist (in what sense do groups “exist”, in what sense are they merely the expression of some axiom unjustifiably presupposed?) are the lenses through which we audit the social field; they provideselection criteria that allow us to form blocs of sensible objects out of streams of raw data,parsing and establishing elements of the world nested within and between one another. Throughthe juxtapositional pairing of theoretical concepts with particular cases of collective action, Ihope to illuminate substantive counterinstances to dominant theoretical paradigms with thegoal of elucidating a frame of analysis that is itself opposed to the very concept of a metricalsocial unit. Instead, I will argue that a truly empirical frame of analysis ought to view groupdynamics simultaneously at multiple levels of detail through an ontology of process rather thandefinition, asking “what does it do?” and “how does it work?” instead of “what is it?”. Drawingon the work on emergent ontological forms of Gilles Deleuze and Bruno Latour primarily viascholars such as Graham Harman, Nick Srnicek and Manual De Landa, I shall seek to sketch anapproach to theorizing digital collective action which will attempt to undermine the illusion of asingular, unified and autonomous social whole by exposing every unit as an assemblage ofconstituents, which nevertheless exceeds the sum of its parts in surprising and oftenunpredictable ways.

There are several key concepts which I will draw on throughout this text which I would liketo describe here as best I can, though a great deal of literature exists investigating many of thetheoretical underpinnings of these terms which I will not directly engage. First, is the notion in Deleuze’s writing of an abstract machine. Deleuze borrows this term from automata theory,where it refers to the theoretical model of a computational device processing strings of symbolsthrough a particular sorting mechanism. Abstract machines are a way of understanding flow, orthe processual movement between finite states by way of deterministic criteria. For example,you can imagine a string of random numbers sorted by an abstract machine that separated oddnumbers from even numbers. However, for Deleuze, the determinism of the empirical abstractmachines are limited by nonspecified space, determined ad hoc or by pure chance. In other words, abstract machines are almost never as wholly deterministic as the odd/even sorter, butbreak down and make mistakes just as much anything else. The order of the machine’s processis itself captured from the chaotic raw material of pure immanence in the same way that asystem of axioms is captures a series of rational relations from the terrain of the irrational. Inthis relationship, the abstract machine functions to determine an immanent code from amaterial virtual space into a material actual space, in the same way that syntactical conceptsevolve within and through conjunction with actual uses of grammar (Where did “ain’t” comefrom? and how did it exist outside of “proper language” even as it continued to thrive for solong?), or the relations between enumerated objects are preceded by the mathematical relationsbetween numbers (The way in which “two cats” is preceded by the concept of “two-ness” whichmakes the conjunction legible). One may think of an abstract machine as similar to a blueprintfor a building, which is then actualized through specific decisions which are left to the buildersand construction crew, and includes nonspecified space (e.g. the color of paint for the interiorwalls, the choice of quarry for the stones) which are progressively specified as the building iscompleted. The process of the abstract machine is specified in advance, but the result iscontingent on any number of factors left to chance. The system as a whole is both deterministicand chaotic, specified and nonmetric.

The second key concept is the Deleuzian concept of the assemblage.6 An assemblage is acombination of elements themselves of heterogeneous origin and composition, which form asuper-structure which is not a totality. We may think of social entities as such formations,formed through the flows of matter and energy through lengths of historical time in nonlinearcombinations. Assemblages are united, but are not unities and can be distinguished as parts orwholes with respect to the level of detail at which one chooses to analyze them. Thus, assemblages can both be said to always have existed with respect to substance, but never have existed with respect to essence. Their existence at a given time is of less interest than theirmovement between ranges of times, the ways in which they grow and shrink, evolve and become seemingly new while maintaining many of their previous characteristics. One may thus say that every sort of entity is at once an assemblage, composed of assemblages, part of a largerassemblage. Thus, the term ought to be understood as highly generic, and is useful insofar as it carries virtually no mereological baggage in terms of presumed hierarchy in part-wholerelations. In other words, it has predominantly negative characteristics, rather than positiveproperties, relative to the dominant grammar of collectivities.

The third key concept is the actant, furnished by sociologist Bruno Latour. Consider the actant as a void unit of agency, not tied to human consciousness or privileging a particular material locus or subjectivity. The notion of actant is almost entirely empty, since it simply implies that the referent described possessed the potential to affect the process and/or outcomeof a movement of material within its local context, wherein power/knowledge is always alreadynetworked. To say that an actant ‘caused’ something is to assume that there were already manyother causes, since the social space of the actant is already collective. The utility of an actant is indescribing the power of an entity to affect the material and ontological conditions of otheractants. Unlike an actor or organization or institution, an actant does not possess abstractproperties which are concretized in local instantiations, but exists as a singularity in the passageof spacetime, irreducible beyond its concrete contexts of space and place. Actants areontologically local, and cease to be themselves once removed from space, time and contextualrelations to other actants. The transient nature of indexical properties (we are forever passingthrough ‘now’, forever leaving the familiar ‘here’) mean that actants cannot be said toontologically endure in any meaningful way, since their identity is embedded within acontinuum of persistent change.

I will make use of these methodological concepts in the process of investigating the explosivesocial action that took place in South Korea in 2008 following the negotiation of a tradeagreement with the United States that contained a provision allowing for the shipment to South Korea of beef which had been preserved for a longer time period than American health officialsdeemed “safe” for consumption. Appearing to have been sparked primarily over fears ofcontaminated beef and the possible outbreak of “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiformencephalopathy), the scope of the protests confounded Western media, by some estimatesreaching numbers unprecedented in recent South Korean history and shutting down thenation’s major urban economies, forcing the government to capitulate. While on the surface, thisepisode may appear to conform to classical dynamics of social movement theory, insofar as itfeatured many flesh-and-blood South Koreans protesting in the streets, I will argue that in factthis collective action, which was predominantly organized and disseminated through on-lineforums, represents the actualization of a new abstract machine of organizing under-girded bythe power of digital social networks, and where the old categories of affiliation, membership andshared purpose no longer apply.

Social movements constellated within digital political ecologies provide a critique of thesemetaphysical presumptions in the mere facts of their existence, the mode of their operation.Social movements that emerged within and through digital space are fundamentally distinctassemblages from the classical model of social movement. Their members may never have metor even explicitly communicated with one another. Their members may not even identify asmembers, but rather may take actions expressing solidarity with particular demands or againstparticular situations. Individuals may be embedded within the concept of the group only in themoment of their action; sending or forwarding an email, re-posting a link, expressing approvalor outrage through online comments, or even “voting with fingers” to increase the visibility ofspecific issues or causes merely by viewing a site or news item. Viewed through this lens, a“social movement” when articulated digitally may bare so little resemblance to the classic object of theoretical analysis described by Doug Mc Adam or Scott Tarrow, and that using the same term for both may only add confusion and prevent hamstring productive discussion about onthe-ground tactics.

However, we must resist the temptation to fetishize the novel as entirely new, or what in thecontext of nuclear technology Gabriel Hecht has referred to as “rupture-talk”. According to Hecht, the technology and the “nuclear age” that it inaugurated have been pervasively describedthrough a perceived rupture with the past; “During those first decades of Cold War, the onlyconsensus in public debates was that, for better or worse, nuclear technology had changed theworld forever.”7 Hecht goes onto attribute this discursive framing of nuclear issues in Westernpolicy discussions as situated through the perspective self-understood global supremacy thatwas then being undermined first by advancing decolonization movements in Asia and Africa andthe emergence of the Soviet Union as a perceived ideological opponent to traditional powerrelations of social status and labor. “Rupture-talk” over nuclear weapons was therefore aframing not of the nuclear technology itself, but an expression of anxiety over re-structuring ofgeopolitics which superficially reduced the hegemony and control of the traditional colonialpowers. It was also, Hecht argues, a process of cultural amnesia by which the West was able todistance itself from the horrors of its colonial past, while simultaneously render invisible thecolonial arrangements of uranium extraction in West Africa and in the United States onindigenous lands, and the testing of nuclear explosives on indigenous lands globally. There is asimilar temptation to use rupture-talk in describing the ways in which digital technology hasenabled new modes of dissent. However, this rupture-talk already presumes the perspective of amanager deeply invested in the power relations of the status quo, which identifies a “rupture”with the past through anxiety about whether or not digital social space has made traditionaledifices of power obsolete. In other words, to say that “digital technology has changed everything” to some degree presupposes certain valences of managerial anxiety about fluctuations in social space, while simultaneously obscuring the persistence of violent power relations that digital technology has not up-ended.

Witness the rupture-talk, for example, following the use of Twitter as a forum for dissent

during the social upheavals in Iran in 2009, heralding a “revolution” in the country, and Twitteras the new “medium of a movement”.8 The event has even been dubbed “the Twitter Revolution”in the American media. The internet, brought to oppressed peoples of the world by Americanmilitary know how, has finally outwitted those fearsome mullahs! The Western media’sfetishistic focus on the technical novelty of social networking in a political context evenprovoked some low-key chiding, as the causes of the defeated protestors were soon forgotten,while Twitter was carried off for yet another victory lap in the self-congratulatory consciousness’of editorialists and media critics.9 One former Bush aide even suggested awarding Twitter the Nobel Peace prize.10 It is not difficult to see how such a techno-fetishism betrays exactly the sortof smug hubris of rupture-talk that makes those who are its objects uncomfortable. As Hamid Tehrani, an Iranian blogger wrote: "The west was focused not on the Iranian people but on therole of western technology. Twitter was important in publicising what was happening, but itsrole was overemphasised."11

If “Twitter has changed everything” in new democratic social movements in Iran or later inthe Arab Spring, then perhaps the West can finally wash its bloody hands of that unpleasantcolonial legacy that seems to continually resurface. Or the botched installation of the US-backed Shah in Iran that became a key impetus for the Islamic Revolution. Or the decades-long financial and geopolitical support for the brutally repressive dictators that the Arab Spring wasaligned against. These are legacies which the actual digital activists on the ground have notforgotten, which is at least one important reason they are less compelling candidates for the Nobel Peace prize than a Western corporation. From the perspective of a Western social mediauser, the importance of Twitter and the constant discussion of how innovation is changing socialspace provides self-evident justification for declaring a “rupture”, which of course the West getsto take a good deal of the credit for. From the perspective an Iranian activist, social mediarepresents perhaps little more than a set of potent new tools in the same struggle, a struggle inwhich the West is hardly blameless.

This example illustrates the importance of situated cultural frames to social movements,insofar as they provide publics with a way of interpreting and contesting the meaning of socialaction. Following Irving Goffman pathbreaking work in Frame Analysis, theorists such as David Snow et al. have persuasively argued that there is nothing about a particular instance of politicaloppression, police brutality, publicized case of corruption and so on that somehow intrinsicallybegets movement participation, rather social movements are constantly engaging in tacticalcontests of meaning over the interpretation of grievances which allow them to become politicallymeaningful. The painstaking construction of over-arching interpretational frameworks is, for Snow et al., co-productive with mobilizing to achieve short-term activist goals as movementparticipants “...jointly develop rationales for what they are or not doing.” 12 While there are no deterministic criteria for predicting how the tactical interplay between social movements and authorities will play out in digital space, the notion of a politicalopportunity structure developed by Peter Eisenger will prove a useful point of departure forunderstanding confrontations between once-marginal actants working in concerted solidarity against the entrenched interests of powerful elites.13 While political opportunity theory does nottell the whole story, we can understand it as functioning on multiple levels of materialconditions and inter-subjective perceptions of those conditions in terms of necessity (but notsufficiency) for effective social movement action. I shall devote a significant portion of this textto describing the texture of emergent political opportunity structures in digital space.In describing the ways in which digital technology has radically altered the possibility ofcontentious politics and collective becomings, I shall attempt to avoid falling into this trap ofassuming the perspective of a Westernized control-society bureaucrat, anxious about the futureof the nation-state. There are certainly many cases of digital social movements behaving quitesimilarly to more conventional social movement, as in the case where well-established activistgroups create an online presence that reflects and enhances the organizing power for“conventional” collective politics. Grassroots political campaigns such as those organized aroundthe 2008 election of President Barack Obama in the United States illustrate this latter approachperhaps most vividly. However, it is precisely this extreme variance in the emergence, evolution,and praxis of online social movements undermine the viability of theoretical approaches whichconsider “social movements” as homogenous collective entities defined by essential andahistorical properties. Terms like “membership”, “participation”, and “shared purpose” meanfundamentally different things for movements that emerged through digital network space, andthey come with different individual expectations and collective possibilities. Only byproblematizing the assumptions of “social movements” as stable conceptual entities, as well asthe theoretical project of social taxonomy writ large that seeks to sort movements into “types”14 can we avoid the pitfalls of assuming homogeneity at the outset, and thereby begin to articulatefluid theoretical frames that are better able to account for empirical variance.

There are particular cases where digital collective action really does present entirely new opportunities for contentious politics, confounding most classical expectations of social movement organizing. I will explore these dynamics through an examination of the on-line guerilla efforts of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), and their use of participatory ‘tactical media’ to thwart efforts by the Mexican government to assert control overthe Chiapas region of Southern Mexico. In the EZLN, we see a hybrid or parallelized form ofdigital organizing that nevertheless escapes the control of directly involved stakeholders toframe the conflict within localized terms. In particular, this case study will examine theparticipation of the Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT) in organizing electronic acts of civildisobedience against the Mexican and American government websites using the software Flood Net to crash the websites via an electronic “sit-in” in 1998. This case study will also explorethe embedded contestation in framing these acts as justified civil resistance to an unjust policyof military intervention on the one hand, and renegade acts of “cyberterrorism” on the other. Wewill see how even though the EZLN and EDT adopted unconventional technical means inpursuing their goals, that the organizational structure of the movement closely resembles aconventional picture of affiliation, group membership and cohesion of purpose, with acentralized (if anonymous) vanguard leading the way.

Understanding the response of elite media and governmental apparatuses is absolutelycrucial to see how the social meaning of these collective actions were contested and continue tobe contested as new social movements and develop strategies in the hopes of achieving futurevictories. The assumption that social movements must act as cohesive, unified social actors witha set list of specific goals must be problematized in light of the empirical evidence surroundingthe successes of these digital collective actions where gains were achieved by allowing for fluidexperimentation, spontaneous alliances and the accumulation of political will around unforeseen critical masses of dissent.

chapter one: lifecycle of a digital movement, south korea, 2008

In June of 2008, South Korea was unexpectedly plunged into mass social turmoil, following ROK15 President Lee Myung-Bak’s decision to lift the ban on imports of American beef twomonths earlier. The streets of Seoul were choked with protestors numbering between 100,000and a million, waving signs, singing songs and holding candlelit vigils. By some estimates, theprotests numerically superseded the movement that democratized South Korea in 1987. Forover one hundred days, these protestors increasingly brought business as usual to a grindingstandstill, obstructing key flows of economic traffic and ratcheting up pressure on the Leeadministration to reassess South Korea’s economic relationship with the United States.Politicians in the South Korean legislature, known as the Blue House, were unable or unwillingto satisfy the protestors demands until the political mobilization of massive crowds had climbedto a fever pitch in late June, triggering a power struggle in the Blue House and raising profoundquestions about the future of US-ROK ties. The international media was flummoxed. How couldtens of thousands of South Koreans take to the streets over an issue as seemingly arcane andperipheral as the nitty-gritty details of a beef import agreement? In dozens of articles theprotests were characterized as an outburst mass hysteria, an irrational reaction to the minisculerisk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly referred to as “mad cowdisease”. Particularly in the US media, South Koreans were portrayed as scientifically ignorantand nationalistically oversensitive to trade agreements with a nation whose troop presence onthe border with their Northern neighbor has been a perennial sore spot. In July, the governmentrenegotiated the terms of the trade agreement with additional protections against mad cowdisease, and the protests petered out.16

This may seem an odd case to begin a text about social movements in digital space. On thesurface, this has all the makings of a classical protest, a disorganized crowd of loosely affiliatedactants uniting around a common goal. However, beneath this surface veneer, theorganizational dynamics of the contention in South Korea in the summer of 2008 prove to be farmore complex, deeply integrated within a multivalent social assemblage that was stronglygrounded in digital space. In late June of 2008 I traveled to Seoul from Beijing where I had beenliving with my girlfriend for the summer prior to my third year of college. The trip was a matterof necessity and Seoul was a destination of chance; we were required to leave the country inorder to renew our visas, and while we had planned to go Hong Kong there happened to be adiscount on plane fare to South Korea on the day we purchased tickets. Upon our arrival, wefound the city in the throes of one of the largest mass demonstrations the region has seen in thepast half-century. The experience of entering this situation with an almost complete lack ofinformation proved extremely valuable. I had never visited South Korea, nor had I previouslystudied its political culture or society and thus had few consciously formed preconceptionsabout what I ought to expect. That summer I had been trying to sell essays to a blog called Blackand White whose editor was interested in getting stories firsthand from China in the build-up tothe 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It wasn’t difficult to persuade him that the events that weretranspiring in Seoul merited coverage. Compared to seasoned journalists covering the issue Iwas clearly inexperienced, and relative to American commentators who had been analyzing ROKpolitics for year I was virtually tabula rasa. Recognizing these limitations, I resolved toapproach the issue with an open mind, to retrieve as much primary evidence as I could, and tothus begin to answer the question that was befuddling American commentators from the Wall Street Journal to National Public Radio. Why had South Koreans chosen to take to the streets enmasse over the issue of the possible contamination of imported US beef?17

The short answer is deceptively simple; the protests were not, in fact, really about beef at all.The street-level demonstrations represented the actualization of a complex virtual socialnetwork, organized primarily by South Korean youth in digital space. The perception of the“eruption” of the anti-beef social movement pervasive in the international media had far more todo with the fact the South Korean public’s discomfort with the trade deal had largely beenunder-reported, creating the perception that it suddenly appeared, as if from nowhere. In fact,tensions had been building for months since immediately after the deal was signed beforereaching the multitudinous scales of late June. Before that, negotiations over the US-Korean Free Trade Agreement under the Bush Administration had allowed for the formation of a well-developed anti-trade coalition adept at mobilizing their members and creating provocativemedia events, albeit with limited political success.18 While the anti-trade coalition in Korea,largely consisting of unions and social groups representing farmers, was not able to stir publicsentiment to the heights that successfully de-mobilized renewed negotiations for the FTA (thefate of which is now seen to largely hang with the political will of the 112th US Congress)19, itnevertheless stirred the passions of its own members to extreme acts and elicited publicsympathy. Consider, for example the initially unsuccessful suicide attempt of the KCTU member Heo Se-wook through self-immolation, which was explicitly connected with the perception ofthe FTA negotiations as “secretive” and “undemocratic.”20 As the former president of the Korea Institute of International Economic Policy Choong-yong Ahn put it: “[w]hile the absolutenumbers of protesters against the deal in Seoul were not very large, the emotional intensity reached its height with the tragic self-immolation of a Seoul taxi driver outside the talk’s venue in a Seoul hotel.”21 Episodes such as these demonstrate the perception within Korean civilsociety and of a well-established group of extremely committed stakeholders, neverthelessmarginalized and mistreated over the issue of trade.22

During the few days we spent in Seoul, I had the opportunity to interview one of the protestors, a friend of my girlfriend who had once lived in the US, named Cheewoo Kim. Discussing the evolution of the demonstrations, he urged me to focus on the process of its development as more significant than its stated goals, saying:

“You have to look at how these protests began. At the end of April it was just young kids protesting, organized online, worried about bad American beef getting into their school lunches. It gave the government a headache because there was no way to stop them, so they tried to get control through the schools, through the teachers, by punishing kids. Thencollege kids got involved and then it started getting much bigger.”23

There are several dynamics in play in Kim’s observation. First, the boundaries of the movement appear initially at the divisions between different strata of South Korean society, primarily segmented by age. However, the beginnings of the discussion in terms of school lunches and between students may also imply a high degree of gender segregation, as many South Korean schools socially segregate students by gender in both school and classroom.24 Themovement must therefore expand outward to encompass new members, raise awareness andfind new sympathizers by collapsing the perceived divisions of these social strata. Oncemembers of a particular group have begun participating in the movement, it eases socialbarriers of entry for other members of a particular social strata to then join as well. This preference for social affiliation with similar individuals is known as “homophily” in sociology and network theory, and increases in probability the more similar traits a given group of peopleshare (e.g. age, gender, socio-economic status) and has been further demonstrated throughempirical research specifically on social movements.25 In other words, it is easier for a collegestudent to join a movement which already includes other college students, than it is to join amovement which includes few social peers. This is because many movements form through theiterative coalescence of several different socially evolved peer networks, forming a supra-network capable of moving towards certain defined attractors while also producing and reactingto local circumstances. These evolved peer networks are integrated into complex social systemswhich form loops of dynamic interaction with one another (consider the complex social spacedefined within and between genders in the Korean school system, and how information moveswithin this network) and therefore cannot be understood in isolation. If a student engages in anact of quotidian protest or resistance at school, the parents of that student are not insulatedfrom the social frames motivating their child’s actions. If the parents feel that they have a stakein the movement through their child’s advocacy, then the movement crosses a gap in socialspace, lowering the barriers to entry for other parents, oftentimes across different strata ofsocioeconomic segments. This is at least one reason why student-driven movements havehistorically had such potential for mass mobilization.

Dense social connections can be a powerful enabling condition for social movement growth,as the message can spread in the same manner as contagious disease, where successful messagesgain momentum and durability by quickly “going viral”. The same process of identifying loosesocial limits through segmentarity and then overcoming barriers to entry for groups outside the initial scope of movement also appears significantly at the divisions between the adult gendersand social classes (based on profession and access to capital and politically powerful socialnetworks) which are pronounced in South Korea, as with many other market economies. Thesignificance of the viral model of information for social movement framing is that it allows us tounderstand how new cultural frames enter population segments through particular individualswho may act as brokers or who may be exist at the intersection of several different social groups.Thus, while social space itself may be stratified along numerous criteria of identity, and socialgroups themselves may be fairly insular even when composed of diverse members, informationand political messages can still spread quickly if the right information ecologies exist in whichsocial networks are embedded.26

Identity matters. However, first we must be clear about what specifically we are looking for.Is the goal of this analysis to understand the typical or average identity of the activists, or tounderstand the idealized identity of social protest which may or may not have animated aportion of the individuals participating in the demonstration? While important for analyzing themovement’s historical significance within its local and transnational political contexts, I willseek to show that the demonstrations in Seoul in the summer of 2008 in fact historicallyrepresent quite a bit more than their political consequences to the Lee Administration and the Blue House. For what these demonstrations showed par excellence was the power of digitalnetworks to organize massive groups of people in a highly developed urbanized society morequickly and more directly than anyone had previously thought possible. This was not ademonstration to the South Korean government, but to an audience of global inhabitants ofdigital space to whom it represented a concrete instantiation of a new paradigm of collectiveorganizing, where the constitution of network relations through mediated cultural spacerepresents the emergence of a novel collective form.

The significance of the divisions between socially stratified groups in Korean society unitingaround a common message is neither a story of the forging of new identities or transgressivesocial relations. Rather, it points us to the immanent conditions of a space of social formationwhich itself allowed for and enabled the facilitation of the emergence of solidarity betweenotherwise disparate groups. In other words, there is something about digital space itself thatallows otherwise alienated segments of a population to come together for a common discussion.If we understand the mass demonstrations that erupted in June through the lens of consciousoppositionality and a coherent membership identity, we have already begun asking the wrongquestions. Instead, we must look to the material basis by which the movement was able tofluidly to incorporate otherwise divided strata of the South Korean public, overcoming deeplyentrenched structural co-isolation and loggerheaded interests in order to achieve collectiveaction. Digital space, as constituted within online forums and social clubs, played a vital role.Personal identity in digital space is intrinsically weaker as discussion participants aredisconnected from the immediate cultural presentation of their bodies, and discussion isinexorably mediated by a space which is already collective. This may disconnect discussantsfrom socialized preconceptions about persons from their gender, age and socioeconomic status.The face only signifies textually within a chat room. Embodied identity is bracketed aroundicons and avatars, and the identity of discussants in a forum is literally produced throughdialogue. In digital space, identity does not exist as an abstract parallel to physical presence butrather acts as an integrated continuum within the overall production of self-representation andsocial signification to others. This is particularly true for individuals who have been deeplysocialized within digital space itself, either by sustained frequent use or by early introduction inchildhood. Such an understanding of social identity in digital space is particularly true for thosecomfortable with its naturalization as a communication technology used for leisure, rather thanmerely a tool of labor. John Palfrey and Urs Glasser refer to these individuals as “digitalnatives”, youth and young adults who grew up not only with the possibility of using digital technology to communicate with their peers, but for whom the use of that technology demands adegree of identity-creation (along with the associated options for experimentation) in digitalspace27. While digital nativism has been around since the personal computer (and some wouldargue even earlier) it has become an even more dominant form within mass social space sincethe advent of mobile technology, which allows users to remain perpetually connected and to actdigitally at will. In South Korea, these digitally native youths are known as “thumb people”, aplayful moniker that refers to the facility with SMS text messaging where an individual can typefaster than they can speak (or just about)28. This aspect of digital socialization does not implythe production of a static identity, but rather functions as a mutant surface of individualisticrepresentation conforming instead to the expectation that certain aspects of one’s digital self willbe regularly changed and updated. Core components of digital nativism conform to the fast-paced level of innovation in bubble-era high technology, which create expectations thatparticipants “adapt or die” to new interfaces and platforms as they become ascendant.29 To re-state the cliché of innovation in terms of digitally constituted identities; change is the onlyconstant.

Digital natives are adept at a particularly adaptive sort of individual and collective identity formation. Because language in digital social space is both performative (chat-rooms are createdand named, things said in them characterize how discussion progresses and segments) anditerative (each iteration of a conversation, meme, post or re-post alters the local context tostrengthen the repetition of a particular message for different anonymous audiences) theprocess of identity-creation is immanent to each interactive digital space. “Web 2.0” digitalspace, driven by user-generated content, socializes users to become responsive to conventional http://blackandwhiteprogram.com/report/meat-protest peer group structures iterated through comments, re-posts, feedback and so on while allowing adegree of playfulness and heterogeneity. This playfulness is much clearly demonstrated whendigital sub-cultures are considered in contrast to embodied cultural spaces which present theimage of an identity rooted in biology/morphology and socio-economic conditions and wherethe audience costs of nonconformity may be extremely high. In other words, identity in digitalspace presents a distinct opportunity structure for affiliating oneself with a social movement or apolitical message, an affiliation which may be initially effortless but may have the effect ofcommunicating that message across otherwise impassable (or at least difficulty passable) socialboundaries.

Movement identities, which are fluid to begin with and may only initially encompass a few slogans, images or discussions, can be easily incorporated within individuals’ and groups’ digitalidentities, thereby facilitating the transmission of key concepts and relevant social framesquickly throughout a social system. These dynamics are particularly at play in virtual worldswhere individuals and peer groups create co-signifying avatars by arranging imagisticcombinations to create a virtual embodiment that can be altered at will, with a few clicks orkeystrokes. In a country like South Korea where commentators often joke that Starcraft30 is thenational pastime, attending to these dynamics of social space is crucial for understanding theevolution of complex signifying and mobilizing systems (e.g. social movement frames) withinthat space. This is not to equivocally argue that South Korean digital space automaticallytranslates into enhances social movement activity, or to privilege the existence of a certaintechnology over the social understanding of its use. However, it is important to note thatbarriers to social movement activity which are often all-too-present in stratified social spacemay be lowered in digital space precisely because the transactions costs of individualcommunications are virtually nonexistent.

As we will see, these immanent social dynamics served as an important enabling function in overcoming communicative barriers between stratified population segments, particularly those marked by exclusion or marginalization from official political discourse and South Korean civil society. An analysis and literature survey by the South Korean scholar Han Do-Yun confirms that this was particularly true in the context of gender, which is one of the most rigid identity boundaries in modern Korean society, noting:

Many married women who were not previously interested in politics or social issues learned about the issue of American beef import and the ensuing street demonstrations through Internet social communities where they used to share common interests on topics such as cosmetics, food, interior decoration, furniture, clothing, TV stars, etc. This social origin of new actors shows a fundamental change of the movement’s characteristics.31

Students protesting against beef in lunches in Korean schools were thus able to quickly and easily begin mobilizing concerned citizens reacting to an inflammatory television report32 on therisks of BSE in US beef, and to do so on a scale that most traditional social movements mighttake years to organize with great difficulty. The message of the protest spread quickly, changingthe political opportunity structure for other actors to get involved. The near-immediate speed ofdigital communication enabled a low transaction cost for the dissemination of inflammatoryframes surrounding the issue. The positive disposition or interest of large numbers ofindividuals towards a political issue tends to become amplified under certain social networkarrangements. As Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler have argued in their recent book Connected, behaviors are infectious throughout social networks through patterns which are byno means deterministic but certainly seem to affect probability.33 For example, they havedocumented with significant study contagion as a property of obesity within social networks; if your friend’s friend gains weight, there is an increased probability that you will as well.34 Obesityis not literally contagious, but the information and social habitudes that predispose one toengage in activities which facilitate weight gain are mobile within social space, and migratethrough network connections even if individuals are not themselves conscious of it. Whileparticular political views may not be similarly contagious through social networks, the South Korean case seems to demonstrate that the level of an individual’s political activity (measured asa degree of intensity, regardless of partisan affiliation) may be socially contagious, reachingepidemic proportions through the types of networks found in digital space.There are several network properties that digital communities tend to exhibit whichaccelerate the dissemination of information generally, particularly through a digital socialnetwork such as the chatrooms described above. First, is the density of these networks, which isto say that most members of a digital social network who identify as a distinct social group areconnected to all other members of the group. The point maybe obvious but it is nonethelessimportant; if you’ve ever played a game of “Telephone” in which a message must be relayed through many different participants, one after the other, you know that such communicationentails a certain degree of distortion and the risk of social fatigue means that the originalmessage may never get to every participant intact or at all. The fact that these dense networksoperate via many-to-many communication systems where dissemination can be simultaneous tomultiple individuals further decreases the social distance that a message has to travel. Second, isthe symmetry of many of the types of ties that exist in digital space, which is to say social tiesthat imply reciprocity. The classic example of symmetrical ties is marriage; it is not possible fora person to be married to another person without that person also being married to the firstperson. In digital space, Facebook offers a good example35 ; it is not possible for me to be your friend on Facebook without you also being my friend on Facebook36. However, the same dynamic holds at the level of collectives in chatrooms, fora and other virtual communicativespace at the level of collectivities; if we are members of the same digital agora then our digitalsocial tie is typically reciprocal. Where embodied social space consists in heavily striatedhierarchical structures at least partially grounded in embodied identity (race, gender, age,socioeconomic status and so on), digital space may offer a refreshing antidote and an outlet fordissensual37 experimentation outside the implicit censorships of everyday life.Furthermore, the perception of the spread of information also became a motivating factor in accelerating its spread, as more people became interested in “what everyone was talking about”. This is a phenomenon that network theory scholars have observed in terms of interpersonal ties known as a “positive network externality”38, and economics scholars have observed in studies of so-called “viral” marketing. As the popular e-commerce author Ralph Wilson has suggested, viral communication does not rely on centralized dissemination technologies, but rather spreads through “word-of-mouth”,


1 In search for a fitting way to begin this thesis, I plugged in the search terms ‘questions about social movements’ into the search engine Google and found a post attributed to the social movement scholar Fabio Rojas called “a list of problems in social movement theory” from which these questions aregenerated. See the full post on orgtheory,2006 http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2006/09/08/a-list-of-problems-in-social-movement-theory/

2 for a greater examination of the evolution of contemporary grid-think and its relation to violence in modern epistemology see Rey Chow “The Age of the World Target: Self-Referentiality in War, Theory, and Comparative Work” Duke University Press, 2006

3 Graham Harman ““Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics”, re.press, 2009 p. 22

4 Slavoj Zizek The Sublime Object of Ideology Verso; 1989, p.210

5 Gilles Deleuze “Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974” Semiotext(e), 2004 p. 261-263

6 See especially Manuel De Landa, A New Philosophy of Society (London: Continuum, 2006). It is interesting to note that Deleuze and Guattari’s original term was ‘agencement’ which roughly translates to ‘layout’ or ‘scheme’, but also includes the suggestion of agency immanent to the arrangement itself, rather than localized around any particular point. see John Phillips “Agencement/Assemblage” in Theory,Culture & Society May 2006 vol. 23 no. 2-3 108-109

7 Gabrielle Hecht, “Rupture-Talk in the Nuclear Age: Conjugating Colonial Power in Africa” Social Studies of Science 32/5-6(October-December 2002) 691-727 http://www-personal.umich.edu/~hechtg/articles/rupture-talk.pdf

8 Lev Grossman “Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement” TIME, June 17, 2009http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1905125,00.html#ixzz17w JTEtj BWashington Times “EDITORIAL: Iran's Twitter revolution” June 16, 2009http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jun/16/irans-twitter-revolution/

9 Business Week “Iran's Twitter Revolution? Maybe Not Yet” June 17, 2009 http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2009/tc20090617_803990.htm

10 Mark Pfeifle “A Nobel Peace Prize for Twitter?” Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 2009http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/0706/p09s02-coop.html

11 Matthew Weaver “Iran's 'Twitter revolution' was exaggerated, says editor” The Guardian, June 9, 2010http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/09/iran-twitter-revolution-protests

12 see Gamson, William Talking Politics (New York: University of Cambridge Press) 1992 Snow, David, Rochford, E. Burke. Jr. Worden, Steven, Benford, Robert "Frame Alignment Processes,Micromobilization, and Movement Participation." American Sociological Review 51: 464-481, 1986

13 David S. Meyer, Protest and Political Opportunities, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 30: 125-145 (Volume publication date August 2004), (doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110545)

14 “Types” in the same ways that modernist biologists were once inspired by Linnaeus to sort every creature into the conceptual basket provided by a Latin name, arranged on a tree of nested categories, epitomizing Harman’s description of metaphysics as “fitting one concept to another”.

15 ROK will be used occasionally in place of “Republic of Korea”

16 BBC “S Korea-US deal on beef exports” June 21, 2008http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7467035.stm

17 Parts of this chapter use information and data aggregated in that essay, see Edmund Zagorin “Beef Protests: How Mobile Technology Has Politically Empowered Thousands of South Koreans” Black and White, June 27,2008

18 Jamie Doucette “Korean Neo-Liberalism and Empire,” Znet, 7/11, 2006 http://www.zcommunications.org/korean-neo-liberalism-and-empire-by-jamie-doucette

19 Yonhap News “Congress urged to expedite process for Korea FTA's ratification” 4/7/2011 http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/04/07/52/0301000000AEN20110407000400315F.HTML

20 see the press release by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions “KCTU union member attemptingself-immolation as an act of resistance KORUS FTA!” openpublished on Bilaterals.org, as well as theintended suicide note “Farewell Note by Bro. Heo Se-wook, a union member of KCTU” published at thesame location http://www.bilaterals.org/spip.php?article7731

21 Choong-yon Ahn “The Long Road to Korea-US Free Trade Deal” Global Asia, Vol. 2 No. 1 Spring 2007http://globalasia.org/articles/issue2/iss2_11.html

22 As I will discuss in Chapter 2, the point here is not to develop a direct causal relation between differentsets of discrete events, but rather the examine the cultural reservoir of frames available to organizers andparticipants interested in bringing their message to a wider public and making the digital meme of theirmessage “go viral”.

23 Interview with Cheewoo Kim, conducted by Edmund Zagorin, June, 2008 published in the essay “Beef Protests: How Mobile Technology Has Politically Empowered Thousands of South Koreans” Black and White, June 27,2008 http://blackandwhiteprogram.com/report/meat-protest

24 Alexander Wiseman “A Culture of (In)Equality?: a cross-national study of gender parity and gender segregation in national school systems” Research in Comparative and International Education ISSN 1745-4999 Volume 3 Number 2 2008

25 see Miller Mc Pherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and James M Cook “BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Homophily in Social Networks” Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2001. 27:415-44, as well as Peter J. Burke “Interaction in Small Groups” in “The Handbook of Social Psychology” ed. John Delameter, p. 369 and also the summarysection in Theresa Petray “Homophily and diversity: The use and effects of bonding versus bridgingnetworks by Townsville Aboriginal activists” Ph D paper [unpublished] http://www.tasa.org.au/conferences/conferencepapers08/Indigenous/Petray,%20Theresa,%20Session%208%20PDF.pdf

26 see Ronald S. Burt Brokerage and Closure: Introduction to Social Capital University of Chicago, 2004 see also Dale Ganley and Cliffe Lampe “The ties that bind: Social network principles in onlinecommunities” in Decision Support Systems 47 (2009) 266-274

27 John Palfrey and Urs Glasser “Born digital: understanding the first generation of digital natives” Basic Books, 2008 p. 21-22

28 see Edmund Zagorin “Beef Protests: How Mobile Technology Has Politically Empowered Thousands of South Koreans” Black and White, June 27,2008 http://blackandwhiteprogram.com/report/meat-protest

29 New Media Knowledge “Adapt or die, content providers warned” May 12, 2011 http://www.nmk.co.uk/article/2011/5/12/adapt-or-die-content-providers-warned

30 Starcraft is a multi-player military science fiction game developed by Blizzard Entertainment and is one of the all-time most popular computer games as measured by global sales.

31 Han Do-Hyun “Contemporary Korean Society Viewed through the Lens of the Candlelight Vigils of 2008” Korea Journal, Autumn 2010, p.7

32 Han Do-Hyun “Contemporary Korean Society Viewed through the Lens of the Candlelight Vigils of 2008” Korea Journal, Autumn 2010, p.7

33 see Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives Little Brown & Company, 2009

34 see Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives Little Brown & Company, 2009

35 Jeff Ginger “Performance and Construction of Digital Identity” The Facebook Project [pending completion] August, 2008 http://www.thefacebookproject.com/research/jeff/publications/masters.html

36 Twitter is probably the most obvious counter-example to this argument, since it explicitly designates assymetric relationships through “Follower” and “Followed” and in principle allows for one-to-may networks of communication. However, as some critics have argued in discussing the Iranian election controversy and the social movements that became internationally visible during that time period, Twitter was chosen as a communicative medium precisely because it mirrored traditional one-to-many forms of communication and allowed centralized control of opposition leaders message. see Chapter Two.

37 The opposite of consensual, used here to signify that achieving consensus need not be a goal for social movements in digital space.

38 This is generally described as a positive feedback phenomena whereby the network becomes more attractive for outsiders to join as it increases in size. see Yi-Nung Yang “AN INTRODUCTION TO NETWORK EXTERNALITIES” Dissertation at Utah State University Department of Economics, August1997 http://people.chu.edu.tw/~yinyang/ch1.htm This phenomenon has been particularly applied to the viral growth of social networking sites such as Facebook, and digital user communities such as P2P music sharing, particularly when there is amembership barrier to entry. see Robin Wright “Zuckerberg: Non-Evil Non-Genius?” The New York Times, October 5, 2010 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/zuckerberg-non-evil-non-genius/ see Atip Asvanund, Karen Clay, Ramayya Krishnan, Michael D. Smith “An Empirical Analysis of Network Externalities in P2P Music-Sharing Networks” Carnegie Mellon research paper, 2002http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/research/74full.pdf


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1 MB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Michigan
Highest Honors
invisible collective




Title: Invisible machines. Collective action through digital space