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I&D Budapest Session 3: E-Mobilization and Participation

Cross-posted from Patrick Meier’s blog, IRevolution:

The third panel of the Berkman Conference on Internet and Democracy was started with a presentation by Marshall Ganz on lessons learned from traditional approaches to mobilization and how these compare with new methods. Some of the main points I took away from Michael’s presentation and the question & answer session follow.

* Individual liberty, equality and collective capacity are three fundamentals of democracy.
* Transformation and exchange are more important than aggregation of individual interests and values.
* So what kind of institutional arrangements promote individual liberty, equality and collective capacity and how can/does the Internet facilitate this process?
* Social movements arise from purposeful actors to form new partnerships, common values and collective action. There is often confusion between social movements and fads.
* The role of leadership is a process whereby individuals are inspired to respond creatively and with a common purpose in the face of uncertainty.
* Social movements mobilize individuals through tiers of leaders. Martin Luther King was not the only leader in the civil rights movements. The traditional perception of social movements led by one characteristic leader is misplaced. Social movements are not completely decentralized either.
* Leadership is not about command and control but rather about mobilization.
* Social action must be understood both in strategic and motivational terms.
* YouTube has allowed for the sharing of people-interest stories, which tend to be more credible than deliberate, structured political commercials and
* While the Internet provides for anonymity, this undermines the sharing of experiences and common values.
* While the dramatic reduction in networked communication has been discussed at some length, the motivational factor has not. The narrative, the common purpose and inspiration to act must be present in order to encourage individuals to turn to the Internet to seek further information and form social groups. Networked communication facilitates the dissemination of the narrative.
* Q & A: Mobilization patterns on the Internet are different from those in good old traditional social movements. So how much from traditional social movement theory and practice apply?

Helen Margetts gave a presentation on the Internet and the logic of collective action. vis-a-vis petitions Helen carrried out an experiment by drawing on the behavior of some 50 individuals (students and non-students). She used a treatment group and control group in order to measure differential impact. The first group received information about a petition and who else had signed the petition. Group 2 received no information.

The results show that treatment had some effect on signing, with 64% of the treatment group signing the petition versus 54% for the control group. However, the analysis yielded results that were not statistically significant. However, when the petition is signed by large number of individuals (> 1 million) significantly more people signed when in receipt of information. For a ‘middle’ number of signers, significantly fewer individuals followed up and signed the petition themselves. For low number (

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