This paper has been published as: Victor Bekkers, Rebecca Moody and Arthur Edwards (2011) Micro-Mobilization, Social Media and Coping Strategies: Some Dutch Experiences. Policy and Internet 3 (4).
Political parties, non-governmental organizations, interest groups and single issue movements have traditionally played an important role in the way political demands are being voiced. They promote specific frames, provide platforms for discussion, and help to synthesize issues put forward by citizens. These intermediary organizations act at the meso-level of protest politics. At the same time there is a micro-level. Micro-mobilization refers to the mobilization efforts by individuals and small, ad hoc and loosely coupled groups of individuals.
In our paper we would like to focus on these groups of individuals on the micro level and the way they attempt to gain political attention for their ideas. Key to our research is the way how new media, especially social networking technology (Web 2.0) provide individuals with powerful resources for rapid political mobilization, to which they had no access before. It must be recognized that through the internet this political mobilization moves in such a speedy way that they create irritation because a rapid response from government is demanded Governments seem often unaware of the mobilization process until they are actually confronted with it. These ‘strategic surprises’ would represent a significant discontinuity that challenges the existent patterns of consultation and negotiation between organizations and policy-makers. We will argue that the discursive, access and resource power of Web 2.0 generates strategic surprises because it facilitates a rapid, almost real-time, massive alignment of frames between loosely coupled micro-mobilizing individuals which helps the expansion of an issue.
Next to describing the process of political mobilization by individuals on the micro level through the internet and other interactive devices, like the mobile telephone, we want to understand the nature of these possible strategic surprises that occur when individuals and small groups use social network technology and the internet in political mobilization. Furthermore we will analyze how policy-makers in government organizations deal with these surprises.
In order to do so we will look at three qualitative case studies. The first case study will deal with two mothers who use the internet to mobilize others against the late closing times of bars and pubs in an attempt to have their children home earlier. A second case will deal with the Dutch student revolt of 2007 in which thousands of students used social networking technology to mobilize, within less than 24 hours, against longer school hours. Additionally they filmed their actions with their mobile telephones and posted them online, this made sure the action could be viewed real-time. Our final case will deal with Dutch soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and they way they attempt to communicate their views on the conflict through the internet. The reactions of the department of defence, also on social networking sites will also be evaluated.