The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Mantilla: Protest mobilization and disagreement in online mobilization networks

Paper presenter: 
Mantilla, C.C., Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The use of Internet for mobilization is slowly growing into an important subject in citizen politics as political use of the internet and online contentious politics are becoming widespread practices. I argue that mobilization needs to be considered further than its role for improving turnout in order to appreciate a greater democratic potential for internet use. This paper looks for discursive practices in protest mobilization by comparing different actors’ online strategies and online issue network features. It uses protest survey data and hyperlink network analysis in order to question how mobilization actors deal with political adversaries and political disagreement in electronic public spheres. Internet use has raised great expectations considering that its possibilities for opening new spaces for discursive exchange and exposure to political diversity may also result in the fragmentation and isolation of issue publics.

This paper looks at the role of social movements and other civil society organizations in mobilizing political action as they have become central actors in capturing issue attention for politically interested individuals who trust the intermediation function of their online platforms in an increasingly intricate electronic public sphere. As unconventional forms of participation work on less instrumental rationalities than electoral politics, it is expected that protest mobilization processes take on argumentative elements by establishing bridges between political divides. This potential acknowledgement of political difference is a central question as it helps to explain participation within heterogeneous networks in which exposure to disagreement is theoretically expected to reduce turnout. It is also a critical question from a normative viewpoint as discursive mobilization is a central issue for group interest representation processes.

Two cases are compared, and some preliminary conclusions are presented on the importance of online social network features as explicative factors for the differences between protest participants.

Mobilization, online politics, political disagreement, protest, hyperlink network analysis
Camilo Cristancho Mantilla