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SOCNET  March 2003

SOCNET March 2003

Subject:

Re: Networks in the current global situation

From:

Skye Bender-deMoll <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Skye Bender-deMoll <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Mar 2003 12:46:38 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/  *****

Friends,
   Thanks to Carter Butts for the extensive citations.  As a person
who as been fairly active participant in the San Francisco anti-war
non-violent direct action campaign (I was arrested on the sidewalk in
a marching band and illegally detained by the SFPD for 22 hours over
the weekend), I can say that many of the activists are very aware of
"networky" ideas, and explicitly use them to construct and coordinate
their actions in a decentralized, non-hierarchical, consensus fashion.

  One of the main organizing strategies is an "affinity group" model,
in which 5-20 individuals (usually strong ties) come together to work
on a small segment of the action with a particular tone and tactic in
mind.  Many individuals overlap with other groups, and there some
well defined roles  which are often common across groups
(communications, media contact, medic, facilitator, spokes-rep, legal
observer)  The groups generally have a strong commitment to direct
democracy and consensus process, meaning the entire group must be in
agreement to take action.  Often groups with a similar tatical aims
will coordinate to form a "cluster" or send representatives to a
"spokes council" which works to form consensus on event-wide
logistics coordination issues.  But because each group is fairly
autonomous, they are able to respond rapidly to changing conditions
in a robust fashion with fewer of the vulnerability (and elite/power
manipulation issues) of a centralized command structure.

In addition, as many people on the list have already pointed out,
there are interesting aspects in terms of information and media as
well.  Because most people are in agreement that the major US media
outlets are acting as a fairly strong filter on international news
and information, many groups rely on the internet and direct
long-range communication links with activists groups world wide.
These are not necessarily weak ties, as many individuals here have
strong personal relations and work history with individuals in other
countries.  These strong trust relations make it possible to
circumvent the "gatekeepers" on media channels, and facilitates
strong solidarity actions and worldwide organizing.   Which is one
reason why many prefer to refer to all of this as the "global peace
and economic justice" movement rather than "anti-globalization" or
"anti-war" -  there is a great deal of "globalized" coordination
going on.  But this of course has interesting implications, as it
means that protesters are often operating on a completely different
set of "facts" and interpretations of events than those in the
"mainstream".  This tends to make "out group" communication difficult
often leads to confusion and misunderstanding when protesters attempt
to explain their actions and views.

It seems to me that this is an exceptionally rich area for potential
study, however there are of course strong ethical considerations on
collecting data on groups and individuals who are at a serious risk
of being targeted by various law enforcement agencies.

respectfully,
  -skye

>
>Ferry Koster wrote:
>>As far as I have seen, the people that
>>demonstrated wanted to express their feelings about this war. For a large
>>part, the only thing organized where the time, the place and some of the
>>speakers. My point is that it is possible that network theory does not have
>>a lot to say about this.
>
>Even if the protest events are not formally organized, it does not
>follow that network theory has nothing to say.  (Quite the opposite, in
>fact -- these are the more interesting cases, at least to a
>sociologist.)  For a little of the past (formal) work in this area, you
>might want to see:

--
--------------------------------
Skye's fone/Vmail: 650.853.0679
--------------------------------

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