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After the Keyword: The Virtual Organization of Networked Social Movements

Principal Investigator(s): Joan Donovan

In my current research program, I theorize how information and communication technologies transform the practices of everyday life. My dissertation, Technologies of Social Change: Mapping the Infrastructure of the Occupy Movement from #OccupyWallStreet to #OccupySandy, focuses on technological infrastructure used by networked social movements, particularly Occupy, to communicate and coordinate campaigns and actions. Studying networked movements is difficult because they diverge from the classic theories of social movement formation and organization due to their lack of leaders and of a clear, organizing narrative. Yet nonetheless, they gain coherence by leveraging the connective capacity of information and communication technologies to forge new social solidarities across space, time, and ideologies. While many studies have investigated the social media presence of networked movements such as Occupy, 15M, and the Arab Spring, few identify the invisible work that goes into managing media for these large-scale uprisings or unearth what kinds of skills, knowledge, and resources are necessary to build and sustain networked movements. My fieldwork on the maturation of the Occupy movement attends to these shortfalls, while also contributing a thorough account of the history of Occupy and the sociological implications for structuring collective action in this way.