Networked Collective Action and the Institutionalized Policy Debate: Bringing Cyberactivism to the Policy Arena?
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2013
© 2013 Policy Studies Organization
Policy & Internet
Special Issue: Online Collective Action and Policy Change
Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 7–26, March 2013
How to Cite
Milan, S. and Hintz, A. (2013), Networked Collective Action and the Institutionalized Policy Debate: Bringing Cyberactivism to the Policy Arena?. Policy & Internet, 5: 7–26. doi: 10.1002/poi3.20
- Issue published online: 15 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 15 MAR 2013
- networked collective action;
- multistakeholder governance;
- civil society participation;
- Internet governance
New forms of networked action and informal collaboration are challenging traditional notions of civil society. Based on the proliferation of new technologies, and spurred by the spread of trans-border delocalized communities and the increasing disillusionment with traditional forms of political organization, civic action is becoming increasingly flexible, temporary, and elusive. This type of nontraditionally organized collective action often stays below the radar of public discourse, unless it is propelled to the spotlight because of international political developments such as the WikiLeaks case (and the related actions by the cyberactivist network Anonymous) and the mass protests in Northern Africa and the Middle East (and the role of social networking tools in these uprisings). In this article, we investigate the interactions and (in)compatibilities of Internet-based networked collective action with institutionalized spaces of policy debate. We begin by characterizing online networked action as an emerging form of organized civil society, focusing on the realm of cyberactivists who are building and using cyber-infrastructure (“grassroots tech groups”). In particular, we examine their values, identity features, and organizational forms. Based on this analysis, we explore two dimensions in which cyberactivism challenges established forms of institutionalized policy debate: the structural dimension and the realm of action repertoires. We ask whether these new forms of civil society are structurally compatible with current multistakeholder governance, and we discuss their repertoires of action with regard to policy advocacy and policy interventions, and thus the level and type of their engagement with governance processes and institutions.