Collective Action Theory Meets the Blogosphere: A New Methodology
By Nitin Agarwal, Merlyna Lim and Rolf T. Wigand
University of Arkansas at Little Rock: Dept of Information Science
Arizona Stat University: School of Social Transformation – Justice and Social Inquiry
Abstract: With the advent of advanced yet exoteric ICTs, especially the social media, new forms of collective actions have emerged to illuminate several fundamental yet theoretically obscure aspects of collective actions. Existing computational studies focusing on capturing and mapping the interactions and issues prevailing in social media manage to identify the manifestations of collective actions. They, however, lack modeling and predictive capabilities. In this paper, we propose a new methodology to gain deeper insights into cybercollective actions by analyzing issue propagation, influential community members’ roles, and transcending nature of collective actions through individual, community, and transnational perspectives, the efficacy of the proposed model is demonstrated by a case-study on Al-Huwaider’s campaigns consisting of 150 blogs from 17 countries tracked between 2003 and 2010. To the best of our knowledge, the proposed methodology is the first to address the lacking fundamental research shedding light on re-framing Collective Action Theory in online environments.
Collective action is when more than one individual or community unites to effect change and/or attain an agreed upon goal through mutual support, sharing information, formalizing plans and organized actions. This particular study focuses on collective action in the blogosphere, citing examples of activism on blogs such as Wajeha Al-Huwaider, Saudi Woman’s Blog (Eman Al-Nafjan), Sand Gets In My Eyes (SGIME) and Tara Umm Omar (FHWS). On the table above, the row for “child marriage” under the column “Tara Umm Omar” has been left blank. For the record, I did address the issue of child marriage on FHWS in the post D.I.V.O.R.C.E: The Big D Word. (1)
Any demonstrations/protests on the streets are largely forbidden in Saudi Arabia and newspapers/magazines are cautious of printing articles that suggest dissent towards the government, social media has been used successfully as a form of collective action by Saudis and expatriates living in Saudi Arabia. This includes the more popular social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and personal blogs. This allows activists to communicate with hundreds of fellow activists at once, anywhere in the world, without ever meeting face to face. It also provides a degree of anonymity if the activist so chooses to hide their true identity and an atmosphere in which there is little or no fear in expressing grievances at social injustices or opposition against the government.
“Governments fear what they can’t control. And in fact, the internet gives citizens another outlet for ideas and information, besides being a quicker method for organizing.” (Jeff Jacobsen, Internet Collective Action)
My brother asked me, “Is it your sense that you’re acting collectively?” My response was that, “I do consider myself an arm-chair activist because I speak out against injustices on my blog [related to Saudi/non-Saudi marriages] and I am in solidarity with Saudi women because most of the negative issues that affect them, also affect me as a woman married to a Saudi and living in Saudi Arabia.”
However as a guest in this country, I prefer to take a back seat to calling out the social problems in Saudi Arabia and let the voices of Saudi women take the lead. I have this attitude because I know that some Saudis resent foreign intervention and interference in their affairs. Once Saudi women make the outcry against injustice or call for changes/reforms and I feel that it is something I can support, especially if I am affected by it personally, I join my voice in chorus with theirs.
Tara Umm Omar
(1) “Forced and arranged marriages: Marriage is not slavery, it is the union between two willing individuals and they should never be forced to live with someone without their acquiscience. Unfortunately some guardians of women do not take into account the feelings of their wards. They use them for their own gains without considering the best interests of their female charge. One of the most atrocious examples of this is when an eight year old girl was married off to a much older man. The case was fodder for the Western media and human rights watchers. The girl’s father is objecting to her right of having this marriage annulled.”