Time to Unplug and Reboot: Innovative Forms of Political Engagement and Organization

Fri 11 October 2013

The Institute for Governance is thrilled to announce our latest International Comparative Research Project; Time to Unplug and Reboot

Time to Unplug and Reboot is a joint venture between IGPA and the Federal University of Minas Gerais/Brazil.

The project team includes Professor Henrik Bang (IGPA), Dr Selen Ercan (IGPA), Mr Max Halupka (IGPA), Dr Michael Jensen (IGPA) and Dr Ricardo Mendanco (Federal University of Minas Gerais).

It started out in Taksim Gezi Park in the centre of Istanbul on 28 May 2013 - demonstration over plans to build a shopping mall in this space. Efforts by the Turkish government to forcibly evict the demonstrators within days transformed the protest from a local development issue to a wider demonstrations across Turkey and internationally concerning a broad range of issues including government encroachment on freedom of speech and the press, secularism, and general perceptions that the government had adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach to governance. Around the same time, a number of cities in Brazil began raising the cost of public transport sparking demonstrations. While the transport fee hikes were the proximate cause of the demonstrations, the crackdown on dissent provoked widespread demonstrations across Brazil with the proliferation of demands concerning: the interests of the working poor, infrastructure problems and poor quality public services, corruption and a lack of transparency, and misplaced priorities and cost overruns in relation to Brazil's hosting of the World Cup in 2014 and Summer Olympics in 2016. Though the initial causes of the demonstrations were linked to local issues, demands quickly expanded to a wide range of policy issues and concerns about the style of governance, particularly in the face of the government response. In both cases, the internet and, more specifically, social media, played a decisive role in enabling movement communications between protest sites and to a global audience.

The project analyses cases such as these with respect to the creation of new forms of everyday politics, political organizing and political community. It examines their consequences for formal democratic institutions, the associational, cultural and public spheres of civil society, the construction and negotiation of movement identities, the development of deliberative capacities, and the coordination between multiple levels of the demonstrations. The overall aim is to lay out new paths for making use of digitalized communication and interaction to establish more balanced relations of autonomy and dependence between political experts of all kinds and laypeople in their diverse political communities.

This project utilises a diverse set of methodological approaches including surveys of participants in the demonstrations, semi-structured interviews with the participants, and analyses of social media and web forum communications. It also draws upon our previous work on the Occupy Wall Street movement which analysed over 100,000 social media messages and profiles using automated content analyses programmed by the researchers. Within the span of four days the scholars created an original survey and began interviewing participants in the demonstrations around the world along with collecting social media communications produced by the these movements. The project compares the 2013 Turkish protests with the Brazilian protests with the aim of identifying broader shifts in the way political participation is understood and practiced.


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