I’m going to be conversing with you today in regards to the role of the Web in political activism. So I spent time with these activists and asked them whether they certainly were using social media, whether or not they certainly were engaging with the Web, and why they may be doing it.
Going out in to the field and talking to political activists is important, since it provides you with an insight to their ideology, their motivations, and why they think it’s important to utilize certain Web technologies.
To be able to go and talk to these activists, I needed a way of research that combined computer science and social science. And that’s where Web science came in.
I’ve a background in international relations, so I knew about political ideology the theory is that and doing an MSc in Web science, and knowing about networks and organisation online was really essential for me.
So with this in your mind, I resulted in in London, prepared to observe how these political activists were using the Web for his or her protests. And what I found was that, broadly now, in 2013, there is apparently lots of apathy, as well as outright hostility, towards the Web and social media.
The primary reason? The NSA.
The story had just broken that large American online corporations, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, were cooperating with the NSA and collecting plenty of personal data activism about citizens from not just America, but throughout the world. This is something which had kind of been known beforehand, although not to this scale. And it put lots of these activists off engaging with your mainstream websites and these mainstream social networking services, simply because they saw them now within the establishment.
If you look back towards the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, these technologies were technologies of liberation for several people. Nevertheless now, only couple of years later, they have become technologies that symbolise surveillance by their state, the loss of privacy by individuals, and the typical ability for both corporations and governments to help keep citizens in line and stop these kind of protests.
Discovering this was extremely important for both my research, but also for Web science. Because I think it showed how it is essential to look at both social and the technical facets of the Web together.
The Web is this thing, that will be computers, but in addition humans. It’s humans influencing technology, and technology influencing humans. And if you never look at how one affects another, it’s very hard to express for certain how society has been changed and developed.