MegaPost on #21M Berkman Workshop

On March 21st, Harvard Berkman Center hold a workshop entitled “Understanding the New Wave of Social Cooperation: A Triangulation of the Arab Revolutions, European Mobilizations and the American Occupy Movement” and the class reflected on this event through this series of blog posts:

Artist As Researcher? Researcher As Artist?

Gabi’s interest in the study of narrative in social movements draws his attention to ask what the role of the artist is. During this workshop they had a discussion that researchers need to be careful in producing stories as the narratives could be crucial in the process of mobilization in movements, and it made Gabi to think the role of artist might not be just poster design or sign painting. Inspired by Sasha’s presentation on individual’s media practices that generate narratives across different media forms and the term of life-course, Gabi concludes the role of artist is “challenging the system using the means with which one is most comfortable—the tools used throughout a creator’s life-course.”

Historical Framing and Solidarity

Nathalie particularly reflects on the point of global wave of movements by a presenter in the Berkman workshop and she asks what the precedent global wave means for future movements. Then she draws on Kennedy’s article “Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Historical Frames: 2011, 1989, 1968” to compare movements historically. According to this article, the 2011 Occupy movement should not be compared with 1989 global wave of movements, but should be compared with 1968 movements because both are the reaction to the separation of the elites from the mass public. After summarizing Kennedy’s article, Nathalie points out the solidarity reached in previous global movements is a good perspective to look at for their own project.

Government’s Social Meddling
David focuses on humor or ridicule used in the narratives of social movements. Specifically he presents here two examples of how US Government and Russian Government use their networks to produce political content to mock the opponents. In the case of US government, they made all forms of messages such as cartoons and caustic jokes against Saddam Hussein, and disseminated through lots of technology devices in Iraq. Similar to the US government, Russia practiced the program through their news outlets: Novosti Press Agency has a global network that could produce politica publications and even games to poke fun at US, and the network is linked with movements actors in the US.

#21M, Earl & Star Trek
Amy is interested in the point made by one of the participants in the Berkman workshop: we should also look at failures of social movement, not just the ones that succeed. It reminds her the work of Garfinkel discussing what constitutes normalcy. To answer the question of what the normalcy in social movements is, she draws on Earl’s point that “an implicit legitimating system determines which social movements are deemed worthy of academic study”. She argues that the movements that are paid less attention to, such as TV shows, actually used the tactics of the traditional social movements that are thought as worthy of study. She calls us to scrutinize our expectations of what makes a social movement normal.

Power of Narrative and Identity
David summarized many topics discussed in the Berkman Workshop including the common theme in these linked protests, the role of media, the authenticity of information, the framing of movements, the technologies and the culture. Most participants identify a common factor to explain the movements in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and the Yemen is “indignation”, and some say these movements are leftist oriented. The framing of the movements is also important to make the actions sustained. Finally he pointed out that the perspective of how governments manipulate messages in movements was missing in their discussion and his later post has great examples of this aspect.

Thoughts on Berkman Workshop
Kelly raised the question of how the diversity of motivations of people in a movement could influence its identity, framing and tactics. Many in the Berkman Workshop said the composition of participants of the Occupy Movement is quite diversified as some people at the camps are to make a difference which some people there do not even know why they are there. Kelly questions if the 99% framing is too inclusive that makes it difficult to have a single outcome for this movement. She is also interested in the concept of permissioning and asks who involves in permissioning. Lastly, she comments on the reasons for comparing the three movements(Arab Spring, OWS and Europe Contention), drawing from Sidney Tarrow’s book, and she points out that the changes of contentions are more prominent in the past and timing might be important as indicated by one of the participants in the workshop.

More notes and information about the Berkman Event:


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s