E-Movements and the Structure of Collective Action

Event Date: 

Friday, November 7, 2003 - 12:00pm

Event Location: 

  • CTL Trailer 932

Jennifer Earl

Most research on social movements and the Internet has focused on pre-existing movements, which have recently adopted online tactics. This body of research has applied classic social movement theories to such movements, focusing on the faster communication, broader reach, and the expanded mobilization capacity facilitated by the Internet for pre-existing movements. Using the online strategic voting movement during the 2000 US Presidential Election as a case study, Professor Earl and her colleagues argue that the application of prior theory often overlooks the ways in which movements that emerge and thrive online function differently from conventional movements. Specifically, they argue that movement entrepreneurs, instead of social movement organizations, were largely responsible for organizing the strategic voting movement. This more entrepreneurial movement infrastructure brought with it changes in decision-making processes and concerns. Decision making became more discretionary, the importance of leadership declined, decisions about organizational form became less problematic, and ideological and Internet-related concerns informed decision making in lieu of organizational or more standard social movement concerns. However, Earl argues that e-movements, and the strategic voting movement in particular, are not so exotic that they constitute fundamentally new forms of action; instead, such movements are still usefully thought of as social movements. Originally recorded November 7, 2003 at UC Santa Barbara.