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This thesis examines environmental activists' use of computer mediated communication. It explores the limitations and possibilities of activists development of a radical and democratic 'technopolitics' developing from the use of the technology by political activists. Social movement theories are employed as the theoretical framework of this research.
The findings presented here are based on seven case studies (Friends of the Earth UK, the Centre for Alternative Technology, Green Student Network, McSpotlight, SchNEWS, Save Westwood, Lyminge Forest campaign and the Mobile Office), 80 in-depth interviews, and two on-line surveys. The research was conducted between June 1997 and June 1999.
Environmentalists' use of computer mediated communication has contributed to the development of new forms and processes of environmental politics as well as the reconstitution of old ways of operating. The constraints and opportunities of computer mediated communication have been negotiated and embraced by the interviewees. Consequently, interviewees were: (i) modifying, not rejecting, the use of high technology; (ii) able to extend the control they had over the production of their own media; (iii) capable of decreasing environmentalists' containability by their opponents; (iv) able to strengthen the cohesion of the movement; (v) better able to swarm opponents using a variety of tactics simultaneously; and (vi) operate at an increased speed.
Environmentalists' use of the technology has four further implications. First, that cyberspace, and the use of computer mediated communication, is a site of political and cultural struggle. Second, that cyberspace may only be a temporary space of resistance. Third, that environmentalists have maintained the importance of the off-line and local. Rather than immersing themselves in a virtual world, and becoming dislocated from real world affairs, environmentalists have combined the advantages of using the technology with a commitment to off-line politics - thus signalling to the rest of society the primary importance of the protection of the environment on earth, above and beyond all other actions and affairs. Finally, that the use of computer mediated communication has disproportionately benefited small, grassroot groups who often suffer from a lack of resources.
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Detailed summary of thesis
Details about case studies used
Online questionnaires and data
3rd January 2003