The politics of cyberspace is of importance both for the future use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and within traditional political arenas, commerce and society itself. Within Britain there are many different political groups that have a presence online and utilise CMC, including for example members of the far right, human rights advocates, religious groups and environmental activists. This book examines the relationship between the strategies of environmental activist movements in Britain and their use of CMC. It explores how environmental activists negotiate the tensions and embrace the opportunities of CMC, and analyses the consequences of their actions for the forms and processes of environmental politics. It serves as a disjuncture from some broader critiques of the implications of CMC for society as a whole, concentrating on unpacking what CMC means for activists engaged in social change. Within this broad aim there are three specific objectives. It first evaluates how CMC provides opportunities for political expression and mobilization. Second, the book examines whether CMC use has different implications for established environmental lobbying organisations than it does for the non-hierarchical fluid networks of direct action groups. Third, it elucidates the influence of CMC on campaign strategies and consequently on business, government and regulatory responses to environmental activism.
operations as much as some of the more radical
groups; however, it has rooted its philosophy in the importance of participation. Furthermore, in Britain the significant integration of NGOs within
the movement – in terms of communication between differing environmental groups and co-ordination of joint campaigns between NGOs such as FoE
and radical direct action groups – demands their inclusion in an analysis of
the operations of that movement (Doherty 1996). However, NGOs are
included only as one component of the much larger network of diverse
groups and individuals which
The politics of cyberspace is of importance both for the future use of
computer-mediated communication1 (CMC) and within traditional political arenas, commerce and society itself. As illustrated with the J18 protests,
the incorporation by political activists of CMC within their repertoire will
influence not only their own campaigning abilities, but the responses
required by governments and security forces.
Technological changes in communication have long been recognised as
important to the development of cohesion between dispersed
being repeated or were not inclusive of those
without CMC access. For GSN, having an email list had eased many of their
previous communication difficulties, but it now meant that ‘sometimes
there’s a problem with discussions moving on, leaving certain people
behind without them being involved in the formulation of certain ideas and
plans’ (Tristram, GSN). However, overall, ‘It’s still more accessible than anything we could have created any other way’ (Dave Morris, McSpotlight).
Thus even those who accepted that access was limited argued that this
should not detract
participate in an interactive debate (Kellner 1998; Walch 1999).
As the nature of protest diversifies to include CMC, and as activists
network with each other through new forms of communication, the notion
of an environmental movement may also change. Furthermore, if relationships could be built between a greater number of individuals and groups
through CMC, then there is a possibility that more democratic models
could be organised so as to facilitate the environmentalists’ goal of participatory democracy. All of these possibilities, however, are reliant upon
what was posted online and it was
necessary for environmentalists to encrypt their email communication.
Such actions restrict the usefulness of CMC for communication and preserve face-to-face (or at least word of mouth) dialogue as the safer form of
The chapter begins with an examination of environmental activists’ perceptions of the surveillance of their activities and the counter-strategies
adopted (and of where they perceive the source of this threat to be). Second,
the way in which these perceptions inform and affect their use of CMC are
cyberspace as a site (and form) of resistance.
They illustrate also how interaction between the offline and the virtual can
produce practical outcomes for environmental activism.
The forms of British environmental politics changed in the 1990s
(Rootes 1992; Scott and Street 2001). The emergent ‘new politics’ or ‘new
political culture’ (Clark and Hoffman-Martinot 1998) has been marked by
novel methods of political communication and action which employ cultural symbols and the mass media to convey their message. Although the
extent of the ‘newness’ of this cultural turn in
ultimately tarnishing the activists’ message:
‘I think it was a bit of a policy . . . to not do irritating things, not try to bomb
McDonald’s server so that it closed down . . . We wanted to be seen as a
library, taking the high moral ground’ (Jessy, McSpotlight).
Online attacks by environmentalists were seen by some as tantamount
to blackmail rather than as encouraging positive change in the interests of
the environment: ‘It is important to keep channels of communication open,
and it is better to create an avenue for the organised expression of many
views through a
argue that forms of AT are acceptable – an individual’s
position is often not so clear cut. Such views of technology have been
further complicated by the increasing adoption of CMC by activists.
Uses of computers: advocates and detractors
[T]here are two kinds of technology – the enabling, democratic sort, that
allows people to swap information and ideas by circumventing the powers
that be, and the other technocratic sort that allows only top-down, one-way
communication. In the former corner we have the telephone . . . the photocopier, Citizen Band radio – and the
As the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 has slowly revealed a shadowy background of outsourcing and deregulation, and a council turning a blind eye to health and safety concerns, many questions need answers. Stuart Hodkinson has those answers. Safe as Houses weaves together Stuart’s research over the last decade with residents’ groups in council regeneration projects across London to provide the first comprehensive account of how Grenfell happened and how it could easily have happened in multiple locations across the country. It draws on examples of unsafe housing either refurbished or built by private companies under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to show both the terrible human consequences of outsourcing and deregulation and how the PFI has enabled developers, banks and investors to profiteer from highly lucrative, taxpayer-funded contracts. The book also provides shocking testimonies of how councils and other public bodies have continuously sided with their private partners, doing everything in their power to ignore, deflect and even silence those who speak out. The book concludes that the only way to end the era of unsafe regeneration and housing provision is to end the disastrous regime of self-regulation. This means strengthening safety laws, creating new enforcement agencies independent of government and industry, and replacing PFI and similar models of outsourcing with a new model of public housing that treats the provision of shelter as ‘a social service’ democratically accountable to its residents.