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.
The politics of cyberspace is of importance both for the future use of
computer-mediatedcommunication1 (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
The use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) might contribute to the formation of new forms and processes of politics, or cyberspace itself may become normalised, its politics merely reflecting offline politics. This chapter outlines the most suitable theoretical framework for the analysis of environmentalists' activities to establish a coherent understanding of technological change. Social movement theories explain the formation, nature and workings of social movements, and explore the how and the why of their actions and their impact upon civil society. Any examination of CMC use by activists requires not only an understanding of the processes of political activism but a framework through which technological change can be conceptualised. There has been relatively little attempt to examine the implications of CMC use within social movement debates.
This chapter explores the ways in which environmental activists view and negotiate the paradox of using the potentially environmentally damaging technology of computer-mediated communication (CMC). By negotiating the quandaries, many activists are able to resolve their tensions. The different ways in which they do so can be isolated into main tendencies, but such classification illustrates some of the basic diversities between participants of the British environmental movement. The chapter examines the consequences of this negotiation of techno-environmentalism. It begins with an appraisal of the attitudes to technology espoused by environmentalists. The chapter explores their views on CMC and their understandings of the environmental consequences of computer usage. Environmental activists also overcome the apparent contradictions in their use of CMC and their preference for appropriate technology by mitigating the environmentally damaging effects of computer usage.
This chapter examines how environmentalists' attitudes towards inclusion are translated into their use of computer-mediated communication (CMC). It outlines the importance of inclusiveness to environmentalists. The chapter demonstrates that the interviewees' attitudes, while reflecting a desire for inclusion, lead to practices of exclusion. It explores the ways in which environmental activists have secured access to the technologies, how they have tackled any problems encountered and, additionally, whether CMC use has altered organisational forms. In addition to acknowledging and attempting to resolve the access problems they faced, activists employed CMC as a way to create new avenues of access to information they wanted to distribute. Access can be mediated by membership to a group and CMC use could alter the functions and structure of an organisation. The chapter further considers the effects of organisational form on CMC use, and the effects of CMC on organisational forms.
This chapter begins by considering how the interviewees have used computer-mediated communication (CMC) to mobilise participation. It explains the use of CMC to assist (international) networking and the organisation of environmental activism. In addition to mobilisation, CMC has been used by the interviewees to facilitate networking and to boost solidarity among activists. CMC has been used by activists to create, or reinforce existing, linkages with other groups, both nationally and internationally. There were significant impediments to the use of CMC in mobilising participation and in developing new global linkages. A key hindrance to the use of CMC to mobilise participation was the poverty of online engagements. Interpersonal relations can be difficult via email, and online involvement can be transitory. The chapter concludes that rather than mobilising new cohorts of participation CMC serves to strengthen existing networks.
Environmental activists have utilised diverse tactics in the attempt to assert their influence upon the decision-making process and society. This chapter begins with an examination of the use online tactics for environmental activism and the reticence to engage in such use. It considers the use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) as a substitute for the mainstream media on which people have relied, and hence for the production of digital alternative media (DAM). Concurrent to the use of any tactics, environmentalists usually consider the ways in which they will publicise their actions prior to and after the event. CMC has been used to extend existing tactics into the realm of cyberspace and in developing new forms of action. The chapter concludes by exploring whether these changes in online tactics and alternative media production enable environmental activists to be more effective in achieving their aims and targeting their adversaries.
The threat of surveillance has led many environmentalists to fear that computer-mediated communication (CMC) is another temporary, rather than a long-standing, space for resistance. This chapter examines environmental activists' perceptions of, and reactions to, online surveillance and counter-strategy, and the implications these threats have for CMC as a space for activism. It describes the way in which these perceptions inform and affect their use of CMC are considered, detailing tactics which the interviewees have employed to negotiate surveillance. The chapter outlines the responses of the state and corporate bodies to environmentalists' CMC. The online surveillance and its associated counter-strategies form an additional dynamic to the tensions between the threats and opportunities of CMC use for environmentalists. The chapter considers the impact of these tensions upon the perception of CMC as a new space for activism.
Protest movements are continually appropriating new technologies. This chapter examines the early stages of computer-mediated communication (CMC) use and emphasises that this was a crucial period which determined frameworks of technology use. It explores how the technological changes have influenced environmental politics. The chapter also examines the broader implications of CMC use for social movements. CMC is facilitating the decentralisation of the environmental movement and the rise of grassroots activism. Cyberspace, and the use of CMC, constitute a contested terrain for environmentalists. The increasingly high profile of environmental internet activism in the mainstream media has focused attention on the use of the technology for subversive purposes, and has given their opponents cause to constrict activists' use of CMC. The chapter concludes by examining the possibilities for online activism.
D.L. Hoffman, T.P. Novak and A. Schlosser, ‘The evolution of the digital divide: how gaps in internet access may impact electronic commerce’, Journal of Computer-MediatedCommunication 5.3 (2000), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2000.tb00341.x (accessed 7 December 2021).
M. Castells, The Internet Galaxy (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 248