May 8, 2009

The Internet and social movements

How can the Internet shape a social movement? One possible explanation is the so called long tail effect. The Internet-based modes of communication allow for distributed participation of multiple individuals. Before the Internet the communication was one-to-many, similar to mass media. Mobilizing activities were limited in variety and channels, so they had to affect as many people as possible the same kind of message. For example, a leaflet would be produced, copied, and distributed among people.

With the Internet and ICTs that facilitate easy production and dissemination of materials there can be multiple messages with multiple meanings distributed by multiple actors. These multiple networking points create an aggregate effect and mobilize people. To verify whether it works this way, one would have to compare a movement before and after the Internet use. Would the Pareto 80-20 principle hold in the age of the Internet?