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Title: ICT activism in authoritarian regimes : organisation, mobilisation and contexts
Author: Erayja, Salem Ali S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2186
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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The world has witnessed many contentious political situations in recent years, such as the Arab Spring, in which information and communication technologies (ICT) have arguably played a critical role. Although there is wide scholarly agreement that ICT enable fast and low cost activism, their role in creating significant changes offline remains ambiguous. The research to date has focused on a more democratic context; however, in non-democratic contexts, the political and social environment is critically different, which could influence social movements’ use of ICT and their impact. Therefore, online activism in an Arab authoritarian context requires further empirical investigations. Based on 30 semi-structured interviews with activists from six insider and outsider groups, this thesis investigates the role of ICT in the socio-political context of Saudi Arabia, focussing on movements’ activities concerning formation, organisation and mobilisation. It has been found that the socio-political context is critical in shaping both constraints and opportunities for movements’ activities. The repressive political system, the power of religion and social traditions can act as constraints on activism. However, ICT offer significant platforms that enable activists to challenge the reality of the context and turn such constraints into opportunities. The thesis introduces the LOAF model to explain the six stages of progression for online activism formation. In addition, I argue that the decentralised organisational structure of outsider movements, along with the new form of rotated leadership online, can be understood as a strategic response to the repressive context. Insider movements, as less repressed groups, tend to form their organisation in a more bureaucratic way. ICT effectively facilitate activists with an alternative mobilisation tool to recruit elites, raise awareness and challenge the public’s cultural and political understandings. Finally, I conclude that in order to reach more nuanced conclusions, social movement research should consider both the nature of the socio-political environment (authoritarian or otherwise), and the stage of formation that the investigated movement has achieved.
Supervisor: Voltmer, Katrin ; Parry, Katy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available