Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: #digital_disruption @amnesty international : from digital to networked to hybrid activism : a case study of the meaning and adoption of digital activism in changing 20th century civil society organisations
Author: Özkula, Suay Melisa
ISNI:       0000 0004 6347 5281
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
Like many organisations in the 21st century, longstanding civil society organisations are facing new challenges in adapting to the digital age. This thesis addresses those concerns through an exploration of the social meaning and contextualised effects of digital activism at case study Amnesty International. It provides a socio-cultural account of AI and a conceptual perspective on digital activism as part of Amnesty's digitalisation processes. It explores existing concerns around the tension between the potential of digital activism for more decentralised, grassroots movements through broadened political participation, and the more centralised and hierarchical structures developed by long-standing humanitarian organisations - a problem which has been described as the tension between networks and hierarchies (e.g. Lindgren 2013a: 24-25) or between sovereignty and networks (Galloway & Thacker 2007: 1). This study contends that there are analytical issues and conceptual implications in describing the new activism as "digital", as what I shall call "digitality" here is neither the sole nor the primary feature along which activism has changed in recent years. The study will argue that digital activism is conceptually dysfunctional because practices described as digital activism aren't always based predominantly on digital activities, which is reflected in participants' descriptions of the phenomenon. Digitality as a descriptor is therefore misleading. The concepts of networked activism (activism based on wide social networks as facilitated by digital technology) and hybrid activism (activism based on top-down and bottom-up co-construction) will therefore be suggested as potentially more suitable descriptions or categories for what has thus far been called digital activism. Those attributes were highlighted as the dominant characteristics of the new activism by study participants. The thesis further argues that humanitarian organisations are facing difficulties in conceptualising and adopting digital activism to the extent that digital activism has become disruptive to them. For that purpose, the thesis draws on Simon Lindgren's (2013a) work on the sociology of digital disruption. The thesis argues that digital disruption occurs as a result of digital activism challenging hierarchical organisational structures, practices, and cultures, leading to structural and cultural changes. It further argues that, in response to the cultural and structural challenges posed by digital activism, the organisation is moving away from an understanding of digital activism and culture as something that is digital towards something that is networked, which is reflected in participant views and the organisation' restructuring of its digital work from a centralised to a networked model. There are also tentative efforts at Amnesty International to move beyond a network model towards co-constructive (hybrid) working practices with its constituencies. As evidence for the disruptive potential of digital activism the thesis will provide staff members' differing views of digital media and digital activism, uncertainty surrounding the terminology for digital activism, and the organisation's continuously changing integration of digital work (digitalisation). The findings draw on data from a multi-method quasi-ethnographic case study of digital activism conceptualisations and practices at Amnesty International. The methods include participant observation offline at the organisation's headquarters in London, online observation in the internal Amnesty International Social Media Managers' Facebook group, and 20 interviews with AI staff members.
Supervisor: Wilkinson, Iain Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available