The euphoria of Occupy and the ‘Arab Spring’ seems a long way away. The mass movements on the streets and in the squares from 2010 to 2013 seemed to many to open up new forms of collective politics amidst a new global geography of public spaces – Tahrir Square (Cairo), Gezi Park (Istanbul), Zuccotti Park (New York), Puerta del Sol Square (Madrid), Syntagma square (Athens)…and many more. In his overview Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (2012), Paul Mason wrote that ‘There is a great river of human hope flowing’.
Manuel Castells – who I heard speaking at Occupy London to an audience seated on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral – also saw new hope in the emergence of non-hierarchical, non-programmatic ‘networked social movements’, facilitated and indeed transformed by new social media technologies, with ‘mass self-communication, based on horizontal networks of interactive, multidirectional communication on the internet and, even more so, in wireless communication networks’. Indeed, Castells argued, ‘the internet provides the organisational communication platform to transform the culture of freedom into the practice of autonomy’ (‘Network of Outrage and hope: social movements in the internet age’, 2012).
But right now, towards the end of 2014, it is increasingly difficult to sustain this optimism. [Read more →]