Technology and social activism: an empirical study of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by Indian single-issue groups
This thesis explores the role of new Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) in political organisation. It explores the use of ICTs by singleissue groups – the emergence of which has become a salient feature of contemporary political activity. There has been considerable interest amongst politicians, activists, commentators and social scientists in the contribution of ICT (eg. social media) to democracy and the renewal of political life. Optimistic accounts are especially evident around ‘the Arab Spring', though subsequent experiences have called into question the prevalent technological utopianism of the time. Despite this, we are now building a complete picture of how ICT can contribute to the political organisation. In particular, the significance of new media and technology for single issue groups has not yet been explored in developing countries context. This thesis, therefore, examines the characteristics of single issue groups and how social activists appropriated new media tools and its consequences for political organisation in a developing country: India. A qualitative study was undertaken to focus on two detailed case studies: India Against Corruption (IAC) and the Pink Chaddi campaign. IAC was the traditional activist organisation that used new media to its advantage whereas Pink Chaddi was the pioneering example of online social activism in the India. Forty-three semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of actors involved to understand how single-issue groups appropriated technology and how new practices have emerge from this appropriation. Drawing upon the Social Shaping of Technology perspective (Williams & Edge, 1996) and its extension to Social Learning (Sørensen, 1996), the thesis refutes prevalent deterministic accounts (whether utopian or dystopian) of the impact of new technologies on political organisations. Instead, a detailed account is rendered of the adoption of various communication media and their utilisation in the particular practices and activities of the single-issue groups selected. The results demonstrate that the particular setting shapes the appropriation of new media and the development of new organisation practices: the skills resources and strategies of the local players involved as well as the availability and affordances of technology. The thesis introduces the concept of ‘creative configuration' – to capture the innovative and adaptive process by which the actors involved explored the applicability of general purpose technology infrastructure and tools, assisted by forms of local expertise available to hand, to support organisational objectives. The research examines the applicability of the theory of temporary organisation (Lundin & Söderholm, 1995) to the activities of single-issue groups. It suggests an extension of this theory, highlighting how ‘technology' acts as a catalyst to sustain temporary organisations such as single-issue groups. Further, a framework for sustainable local innovations is proposed to explore lessons for organisations in exploiting technologies sustainably and more efficiently.