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Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age (Acting with Technology) Hardcover – March 4, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"A provocative look at how e-activism is changing the nature of contentious politics. Social movement scholars may want to rethink some of their assumptions." W. Lance Bennett , Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication and Professor of Political Science, University of Washington, and Director, Center for Communication & Civic Engagement

"Earl and Kimport deliver a compelling and layered argument that dissects how and when activists' uses of the Web profoundly alter the fields of power that organize social movements (and, just as importantly, when the Web doesn't matter all that much). If you want to know how Web-based mobilizations, movements, and tactics have irrevocably redefined activism, read this book! It is critical reading for digital media scholars but also a must-read for anyone who cares about grassroots organizing and social change." Mary L. Gray , Department of Communication and Culture, Indiana University

"Even as e-tactics have proliferated and commentators have advanced hyperbolic claims for the effectiveness of cyber activism, systematic studies of this brave new world have lagged behind. No more. With their groundbreaking study of 'digitally enabled social change,' Earl and Kimport have gone a long way toward filling the void. Must-reading for anyone who hopes to understand online and offline activism in the age of the Internet." Doug McAdam , Professor of Sociology, Stanford University

"Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport convincingly apply the classical concerns of social movement theory to mobilization in today's media environment. They reveal that many of the roles that were once the unique domain of social movement organizations are now melting away in the era of Web-enabled collective -- and individual -- action. This book has wide-ranging significance for the study of sociology, politics, and communication." Andrew Chadwick , Professor of Political Science and Codirector of the New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway, University of London

About the Author

Jennifer Earl is Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona.

Katrina Kimport is Assistant Professor with ANSIRH, a program of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco.


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Product Details

  • Series: Acting with Technology
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (March 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262015102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262015103
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,427,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bruce B on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Earl & Kimport take on what I like to think of as the silent debate between scholars of digital media and collective action on the one hand, and many traditional experts on social movements, protest, interest groups, and political mobilization on the other. The traditional view encompasses the concession that collective action can happen quickly now because of digital media; but that view has been, frankly, rather skeptical that anything important is happening. Or at least that digital media are really central to those visibly important developments that do occur in the present era.

Earl & Kimport throw down a serious challenge, by arguing that there is more going on than decreased costs and speed in the world of protest and social movements: resource accumulation is not a pre-requisite, organization-building is not necessary, co-presence is not necessary, and neither is a strongly shared collective identity. They are interested in what this means theoretically.

A key part of their argument is that digital media make costs a variable, whereas costs were previously understood as a fixed requirement of social movements. When costs are variable, then so are things that depend on costs, such as organization.

This is a solid idea and they are almost certainly right. I would like to see this argument fleshed out further, however. They make the case that digital media may in some cases not change the underlying dynamics of collective action but simply magnify or accelerate some aspects of it, which they call the "supersize" effect. In other cases, use of digital media transforms collective action into what they call the world of "theory 2.0.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. E Pearce on October 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is great for academics already engaged in studying social movements or those that are interested in the division between online and offline activities in any organization. However, this book is accessible to non-academic audiences interested in the topic. I also could envision it being used as a textbook - certainly in a graduate course and possibly in an advanced undergraduate course as well. I believe that the accessibility is due to clear structure and examples that are not cherrypicked to make a point, rather they illustrate concepts with strong empirical evidence behind them.

Digitally Enabled Social Change is not so much an answer to Shirky's (2008) Here Comes Everyone as much as it is the book that, if published before Shirky's, might have forced him to reorganize his thoughts and engage more deeply with the rich scholarship that social activism and movement researchers have been creating for decades.

Earl and Kimport's book combines a deep literature review on a wide variety of related concepts (and they do an excellent job combining findings articulately), strong theoretical arguments, and a unique dataset that allows the authors to make empirical conclusions that are not altogether dissimilar from Shirky's, but are certainly better rooted. And although they work within the existing literature, they focus on the similarities and differences that exist in web-based activism.

While some scholars argue that online activism is not altogether different from offline activism, Earl and Kimport's primary argument is that, in fact, exploring how and why affordances are leveraged on the web contributes to our understanding of social activism.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J Hunt on September 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Earl and Kimport have put forth the most comprehensive and thought provoking take on online activism to date. Addressing arguments made by both social movements and technology/media scholars, the authors demonstrate how utilization of information and communication technologies are fundamentally changing the nature of activism and protest in the 21st century.

Their analysis goes much deeper than the "reduction in time and costs" viewpoint that has dominated discussion on online activism so far, by emphasizing the previously overlooked importance of the new found ability of people to partake in collective action without necessarily being in the same place at the same time. This revelation has enormous implications for traditional social movement theory, and Earl and Kimport clearly show that online activism can't be squeezed into the framework under which social movements are currently understood. In essence, this book is a call that should be heard loud and clear for new understandings, new discussions, and new directions for social movements research.

Excellently conceptualized, thoroughly researched, and well written, this book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in social movements or technology/media studies, whether they be expert or novice, as everyone will find much to learn within these pages.
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