“Sister‐Groups” and Online‐Offline Linkages in Networked Collective Action: A Case Study of the Right to Information Movement in India

In this paper, the rise of hyperlinked activist communities, and their role in organizing, coordinating and supporting offline (physical) activism, is discussed as a new form of information and communication technology (ICT)‐enabled collective action. The role of networked civil society in India is examined in the context of the movement for the right to information (RTI), which is known as freedom of information (or FOI) in some Western democracies. The paper focuses on the role of RTI‐related online discussion groups, known to each other as “sister‐groups”, and their offline networks in generating collaborations towards collective actions, at least in the short term. The study assumes significance in light of attention surrounding the highly visible, ICT‐driven anti‐corruption movement of 2011, often referred to as “India's Arab Spring”. By examining a period of comparably intense collective action in the real and virtual worlds by the RTI movement during 2006, the paper takes a step back to look at the emerging connections between ICTs and civil society in India. A thematic analysis (N=959) is conducted of the email discussion messages of the premier RTI e‐group in India, the Hum Janenge (‘We Will Know’) yahoo group, in August 2006, during which sister‐groups rallied against the federal government's proposal to amend the RTI legislation. The thematic analysis reveals the types of collective actions that materialized; the role of Hum Janenge and its sister‐groups in creating a relatively unified and coordinated RTI campaign; as well as the difficulties in sustaining collective actions, despite the connecting medium of the internet. It is found that the existence of networked online communities amplifies the abilities of activists and enables greater coordination of collective actions, rather than create any new repertoires of collective action; a finding that resonates with arguments about the role of technology as amplifier.

Source: EJISDC


Activism, Civil society, Collective action, Information and communication technologies (ICTs), Internet, Networked communities, Right to information, Sister-groups

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