Research on media technology, protest and online activism must take account of three factors – the technologies and the people, organisations and movements that use them, and the context in which they are used.
The research paper Structure and Forms of Use (published in Information, Communication & Society, 2004) looked through the prism of the social shaping of technology to develop a concept of “forms of use”. Forms of use suggests technology is neither independent, nor completely socially shaped. Rather, technological development is constrained by both the “basic structural properties of the technology” (you can’t use a TV to make toast!) and the social context of its use. However, uses can shape the technology. This paper looks at how different uses influence technological development, suggesting that those with greater resources tend to have a greater influence. The implications for media technology, protest and online activism are significant.
Extending from Structure and Forms of Use, the paper Colonization tendencies in the development of the world wide web (published in New Media & Society, 2005) looked at how the world wide web was shaped. The research how standards bodies influence the ways in which it developed, and the way different interests impacted on the standards organisations.
This PhD research into media technology, protest and online activism, published as Conflicting Forms of Use: The Potential of and Limits to the Use of the Internet as a Public Sphere (PhD Thesis, 2007) delves into the history of media technologies, looking at how radical potential was repressed. It them moves to a history of the internet, based on interviews with the original internet engineers and documentary analysis. The main interest in this research was how radical activist groups, social movements and online protests developed forms of use, and the way other interests came to conflict with them.
This paper looks at how radical media practices can develop good senses of community and play an important role in social justice movements The Goods of Community? The Potential of Journalism as a Social Practice, Philosophy of Management, 2015.
The following research looks at how online activism is set in a context of governments, states, laws and the police. Online or not, activists are not free to do what they want, no matter how free they feel. Each of the articles looks at how radical media projects, protesters and activists faced state repression.
Democracy & Online News: Indymedia and the Limits of Participatory Media, Scan Journal of Media, Arts, Culture, 2006
Emergent Social Movements in Online Media and States of Crisis: Analyzing the Potential for Resistance and Repression Online in Cyberactivism on the Participatory Web, Edited by Martha McCaughey, 2014. You can read the full version here.
Indymedia and the Law: Issues for Citizen Journalism, Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives, 2009