Digital Deceleration. Protest and Societal Irritation in the Internet Age

Digitale Entschleunigung. Protest und Irritation im Internet-Zeitalter

Abstract

Our article examines new potentials for systemic irritation in the Internet age and focuses on the processes of synchronization between media, politics, and law. First, we discuss antipodal assessments of what is accelerated in the digital society: (a) the frequency and accessibility of attempts at “correcting society”, or (b) the perceived need for societal rectification. Based on empirical case studies on social protest movements, investigative journalism, and online petition platforms, we subsequently elaborate our main thesis that the technical improvement of communication structures per se does not necessarily increase the likelihood of the addressed societal systems evaluating the correction queries. Instead, the search for and the design of opportune forms of irritation remain a complex organizational process. To irritate other societal contexts effectively, civil counter forces exercise self-control particularly regarding temporality, retarding their operations according to the operational speed of the addressed meaning systems. This deliberate deceleration in operational timing is considerably facilitated by digital technologies. In the final chapter, we contextualize our empirical findings within a broader evolutionary perspective on social reality construction.

Zusammenfassung

Unser Beitrag untersucht neue Irritationspotentiale im Internet-Zeitalter und fokussiert Synchronisationsprozesse zwischen Massenmedien, Politik und Recht. Zunächst diskutieren wir die unterschiedlichen Einschätzungen bezüglich dessen, was in der digitalen Gesellschaft beschleunigt wird: (a) die Häufigkeit und Durchlässigkeit von gesellschaftlichen Korrekturversuchen oder (b) der Bedarf an Gesellschaftskorrektur. Auf Grundlage empirischer Fallskizzen zu Protestbewegungen, Investigativ-Journalismus und Online-Petitionsplattformen kommen wir zu unserer Kernthese, dass die technische Effektivierung von Kommunikation allein nicht mit einer erhöhten Wahrscheinlichkeit der Aufnahme solcher Korrekturanfragen in den Zielsystemen einhergeht. Stattdessen bleibt die Gestaltung anschlussgünstiger Formen ein organisational aufwändiger Prozess. Um andere gesellschaftliche Kontexte nachhaltig zu irritieren, üben sich zivilgesellschaftliche Gegenmächte in einer insbesondere die Zeitdimension betreffenden Zurückhaltung, passen ihre Taktung an die Operationsgeschwindigkeit der adressierten Sinnsysteme an. Diese Entschleunigung wird wesentlich durch Digitaltechnologien ermöglicht. Im letzten Abschnitt ordnen wir unsere Ergebnisse in eine evolutionäre Perspektive gesellschaftlicher Wirklichkeitskonstruktion ein.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The following descriptions still hold true for the more recent “Paradise Papers.”.

  2. 2.

    Despite modern outlets emphasis on getting rid of a scoop-mentality, persistence may not be as recent as it seems: Hugo de Burgh (2008, p. 44 f.) already indicated persistence as a constitutive feature in the emergence of investigative journalism, which first became visible in William T. Steads “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” (1885): “Stead published it in segments over several weeks, cliff-hangers attracting customer loyalty. His story was talked of everywhere and commented upon by innumerable other papers, circulation rose and touts sold copies at two hundred times the cover price. Investigative journalism had been invented.”.

  3. 3.

    https://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/digitization/.

  4. 4.

    Dyck et al. (2013, p. 549) see the end of the “muckraking period” in 1917 as the “muckraking magazines’ success […] reduced the newsworthiness of additional inquiries by saturating the public with news of scandals.”.

  5. 5.

    See https://www.theguardian.com/news/commentisfree/2016/apr/05/panama-papers-reaction-offshore-tax-havens; https://gijn.org/2016/06/20/a-golden-age-of-global-muckraking/ (reviewed 6/2018). For the idea of a “Networked Fourth Estate” see Benkler (2011).

References

  1. Alexander, Anne, and Miriyam Aouragh. 2014. Egypt’s unfinished revolution: the role of the media revisited. International Journal of Communication 8:890–915.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Altman, Jon B. 2011. The Revolution will not be tweeted. The Washington Quarterly 34:103–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Baecker, Dirk. 2007. The network synthesis of social action I. Towards a sociological theory of next society. Cybernetics and Human Knowing 14:9–42.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Baldwin, Carliss, and Eric von Hippel. 2011. Modeling a paradigm shift: from producer innovation to user and open collaborative innovation. Organization Science 22:1399–1417.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bautz, Christoph. 2008. Campact – Demokratie in Aktion. Forschungsjournal Neue Soziale Bewegungen 21:107–113.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Benkler, Yochai. 2006. The wealth of networks. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Benkler, Yochai. 2011. A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 46:311–397.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bennett, W. Lance, and Alexandra Segerberg. 2013. The logic of connective action. Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bröckling, Ulrich. 2016. Zukunftsmanagement zwischen Planung, Selbstorganisation und Prävention. In Die neue Wirklichkeit. Semantische Neuvermessungen und Politik seit den 1970er-Jahren, ed. Ariane Leendertz, Wencke Meteling, 269–280. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus.

    Google Scholar 

  10. de Burgh, Hugo. 2008. The emergence of investigative journalism. In Investigative journalism, ed. Hugo de Burgh, 32–52. London/New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Carpentier, Nico, Peter Dahlgren, and Francesca Pasquali. 2013. Waves of media democratization. A brief history of contemporary participatory practices in the media sphere. Convergence 19:287–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Carty, Victoria. 2015. Social movements and new technology. Boulder: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Castells, Manuel. 2013. Networks of outrage and hope. Social movements in the Internet age. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Curran, James, Natalie Fenton, and Des Freedman. 2016. Misunderstanding the internet. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Dencik, Lina, and Oliver Leistert (eds.). 2015. Critical perspectives on social media and protest. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Dickel, Sascha, and Jan-Felix Schrape. 2017. The logic of digital utopianism. Nano Ethics 11(1):47–58.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Dobusch, Leonhard. 2013. ACTA as a case of strategic ambiguity. In Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes, ed. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader, and Sigrid Quack, 124–126. Berlin: Epubli.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Dolata, Ulrich, and Jan-Felix Schrape. 2018. Collectivity and power on the Internet. A sociological perspective. London/Cham: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Dyck, Alexander, David Moss, and Luigi Zingales. 2013. Media versus special interests. Journal of Law and Economics 56:521–553.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Felixberger, Peter, and Evelin Schultheiß. 2016. Ein Gespräch mit Günter Metzges-Diez, Mitgründer des größten deutschen Kampagnen-Netzwerks. Kursbuch 187:74–92.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Finkbeiner, Florian, Hannes Keune, Julian Schenke, Lars Geiges, and Stine Marg. 2016. Stop-TTIP-Proteste in Deutschland. Wer sind, was wollen und was motiviert die Freihandelsgegner? Forschungsbericht Göttinger Institut für Demokratieforschung, Vol. 2016-01. Göttingen: Göttinger Institut für Demokratieforschung.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Fuchs, Christian. 2017. Social media: a critical introduction. London: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Gerbaudo, Paolo. 2012. Tweets and the streets. Social media and contemporary activism. London: Pluto.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hall, Nina. 2017. Innovations in activism in the digital era. Campaigning for refugee rights in 2015–2016. In The Governance Report 2017, ed. Hertie School of Governance, 143–156. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Halupka, Max. 2014. Clicktivism: A systematic heuristic. Policy & Internet 6(2):115–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hamilton, James T. 2016. Democracy’s detectives. The economics of investigative journalism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Houston, Brant. 2010. The Future of Investigative Journalism. Dædalus 139:45–56.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Kaldewey, David. 2017. The grand challenges discourse. Transforming identity work in science and science policy. Minerva https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-017-9332-2.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Kavada, Anastasia. 2015. Creating the collective: social media, the occupy movement and its constitution as a collective actor. Information, Communication & Society 18:872–886.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kjaer, Poul F. 2014. Constitutionalism in the global realm. A sociological approach. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Laux, Henning, and Hartmut Rosa. 2015. Clockwork Politics – Fünf Dimensionen politischer Zeit. In Zeit der Politik. Demokratisches Regieren in einer beschleunigten Welt Leviathan. Berliner Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft, Vol. 43, ed. Holger Straßheim, Tom Ulbricht. Sonderband, 52–70. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Losey, James. 2014. The anti-counterfeiting trade agreement and European civil society: a case study on networked advocacy. Journal of Information Policy 4:205–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Luhmann, Niklas. 1988. Erkenntnis als Konstruktion. Bern: Bertolli.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Luhmann, Niklas. 1990. Gleichzeitigkeit und Synchronisation. In Konstruktivistische Perspektiven Soziologische Aufklärung, Vol. 5, ed. Niklas Luhmann, 92–125. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag. 6 Bände.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Luhmann, Niklas. 2000. The reality of the mass media. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Luhmann, Niklas. 2002. The cognitive program of constructivism and the reality that remains unknown. In Theories of Distinction, ed. Niklas Luhmann, William Rasch, 128–154. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Luhmann, Niklas. 2012. Theory of society. Vol. 1. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Luhmann, Niklas. 2013. Theory of Society. Vol. 2. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Luhmann, Niklas. 2017. Risk. A Sociological Theory. Milton Park: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Milkman, Ruth, Stephanie Luce, and Penny Lewis. 2013. Changing the subject: a bottom-up account for occupy wall street in New York City. New York: The Murphy Institute, City University of New York.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Mölders, Marc. 2014. Irritation expertise. Recipient design as instrument for strategic reasoning. European Journal of Futures Research 2(1):32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Mölders, Marc. 2017. Shaping pressure: on the regulatory effects of publicity. In Society, regulation and governance: new modes of shaping social change?, ed. Regine Paul, Marc Mölders, Alfons Bora, Michael Huber, and Peter Münte, 121–137. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Münte, Peter. 2017. Improving modern society: governing science and technology by engineered participation. In Society, regulation and governance: new modes of shaping social change?, ed. Regine Paul, Marc Mölders, Alfons Bora, Michael Huber, and Peter Münte, 166–180. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Obermayer, Bastian, and Frederik Obermaier. 2017. The Panama papers. Breaking the story of how the rich and powerful hide their money. London: Oneworld.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Rauchfleisch, Adrian, and Marco Kovic. 2016. The Internet and generalized functions of the public sphere: Transformative potentials from a comparative perspective. Social Media + Society 2(2):1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Renn, Joachim. 2006. Übersetzungsverhältnisse. Perspektiven einer pragmatistischen Gesellschaftstheorie. Weilerswist: Velbrück.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Rheingold, Howard. 1993. The virtual community. Boston: Addison Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Rosa, Hartmut. 2013. Social acceleration. A new theory of modernity. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Rosa, Hartmut. 2016. Resonanz. Eine Soziologie der Weltbeziehung. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Rosa, Hartmut, and William E. Scheuermann (eds.). 2009. High-speed society. Social acceleration, power, and modernity. University Park: Penn State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Rosa, Hartmut, Klaus Dörre, and Stephan Lessenich. 2017. Appropriation, activation and acceleration. The escalatory logics of capitalist modernity and the crises of dynamic stabilization. Theory, Culture & Society 34(1):53–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Schrape, Jan-Felix. 2017a. Reciprocal irritations: Social media, mass media and the public sphere. In Society, regulation and governance: New modes of shaping social change?, ed. Regine Paul, Marc Mölders, Alfons Bora, Michael Huber, and Peter Münte, 138–150. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Schrape, Jan-Felix. 2017b. Der Akteur: Konstruktion und Dekonstruktion einer Beobachtungskategorie. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie 42(4):387–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Shirky, Clay. 2009. Here comes everybody.The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Teubner, Gunther. 1983. Substantive and reflexive elements in modern law. Law & Society Review 17(2):239–285. https://doi.org/10.2307/3053348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Teubner, Gunther. 2011. A Constitutional Moment? The Logics of “Hitting the Bottom”. In The financial crisis in constitutional perspective: the dark side of functional differentiation, ed. Poul F. Kjaer, Gunther Teubner, and Alberto Febbrajo, 9–51. Oxford: Hart.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Teubner, Gunther. 2013. The project of constitutional sociology: irritating nation state constitutionalism. Transnational Legal Theory 4(1):44–58. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2419062.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Thornhill, Chris. 2014. Rights and constituent power in the global constitution. International Journal of Law in Context 10(3):357–396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Tilly, Charles. 2002. Stories, identities, and political change. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Tratschin, Luca. 2016. Protest und Selbstbeschreibung: Selbstbezüglichkeit und Umweltverhältnisse sozialer Bewegungen. Bielefeld: transcript.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Verhoeven, Imrat, and Jan W. Duyvendak. 2017. Understanding governmental activism. Social Movement Studies 16(5):564–577.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Voss, Kathrin. 2013. Campact & Co. Wie Hybridorganisationen das Grassrootscampaigning verändern. In Grassroots-Campaigning, ed. Rudolf Speth. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Willke, Helmut. 1992. Societal governace through law? In State, law and economy as Autopoietic systems. Regulation and autonomy in a new perspective, ed. Alberto Febbrajo, Gunther Teubner, 353–387. Milan: Giuffrè.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marc Mölders.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mölders, M., Schrape, J. Digital Deceleration. Protest and Societal Irritation in the Internet Age. Österreich Z Soziol 44, 199–215 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11614-019-00354-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Acceleration
  • Civil society
  • Digitization
  • Internet
  • Irritation
  • Movements
  • Protest
  • Social reality construction
  • Synchronization

Schlüsselwörter

  • Beschleunigung
  • Bewegungen
  • Digitalisierung
  • Gesellschaftliche Wirklichkeitskonstruktion
  • Internet
  • Irritation
  • Protest
  • Synchronisation
  • Zivilgesellschaft