Framing Social Movement Identity with Cyber-Artifacts: A Case Study of the International Falun Gong Movement

  • Yi-Da ChenEmail author
  • Ahmed AbbasiEmail author
  • Hsinchun ChenEmail author
Part of the Annals of Information Systems book series (AOIS, volume 9)


Framing a collective identity is an essential process in a social movement. The identity defines the orientation of public actions to take and establishes an informal interaction network for circulating important information and material resources. While domestic social movements emphasize the coherence of identity in alliance, global or cyber-activism is now flexible in its collective identity given the rise of the Internet. A campaign may include diverse social movement organizations (SMOs) with different social agendas. This flexible identity framing encourages personal involvement in direct action. On the other hand, it may damage solidarity within SMOs and make campaigns difficult to control. To assess the sustainability of an SMO, it is important to understand its collective identity and the social codes embedded within its associated cyber-societies and cyber-artifacts. In this study, we took a cyber-archeology approach and used the international Falun Gong (FLG) movement as a case study to investigate this identity-framing issue. We employed social network analysis and Writeprint to analyze FLG’s cyber-artifacts from the perspectives of links, web content, and forum content. In the link analysis, FLG’s websites linked closely to Chinese democracy and human rights SMOs, reflecting FLG’s historical conflicts with the Chinese government after the official ban in 1999. In the web content analysis, we used Writeprint to analyze the writings of Hongzhi Li and of his editors, and found that Hongzhi Li’s writings center around the ideological teaching of Falun Dafa while the editors post specific programs to realize Li’s teaching. In the forum content analysis, FLG comprehensively organizes several different concepts on a continuum: from FLG ideology to life philosophy and mysterious phenomena, and from mysterious phenomena to anti-Chinese Communist Party and persecution by conceptualizing the Chinese government as the Evil. By deploying those cyber-artifacts, FLG seamlessly connects different ideologies and establishes its identity as a Qi-Gong, religious, and activist group.


Social movement Collective identity Falun Gong Internet Social network analysis Writeprints 



 Funding for this research was provided by NSF, “CRI: Developing a Dark Web Collection and Infrastructure for Computational and Social Sciences,” 2007–2010.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Artificial Intelligence Lab, Department of Management Information SystemsUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Sheldon B. Lubar School BusinessUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

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