Advertisement

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)

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Social movement Collective identity Falun Gong Internet Social network analysis Writeprints 

Notes

Acknowledgments

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

References

  1. 1.
    Abbasi A, Chen H (2005) Applying Authorship Analysis to Extremist-Group Web Forum Messages. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 20: 1541–1672Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Abbasi A, Chen H (2006) Visualizing Authorship for Identification. In: Intelligence and Security Informatics. San Diego, pp. 60–71Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ackland R, O’Neil M, Bimber B, Gibson RK, Ward S (2006) New Methods for Studying Online Environmental-Activist Networks. In: 26th International Sunbelt Social Network Conference, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Almind TC, Ingwersen P (1997) Informetric Analyses on the World Wide Web: Methodological Approaches to Webometrics. Journal of Documentation 53: 404–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bell MR, Boas TC (2003) Falun Gong and the Internet: Evangelism, Community, and Struggle for Survival. Nova Religio 6: 277–293Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bennett W (2003) Communicating Global Activism. Information, Communication and Society 6: 143–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bennett WL (2005) Social Movements Beyond Borders: Understanding Two Eras of Transnational Activism. In: Porta Dd and Tarrow S (eds) Transnational Protest and Global Activism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., New York, pp. 203–226Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Björneborn L, Ingwersen P (2001) Perspective of Webometrics. Scientometrics 50: 65–82Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Björneborn L, Ingwersen P (2004) Toward a Basic Framework for Webometrics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 55: 1216–1227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Clark JD, Themudo NS (2006) Linking the Web and the Street: Internet-based Dotcauses and the Anti-Globalization Movement. World Development 34: 50–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cohen R, Rai SM (2000) Global Social Movements. The Athlone Press, New BrunswickGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Freeman LC (1978/79) Centrality in Social Networks: Conceptual Clarification. Social Networks 1: 215–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Garrido M, Halavais A (2003) Mapping Networks of Support for the Zapatista Movement: Applying Social-Network Analysis to Study Contemporary Social Movements. In: McCaughey M, Ayers MD (eds) Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gerlach LP (2001) The Structure of Social Movements: Environmental Activism and its Opponents. In: Arquilla J, Ronfeldt DF (eds) Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. Rand, Santa Monica, pp. 289–309Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jones Q (1997) Virtual-Communities, Virtual Settlements & Cyber-Archaeology: A Theoretical Outline. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Jones Q, Rafaeli S (2000) What Do Virtual “Tells” Tell? Placing Cybersociety Research into a Hierarchy of Social Explanation. In: Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, HawaiiGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Keck ME, Sikkink K (1998) Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Cornell University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Klovdahl AS, Potterat JJ, Woodhouse DE, Muth JB, Muth SQ, Darrow WW (1994) Social networks and Infectious Disease: the Colorado Springs Study. Social Science & Medicine 38: 79–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Langman L (2005) From Virtual Public Spheres to Global Justice: A Critical Theory of Internetworked Social Movements. Sociological Theory 23: 42–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Larana E, Johnston H, Gusfield JR (1994) New Social Movements: From Ideology to Identity. Temple University Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lu Y (2005) Entrepreneurial Logics and the Evolution of Falun Gong. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 44: 173–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    McAdam D, McCarthy J, Zald M (1999) Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements, Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    McCaughey M, Ayers MD (2003) Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Morris AD, Mueller CM (1992) Frontiers in Social Movement Theory. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Myers DJ (1994) Communication Technology and Social Movements: Contributions of Computer Networks to Activism. Social Science Computer Review 12: 250–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ong TH, Chen H (1999) Updateable PAT-Tree Approach to Chinese Key Phrase Extraction using Mutual Information: A Linguistic Foundation for Knowledge Management. In: Proceedings of the Second Asian Digital Library Conference, TaipeiGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Paccagnella L (1997) Getting the Seats of Your Pants Dirty: Strategies for Ethnographic Research on Virtual Communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Penny B (2003) The Life and Times of Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong and Religious Biography. The China Quarterly 175: 643–661CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Porta Dd, Diani M (1999) Social Movements: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishers Ltd, MaldenGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Rahn P (2002) The Chemistry of a Conflict: The Chinese Government and the Falun Gong. Terrorism and Political Violence 14: 41–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rosenthal N, Fingrutd M, Ethier M, Karant R, McDonald D (1985) Social Movements and Network Analysis: A Case Study of Nineteenth-Century Women’s Reform in New York State. The American Journal of Sociology 90: 1022–1054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Scott J (2000) Social Network Analysis: A Handbook, 2nd edn. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Tesh SN (2002) The Internet and the Grass Roots. Organization & Environment 15: 336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Tong J (2002) An Organizational Analysis of the Falun Gong: Structure, Communications, Financing. The China Quarterly 171: 636–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Wasserman S, Faust K (1994) Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations