Women’s Organisations and the Social Imaginary of Networked Feminism: Digital and Networked by Default?

  • Aristea Fotopoulou
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Communication for Social Change book series (PSCSC)


This chapter begins to investigate new activist media practices by drawing on ethnography with various feminist organisations and individuals based in London. I focus on how these actors understood the role of digital media in contemporary feminism. My fieldwork shows how activists negotiate access, connectivity, immediacy, labour and visibility, the key characteristics of digital technologies, while they raised important points of critique about technical expertise and unpaid labour in the context of post–2008 austerity. Of particular interest here is how activist practices are influenced by libertarian promises that make up a shared social imaginary of the internet as an empowering technology. There is a wider rhetoric of digital networks as sites of non-hierarchical modes of connection and as elementary components of democratic participation. My argument is that this imaginary influences what counts as legitimate political engagement for feminists today and is instrumental in shaping the form and agendas of women's organisations. The findings demonstrate that indeed, the internet presents an alternative way of engagement for many London-based women groups as it provides spaces for rapid circulation of their campaign material, and connection with one another. At the same time, it becomes a space where older feminists, who are not ‘digital natives’, experience an uncomfortable sense of being left behind and forgotten about. With this discussion, the chapter portrays how the web becomes a new mediated context of increased visibility and connectivity, part of the wider media ecology, where political opinions about old and still unresolved feminist issues are being reformulated whilst vulnerability and empowerment are experienced in new mediated ways.


Networked feminism Social imaginary London women’s organisations Age and digital media 


  1. Ahmed, S. (2010). The promise of happiness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrejevic, M. (2007). Surveillance in the digital enclosure. The Communication Review, 10(4), 295–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrejevic, M. (2013). Infoglut: How too much information is changing the way we think and feel. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  5. Atton, C. (2002). Alternative media. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Bassett, C. (2008). New maps for old?: The cultural stakes of ‘2.0’. Fibreculture Journal, 13.Google Scholar
  7. Bennett, K. (2009). No trafficking? Well, there’s a hell of a lot of women suffering. The Observer 25 October. Accessed 17 July 2012.
  8. Berry, D. (2011). The philosophy of software. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Braidotti, R. (1996). Cyberfeminism with a difference.
  10. Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, second life, and beyond: From production to produsage. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  11. Campbell, B. (2009). No Title. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou. [MP3 Audio recording]. London: British Library, 21 November 2009.Google Scholar
  12. Chadwick, A. (2006). Internet politics: States, citizens, and new communication technologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Chun, W. H. K. (2011). Programmed visions: Software and memory. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cohen, L. (2003). A consumers’ republic: The politics of mass consumption in Postwar America. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  15. Couldry, N. (2010). Why voice matters: Culture and politics after neoliberalism. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  16. Curran, J., Fenton, N., & Freedman, D. (2012). Misunderstanding the internet. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Dahlberg, L. (2010). Cyber-libertarianism 2.0: A discourse theory/critical political economy examination. Cultural Politics: An International Journal, 6, 331–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Dean, J. (2009). Democracy and other neoliberal fantasies: Communicative capitalism and left politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Downing, J. (2001). Radical media: Rebellious communication and social movements. California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  21. European Commission. (2010) Digital agenda for Europe. Accessed 10 August 2013.
  22. Fraser, N., & Honneth, A. (2003). Redistribution or recognition? A political-philosophical exchange. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  23. Fuchs, C. (2011). Foundations of critical media and information studies. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Galloway, A. R. (2004). Protocol: How control exists after decentralization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gates, K. (2011). Our biometric future: Facial recognition technology and the culture of surveillance. New York: NYU Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Golumbia, D. (2009). The cultural logic of computation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gordon, J. (2007). The mobile phone and the public sphere: Mobile phone usage in three critical situations. Convergence, 13(3), 307–319.Google Scholar
  28. Government Digital Service (2016) Blog: Government digital service. Accessed 10 July 2016.
  29. Haraway, D. J. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. London: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  30. Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2005). Multitude: War and democracy in the age of empire. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  31. Hayles, N. K. (2005). My mother was a computer: Digital subjects and literary texts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Helpful Technology. (2013). The digital engagement guide.
  33. Helsper, E. J. (2008). Digital inclusion an analysis of social disadvantage and the information society. London: Department for Communities and Local Government. Scholar
  34. Hepp, A. (2008). Connectivity, networks and flows: Conceptualising contemporary communications. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  35. Home Office (2009). Violence against women and girls strategy. Home Office. Accessed 25 November 2009.
  36. Hooks, B. (1986). Sisterhood: Political solidarity between women. Feminist Review, 23, 125–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Object! (2009). Anna van Heeswijk. Interview at the Feminism in London 2009 Conference as the Grassroots Coordinator of Object. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou. [MP3 Audio recording]. London: Conway Hall. 10 October 2009.Google Scholar
  38. Jenkins, H., & Shresthova, S. (2012). Up, up, and away! The power and potential of fan activism. Transformative Works and Cultures, 10.
  39. Jolly, M., & Roseneil, S. (2012). Researching women’s movements: An introduction to FEMCIT and sisterhood and after. Women’s Studies International Forum, 35(3), 125–128. ISSN 0277-5395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kelty, C. (2005). Geeks, social imaginaries, and recursive publics. Cultural Anthropology, 20(2), 185–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Latour, B., & Weibel, P. (2005). Making things public: Atmospheres of democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Lovink, G. (2002). Dark fiber: Tracking critical internet culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  43. Mackay, F. (2009). No Title. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou [Email questionnaire] Brighton. 22 November 2009.Google Scholar
  44. Mansell, R. (2012). Imagining the internet: Communication, innovation, and governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Martin, A. K., Van Brakel, A., & Bernhard, D. (2009). Understanding resistance to digital surveillance: Towards a multi-disciplinary, multi-actor framework. Surveillance & Society, 6(3), 213–232.Google Scholar
  46. Matrix, V. N. S. (1991). Cyberfeminist manifesto for the 21st century.
  47. Miller, D., & Slater, D. (2000). The internet: An ethnographic approach. Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  48. Morden, R. (2009). Interview with the artistic director of Scary Little Girls. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou. [MP3 Audio recording]. London: Conway Hall. 10 October 2009.Google Scholar
  49. Morgan, R. (1970). Sisterhood is powerful. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  50. Morley, D. (2001). Belongings: Place, space and identity in a mediated world. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 4(4), 425–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morozov, E. (2011). The net delusion: How not to liberate the world. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  52. Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & McNeal, R. S. (2008). Excerpts from digital citizenship: The internet, society, and participation. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2007. First Monday, 13, 2.Google Scholar
  53. North East Women’s Network. (2013). The health of the women’s sector in the North East of England.
  54. Orbach, S. (2009). Interview at the feminism in London 2009 conference. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou. [MP3 Audio recording]. London: Conway Hall. 10 October 2009.Google Scholar
  55. Paasonen, S. (2011). Revisiting cyberfeminism. Communications, 36, 335–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Papacharissi, Z. (2002). The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere. New Media & Society, 4(1), 9–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Plant, S. (1997). Zeros + ones: Digital women and the new technoculture. London: Fourth Estate.Google Scholar
  58. Portwood-Stacer, L. (2012). Anti-consumption as tactical resistance: Anarchists, subculture, and activist strategy. Journal of Consumer Culture, 12(1), 87–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rape Crisis. (2009). North London Fawcett Group [blog]. Accessed 25 April 2011.
  60. Rebecca Morden. (2009). Interview with the artistic director of Scary Little Girls. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou. [MP3 Audio recording] Conway Hall, London, 10 October 2009.Google Scholar
  61. Redfern, C., & Aune, K. (2010). Reclaiming the F word: The new feminist movement. London: Zed.Google Scholar
  62. Rosenfelt, D., & Stacey, J. (1987). Second thoughts on the second wave. Feminist Studies, 13(2), 41–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schäfer, M. (2010). Bastard culture! User participation and the extension of cultural industries. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  64. South London Fawcett Group. (SLFG). (2009). Interview with the spokesperson. Interviewed by Aristea Fotopoulou. [MP3 Audio recording]. Home location, London, 30 October 2009.Google Scholar
  65. Stone, A. R. (1995). The war of desire and technology at the close of the mechanical age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  66. Taylor, C. (2004). Modern social imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Terranova, T. (2004). Network culture: Politics for the information age. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  68. Terranova, T. (2012). Free labour. In T. Scholz (Ed.), Digital labor: The internet as playground and factory (pp. 33–57). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  69. Terranova, T. (2013). Debt and Autonomy: Lazzarato and the Constituent Powers of the Social. The New Reader: 1. Accessed 2 December 2016
  70. Townsend, M. (2011). Sex-trafficked women’s charity Poppy project in danger as funding withdrawn, The Observer 17 April. Accessed 17 July 2012.
  71. Van Dijck, J. (2013). The culture of connectivity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Women’s Budget Group. (2016). The impact on women of the 2016 budget: Women paying for the chancellor’s tax cuts.
  73. WRC. (2009). Women’s Resource Centre Annual General Meeting. [MP3 Audio recording]. London, 19 November 2009.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aristea Fotopoulou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BrightonBrightonUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations