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Distracted People and Fragile Movements: a relational realist theory of social movement in a digital age

I’m on the verge of finishing my first article for this project. Once it’s done, I’ll put this on hold until Social Media for Academics is finished. But from the summer onwards, this will be my main project. Here’s the abstract I’ve submitted for  a number of conferences later this year:

Distracted People and Fragile Movements: a relational realist theory of social movement in a digital age

It is clear that the emergence and normalisation of social media entail affordances for mobilisation that have important implications for social movements. However there is little agreement upon precisely what these implications are and whether they can or should be evaluated in general terms. I argue that much of the problem with the emerging debate stems from a lack of clarity about the social ontology of social movements, suggesting that digital technology should invite us to reconsider ontological questions in light of the empirically observable changes in mobilisation dynamics that have been the impetus for popular and academic debate.

Using the relational realist theory developed by Margaret Archer and Pierpaolo Donati, I offer a novel account of the constitution of social movements that invites us to ask questions about the emergence and durability of new movements that are obscured by alternative theoretical approaches which fail to recognise both the emergent and relational constitution of collectives. In doing so, I begin to develop an account of what I suggested are the ‘fragile movements’ being constituted through the collective endeavour of ‘distracted people’ under digital capitalism.

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1 reply

  1. Great article! I look forward to reading you more, I conducted a research with a group of other students on the digital age and dating online website, it was really interesting to be able to find some work on how the digital era transforms the way we interact/ see others/ see ourselves… Much more work should be done and glad to read your articles talking about this

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