Back in Action! — Research Team Update

Hello world!

As January draws to a close, it’s a good time to take stock of what’s going on with the Boler Research Team.

We have nearly finished our interviews with west coast women activists on their uses of digital and social media (amongst many other things — the interviews are each 1-2.5 hours!). We are now madly transcribing. Whew! demanding work; no RSI reported yet :)! We’ve collected 17 interviews (some with multiple participants) so far! Suffice to say, we’ll be in transcription mode for a bit!!

Meanwhile, we’re reading up on how social movement theory speaks to network and media theories and studies.We will proceed then to engage grounded theory in our analysis and coding of the interview data (we’ll be using the qualitative data analysis software Atlas.ti).

Our interview questions included: what motivated respondents to engage in social activism and (for these interviewees) Occupy in particular; how they use digital and social media; and what it’s like being women “leaders” in a pretty male world of many social movements (although the term “leader” is adamantly NOT used by the occupy participants we’ve been talking with, since horizontal leadership and consensus is the name of the game… 🙂 ).

Preliminary findings: our research thus far is showing that women comprise the majority of the “backbone” of north American movements. Women are the majority membership in ongoing working groups, doing the online networking, social media maintenance, communications, Facebook updates and announcements, Twitter accounts, and livestreaming in some instances. We are planning to follow up with these amazing “horizontal leaders” with further questions around their experiences with police in Occupy camps; how and when activist community/conversation/time shifts between on- and offline spaces; and how these women learned and finessed their technology and media skills that keep social movements alive!

We’re always open to receiving articles and literature that might be relevant to us, as well as news and current events tips that relate to our project, so feel free to send!


In addition to those formal research tasks, we stay current on trends surrounding social/digital media, feminist organizing and social movements by following Facebook news feeds, Twitter conversations, and press content.

Here are some things that we’ve “tagged” recently in our favourite content curation software, diigo.

Idle No More Update (Toronto Star)
Chief Spence ends her hunger strike, Shawn Atleo takes a medical leave, and solidarity action spreads throughout the United States. The Toronto Star has a comprehensive file going on the movement.

Occupiers and others in Venice Beach, CA organize in solidarity with Idle No More.

Pentagon says it is Lifting its Ban on Women in Combat (NYT)
Talk about the changing relationship of women and tech!

Assange attacks new film about Wikileaks (the Guardian)
Speaking at in Oxford Union debate, Assange described the forthcoming Hollywood film as a “massive propoganda attack on him, and an inflammatory attack on Iran.

 New Tactics for Social Network Analysis (iRevolution)
New research on Social Network Analysis for Digital Humanitarian Response shows that picking a “sensor group” and watching their actions can be more productive than crunching huge data sets, trying to track the spread of information on Twitter yourself.

The Internet is Still a Man’s World in Developing Countries (Wired)
Recent study data shows that, in developing countries, the gap between the number of men and women who use the Internet is 23 per cent. In the U.S. it’s around 4 per cent. Puts a new spin on the notion of the “digital divide”.

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