Centre for Internet & Society


One of the most significant contributions of ICTs is the way they have been able to generate new forms of viral networking, political mobilisation and expression around the world. From flash mobs that register protest in their playfulness to the online petitions and campaigns which have changed governments and established new forms of justice; from spontaneous groups that have come together around political causes to large communities that have gathered in times of crises; from teenagers networking for artistic expression to older citizens forming community watches, the digital spaces have seen unprecedented emergence of communities and movements.

Often, these movements or communities are dismissed as fads or recreation and the political potential or motivation is rendered invisible. The flash mobs were looked upon as just having fun, without realising how powerful they can be for public participation and protest. The social networking systems, before they became the hot hubs of business and economic networking, were discarded as merely a way of dating for young people. There has been much criticism from traditional media reportage and popular discourses (both a symptom of incomplete understanding or technophobia) of these movements and communities.

Moreover, when looked from the lens of pre-digital social communities and political movements, these digital forms often fail to be recognised for what they are and are overlooked as fashion trends. It is necessary to revisit these forms of networking, participation and expression to explore the potentials and possibilities that they offer. In theory, in the very manifestation of these forms, in the work of artists and academics, there is a huge wealth of experimenting with the possibility of the different spaces of internet. A probe into analysing the events of the past and looking at the possibilities of the future would serve to be very fruitful in understanding the interactive cyberspaces and the role they play in mediating the world around us.

Research Agenda

  1. Is it possible to understand the many fads – some, often, short-lived – on the internet as symptoms of something larger, all sharing certain characteristic features in their aspirations and objectives?

  2. How do we understand politics online? How do we characterise the new digital public sphere and the politics of participation online?

  3. As digital spaces increasingly employ ‘edutainment’ in their pedagogic practices, how do we conflate aesthetics and politics to understand movements and communities online?

  4. How do we explore, hypothesise and test the potentials of the new communities and movements which have mushroomed in the digital spaces? Can we coordinate or orchestrate (Like Bill Wysek coordinated the first flash-mob) models we think of as important, towards particular objectives?

  5. Can these different forms be a part of our pedagogic and research practices? For example, Jeremy Hussinger’s ‘Lessons in Second Life’ series of lectures and essays, provides ample reflection on different political and philosophical issues by analysing the texts and interactions on Second Life.

  6. Can we identify the participants within such communities and movements, as moving towards a new notion of the public and what it means to be a digital native? What are the threats and possible redundancies in such spaces and how do we address them?

  7. Is it possible to utilise these existing networks and interactions to create more cohesive and sustainable forms of interaction and community formation?