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Network exceptionalism: online action, discourse and the opposition to SOPA and ACTA

Powell, Alison (2016) Network exceptionalism: online action, discourse and the opposition to SOPA and ACTA. Information, Communication and Society, 19 (2). pp. 249-263. ISSN 1369-118X

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Identification Number: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1061572


Advocacy campaigns opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) illustrate that the dynamics of networked activism have symbolic as well as structural aspects, with implications for scholars and activists who have focused on the coordination possibilities of networks. This paper analyses the creation and movement of discourses of ‘network exceptionalism’ between advocates, online culture and news media. Networks operate functionally to disseminate ideas and link together people participating in social action (e.g. by embedding aspects of discourse in memes, which then propagate ideas swiftly), but also symbolically, inflecting discourses towards a focus on the exceptional – and essential – qualities of the internet. These discourses embed fears about the fragility and indispensability of the internet, as well as thrilling and threatening elements like Anonymous. They are carried by memes that link the structural dynamics of networked activism to the discourses of illness, threat and utility, and gain different inflections through the European campaigns to oppose ACTA. These discourses not only create spaces for discussing and expanding upon the value of the internet to communication rights, but also leave room for interpretations that may undermine these advocacy projects.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2015 13:29
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:21

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