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“Hacking the Law”

2011 November 2
by breyan

From a research project on the internet and citizen participation it has become a 450 pages dissertation entitled “Hacking the Law: An Analysis of Internet-based Campaigning on Digital Rights in the European Union”. The dissertation was submitted to the Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres at the Université libre de Bruxelles on August 17, 2011 and successfully defended in public on October 22, 2011.

So here is the abstract of the dissertation:

Digital rights activism constitutes an exemplary case of how the internet’s affordances can be mobilized to engender political change. The values and principles stemming from the hacker imaginaire, and free and open source software practices, underpin digital rights activism, which uses the internet as a  tool, object and platform for the protection of rights in the digital realm. The analysis centers on how digital rights activists use and adapt the political affordances of the internet to intervene in European Union policy-making. Two original case studies of internet-based campaigning at the European level (the “No Software Patents” and the “Telecoms package” campaigns) provide in-depth insight into the campaigning processes and their impact upon parliamentary politics.  The cases highlight the complementarity of online and offline collective action, by examining processes of open collaboration, information disclosure and internet-assisted lobbying. The success of the “Telecoms package” campaign is then assessed, by providing the perspective of the targets: members and staff of the European Parliament.

The belief in values of freedom, decentralization, openness, creativity and progress inspires a particular type of activism, which promotes autonomy, participation and efficiency. The empirical evidence suggests that this set of principles can, at times, conflict with practices observed in the field. This has to do with the particular opportunity structure of the European Union and the characteristics of the movement. The EU favors functional integration of civil society actors who are expected to contribute technical and/or legal expertise. This configuration challenges internet-based protest networks who rely on highly independent and fluctuating engagement and suffer from a lack of diversity and cohesion. The internet does not solve all obstacles to collective action. It provides, however, a networked infrastructure and tools for organizing, coordinating and campaigning. Online and offline actions are not only supportive of each other. Internet-based campaigning can be successful once it reaches out beyond the internet and penetrates the corridors of political institutions.

If you’re interested in reading more about it; please drop me a line as I’m very keen on sharing my findings and discuss the analysis. I am currently looking at options to publish it very soon.

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