HOWTO for Social Movements

Andrés Monroy-Hernández 2012-03-08

I recently read chapter five of Castell’s Communication Power. Here is an overly simplified, half-joking summary of it in the form of a half-joking Linux HOWTO.

HOWTO create a successful social movement in the network age:

  1. Emotions. Appeal to strong emotions such as anger and fear. “Fear and other strong emotions motivate people to search for information but also determine news choices.”
  2.  Science. Get science behind. Using the global warming example, Castells argues that after a “shift from lack of evidence to a certain level of scientific consensus, the media covered the report, and public alarm began to mount.”
  3. Celebrities. Get celebrities in your cause. “While celebrities have historically supported political and ethical campaigns, today’s celebrity activists have more incentive to adopt global causes and are more likely to be successful in pushing the agenda (Drezner, 2007). This has less to do with the celebrities’ fame and more to do with how people consume information.”
  4. Mobile. Make the message short and spreadable over SMS and other short, person to person communication forms. This is something that Castells took from the Spaniard movement after the Madrid bombings.  ”[T]he network of diffusion was increasing at an exponential rate but without losing the proximity of the source.”
  5. Remixable. Create generative messages and let go. In the case of the Obama campaing, supporters were empowered (or at least not discouraged) to run with Obama’s content, even to the point of making some of the strategists a bit nervous. “Obama was able to unite counter-cultural trends at the source of creativity in the entertainment industry.”