Disabled Dissent Goes Online:The Case of Opposition Groupsto Disability Welfare Cuts inthe UK Filippo Trevisan firstname.lastname@example.org www.filippotrevisan.net 05 December 2011
Overview: 2010/11: The birth of online disability activism? New media, old problems: Disability/internet research so far Exploring the “far side” of disability/internet: A three-step research strategy Case study: online disability opposition to disability welfare cuts
Theoretical enthusiasm vs. Researchfocus Early theorists of the social model hypothesise a positive relationship between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the emancipation of disabled people: For Vic Finkelstein (1980), technological development will contribute to a future world in which “impaired persons will […] no longer be oppressed by disabling social conventions and disabling environments but will be absorbed in the mainstream of social interactions” (p. 37).BUT: Research to date: dominance of the access/-ibility frame and the internet as a new source of exclusion for disabled people (Ellis and Kent, 2011; Goggin and Newell, 2003 & 2007; Dobranski and Hargittai, 2006; Ellcessor, 2010)
Internet usage amongst disabledpeople in the UK (1)(Source: Oxford Internet Surveys, 2011: 18)
Internet usage amongst disabledpeople in the UK (2): According to Office for Disability Issues, in 2008 an estimate 42% of disabled people in the UK could be considered to be regular internet users (Williams et al., 2008) OfCom 2009 Customer Satisfaction report: slight differences in internet usage amongst people with different impairments (visual, hearing, mobility). According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 54% of disabled Americans are currently internet users compared to 81% non disabled people (Fox, 2011) Key for future research: focus on experience of disabled users
The Far Side of Disability/Internet: NewAreas Worth Exploring Interpersonal, un-mediated relationships (Anderberg and Jönsson, 2005; Seymour and Lupton, 2004) Peer-support and positive effects on self-esteem and personal growth (Obst and Stafurik, 2010) Blogs and discussion boards as “spaces” for alternative, un-filtered representations of disability (Thoreau, 2006; Goggin and Nooan, 2007) Participatory platforms hold positive potential against exclusionary barriers Are such benefits also extending/-able to the domain of politics? What parts of the online realm should researchers focus on to find out?
What disabled users say: “I don’t think anybody sees it as a luxury; it is, literally, a lifeline.” (Interview with disabled blogger and campaigner, July 2011)
A three-step research strategy: Issue 1 selection Identification of key online spaces and “players”, 2 categorisation, selection of in-depth case studies Data collection and in-depth analysis: 3 focus on interactivity
Issue Selection: Google Insightsfor Search DLA consultation results released Government Spending Review WRB Introduced to the Lords DLA Consultation Closes Emergency Budget Hardest Hit March DLA Consultation Opens
3 Types of Online Actors: Formal Organisations Coalition: The Hardest Hit (www.thehardesthit.org.uk) Digitized Activists: Disabled People Against Cuts (www.dpac.uk.net) Digital Action Networks: The Broken of Britain (www.thebrokenofbritain.org)
What do they use digital mediafor? “War” against the mass media: de-bunk myths and stereotypes Build consensus, Influence engage disabled policy-making users, gather and (both contentious & “broadcast” Institutionalised their voices political action)
1 - Digital strategy survey: Assessinginteraction potential
2 - Is such potential being realised?The Broken of Britain’s Facebook wall Who is talking? Are the organisers actually engaging in dialogue with “ordinary” users? Are they talking politics, policy, both, or neither? Is this just talk, or is political action also being promoted and organised? One week of content, 8-14 Sept. 2011 (inclusive), preliminary observations rather than a representative sample
2 - The Broken of Britain: An online“hybrid” Organisers have “monopoly” of conversation starters (90%) and almost never participate in comment threads (3.6%) Significant number of posts contains “personal stories” (16.2%) mostly posted directly by disabled users (81.8%) and clustered around political/policy topics Traditional socio-economic citizenship frame supplemented by new frames: political rights (16.3%); civil/human rights (12.4%); lack of morality (25.6%). Posts mentioning/soliciting action (14% of total) concentrate overwhelmingly on individual action (50.1%) A new type of moderate, self-advocacy player in disability politics: a “permanent campaign” entirely generated and sustained online.
The Broken of Britain in their ownwords: “Shouting/screaming doesnt work. Explaining the reality of our lives calmly & rationally does. People dont get to ask about disabled peoples lives. Theres real desire to understand out there, but fear to ask.” (The Broken of Britain lead campaigner-1 on Twitter, Apr 2011) “Factual and balanced evaluation and criticism are key social media is invaluable in gaining supporters and shouldnt be underestimated. The digital age has completely changed the nature of activism. If you dont capitalise on it you get left behind. Older methods like demos work but to reach a lot of people in a short time you need the web.” (The Broken of Britain lead campaigner-2 on Twitter, Apr 2011)
Points to consider:a. The role of catalyst issues as promoters of online participation amongst disenfranchised and excluded groupsb. Disability welfare campaigns do relatively well in terms of interaction potentialc. The Broken of Britain as digitally enabled addition to the landscape of British disability activism: new leadership style and new “action” repertoired. However, questions need to be asked re: accountability; legitimacy; long-term sustainability International comparison Enhance user-generated content coding scheme (automated frame detection) email@example.com