Citizen action groups and online-communication: appropriation of enhanced repertoires of action?
The aim of the dissertation project is to study the role of the internet in the action repertoires of citizen action groups in relation to the traditional established repertoire. The literature provides the hypothesis that with the diffusion of the internet, the communicative activities of all political actors are in a process of sustainable change. Resource-weak and small actors from the sphere of the civil society are supposed to be given new scope to restructure their internal communication activities as well as their external media use in order to enhance their strategic potential (e.g. by means of mailing lists, websites, online petitions and signature collections, discussion forums, and web 2.0). As a result, they would improve their position against administrations, political decisionmakers and corporations. As citizen action groups have no constitutionally reserved direct influence on political decisions, they need the political public sphere in order to communicate their aims. As a result they create pressure on the political sphere, mobilise adherents and may shape and frame the political agenda. However, the role of the internet for traditional citizen action groups has not been extensively researched. The dissertation is theoretically inspired by theories of (new) social movements. Citizen action groups are regarded as social movement organisations. The main point of reference is the resource mobilisation model. Furthermore, supplementary notions as repertoire, political opportunity structures, collective identities and action frameworks are integrated to arrive at a comprehensive conceptual framework in order to be able to make sense of the importance of the internet for citizen action groups. The choice of strategies and the appropriation of a particular repertoire of action can be conceptualised as the result of a collective decision making process shaped by the goal of the group, the available resources (time, money, skills, experiences), the collective action frames, and the evaluation of the given political opportunity structure. The repertoire may change significantly over time as a result of a change of the collective perceptions and action frameworks. Empirically, the dissertation will conduct two case studies of local citizen action groups. The design consists of a variety of methods: semi-structured interviews, standardised questionnaires, observations, group discussions, and content analysis. The social reality of citizen action groups is described as close to the field as possible. Via methodological triangulation the data will be compared.