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Session A7
Mobilization and Technology: The Emergence of New Actors and Values through New Digital Media in the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan
高格孚 Stéphane Corcuff
Institute of Political Studies, University of Lyon, France

Mobilization though NICTs in popular protests has often been observed in recent popular revolts or occupy movements in the world, yet the role of the New Information and Communication Technologies (NICTs) in events leading to the revolt, as well as in the unfolding of the revolt itself, has often been neglected, even though they enable and greatly facilitate many important phenomena beyond initial mobilization, such as processes of group construction, collective management of fear, and re/empowerment of the self.


With its gØv Global Summits where civic initiatives proliferate, Taiwan has posited itself as one of the world's beacon of Civic Tech and an actor itself in the increasingly connected technosphere reaching its global stage. In the island, convergence between technology and civil society was early symbolized by the 2012 launch of the gØv galaxy, a response to erratic, incomplete, complex, erroneous or mischievous information, and a tool of civic empowerment. In this context, it is no surprise that the whole range of social networks and the latest ICTs were used to launch & manage the 2014 civic movement of occupation of the Legislative Yuan, with remarkable operational success.


The movement revealed new actors and their values, such as administrative transparency, Taiwanese identity, legislative overview of government's negotiations with China, protection of the island's sovereignty, fair media treatment — while an even wider variety of other issues were progressively added through technological debate: Taiwan's economy, social justice, gender equality, same sex marriage, nuclear power, etc.


Based on on-site daily observation during the movement in 2014, interviews of participants in 2016 and a review of existing literature in Chinese, English and French languages up to today, this paper will first establish a typology of the multifold use of NICTs in the movement, to characterize the hyper-digitality of a movement physically occupying space. Second, it will try to address the delicate issue of whether the use of social media to discuss civic issues impacts or not the civic consciousness of the users. No definitive answer will be provided there, as there is an enduring debate on this issue, and that no quantitative analysis has been done for this paper. Instead, the qualitative process of research that will be used here (with interviews) will  try to provide cadres to reflect upon arguments supporting or denying such a possible correlation. Third, it will raise the question of a possible new actor, which emerged with the multiplication of homo mediaticus in situation of revolt, who possesses the technical tools of knowledge and organization mobilized to protest and disrupt, and who is now in a situation where s/he empowers him/herself: the collective brain formed by thousands of interconnected activists. In doing so, I would like to reflect upon Clive Hamilton’s characterization of human kind, in Defiant Earth, as a "conscious creature" capable of using technology and to bring about a rupture in the Earth's geochronology, asking how conscious is this force, at the level of individual actors who compose it, and whether the same kind of force is capable of producing a real alternative to the current hegemonic model of representative democracy.