Collective Action and Digital information Communication Technologies: The Search for Explanatory Models of Social Movement Organizations' Propensity to Use Dicts in Developed Democracies

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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digital communication
digital information communication technologies
social movement organizations
social movements
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Digital information communication technologies (DICTs) play an ever-more prominent role in politics, from the technologically sophisticated presidential campaign of Barack Obama to the Twitter-inspired Occupy Wall Street movement. However, not all political groups embrace technology to the same degree. Little scholarly attention has been paid to understanding why some groups adopt DICTs and use them to achieve political goals, while others do not. This dissertation attempts to remedy this by examining what drives DICT adoption among 48 organizations involved in advocacy activities in support of and in opposition to gay rights and marriage equality. It further contributes to the literature on DICTs and politics by considering the role of national context in DICT adoption, selecting organizations based in the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, and comparing patterns of DICT adoption cross-nationally. Several important findings emerge from this research. First, there is significant variation in the extent to which the 48 organizations under study adopted DICTs. There appears to be no relationship between organizational ideology and an organization's tendency to adopt DICTs, nor do the characteristics of the organizations' staff or target publics appear to influence their adoption of DICTs, although this does seem to affect the extent to which they deploy offline tools. The paper finds that first-mover advantage plays a key role in DICT adoption, with laggards finding it hard to build online momentum. Further, the amount of resources an organization is able to deploy strongly affects their ability to adopt DICTs. A number of national factors also appear to play a role in DICT adoption, particularly the competitiveness of the issue that organizations are engaged with, and the political traditions of the nation in which organizations are domiciled. Overall, this paper finds that the adoption of DICTs is a complex process, born of an interaction between an organization and its characteristics, and the environment in which it operates. The dissertation concludes by offering a model of this process, suggesting that it could help organizations build better strategies for DICT adoption, particularly when circumstances are challenging.

Michael X. Delli Carpini
Monroe Price
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