You spy with your little eye : multimedia insights into a global movement from a grassroots perspective
Abstract: The increasing feeling of systemic failure among the public gives rise to a growing number of social movements including the climate movement. The global environmental organization 350.org focuses on building, connecting, and empowering the grassroots climate movement by initiating and facilitating different campaigns, e.g. the Fossil Free (FF) Campaign. I conducted in-depth interviews of grassroots activists of the local FF groups in Münster, Germany and Lund, Sweden, and one 350.org employee; based on these interviews, I examined the relationship and interdependencies between the local grassroots groups and the global movement 350.org as new, hybrid social movement organizations in terms of framing, identity and leadership. Through thematic content analysis and more specifically the framework approach I made use of the generated data. The main findings are that while the umbrella organization 350.org facilitates and coordinates global action, the local groups can act very independently and adapt the concepts to their local context. At the same time, their identity is highly influenced and shaped by the movement. One identity-building element is the framing of climate change as Pandora’s box within 350.org, but also within the local groups. Leadership is organized in a very democratic way on a local level, but gets more hierarchical within the organization. This is coherent with Tarrow’s theory of hybrid organizations. Digital media are of deciding function in the internal and external communication as well as in the information gathering for the local groups. The global community was identified as the most unifying, hope giving and empowering element for the activists. Therefore, the umbrella organization is of deciding function for the local groups and the whole movement, logistically and emotionally. The interviews were recorded on video and the edited material is part of this thesis which adds complementary layers of information to it. The reader is therefore able to form an own opinion about the generated data and their interpretation. With this approach, I am making a significant methodological contribution to the use and applicability of audio-visual media in social research.
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