Analyzing Political Activists’ Organization Practices: Findings from a Long Term Case Study of the European Social Forum
Designing ICT support for transnational networks of social activists is a challenge due to diverse organizational structures, cultural identities, political ideologies, and financial conditions. In this paper we present empirical findings on ICT usage in the organizing process of the European Social Forum (ESF) covering a period of almost 3 years. The European Social Forum is a platform for political activists involved in the anti-globalization movement. During our data collection period, the 5th and 6th European Social Fora were held in Malmo (2008) and Istanbul (2010). The paper describes complex social practices in organizing ESF events. We use the term fragmented meta-coordination to denote this type of practice. Mundane IT applications, such as a mailing list and a content management system, play a central role in enabling different aspects of fragmented meta-coordination. The findings also indicate how lacking resources, organizational distribution, and technical limitations hamper the preparation process and reduce the transparency of political decision making. Our analysis highlights central organizational and technological challenges related to ICT appropriation in transnational networks of social activists.