Demonstrating in the Internet Age: A Test of Castells’ Theory

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Anna SLAVINA, University of Toronto, Canada
Robert BRYM, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Canada
In his highly influential work, Manuel Castells holds that demonstrators in the Internet Age tend to be young, unemployed, underemployed and/or students who are well connected to civic associations, use digital communications media often, are highly aggrieved economically and politically, and think of themselves as global citizens. Using data from the World Values Survey (2005-14), we estimate a generalized hierarchical linear model to test these generalizations. We find that some predictors of demonstrating behave as Castells leads us to expect while others do not. Furthermore, we show that the ways in which grievances get translated into demonstrating depend on a country’s level of economic inequality and its citizens’ sense that they enjoy strong democratic institutions. We draw two conclusions: (1) National context affects demonstrating, both independently and in connection with individual-level variables—a fact that Castells largely ignores. (2) The number of demonstrators with the characteristics identified by Castells may be increasing, but their prevalence is not sufficient to warrant Castells’ claim that they predominate in the Internet era.