Do Web 2.0 social media impact transnational social advocacy? : a study of South African civil society and Greenpeace.
Pillay, Kirubagaran Jagathesan.
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This study focuses on how civil society organisations deploy Web 2.0 technologies for transnational social advocacy, the context of this technology use, and the effect of this adoption in achieving organisational goals. It analyses the effectiveness of these technologies in an attempt to understand the strategic intent in deploying these social media services. The reciprocal impact of this technology adoption on civil society organisations’ roles, structure, and orientation was also investigated. The technologies targeted for study are those commonly described as Web 2.0 social media including social networking sites, blogs, podcasts and wikis amongst others. While the literature points to many studies relating to the use of the Internet for advocacy it also suggests that emerging technologies have not been studied in any detail. In particular there are no recent studies that investigate Web 2.0 technologies. These studies have the potential to provide new perspectives to current theoretical frameworks. This study is designed as part case study and part exploratory. The research adopts an interdisciplinary approach using both qualitative and quantitative methods. A survey of South African civil society organisations painted a picture of the extent of adoption of Web 2.0 social services across South African civil society, and detailed the reasons, and the benefits - both perceived and actual - of such adoption. The global environmental justice organisation, Greenpeace is used as a case study. The organisation’s major goal is to advocate for changes in environmental policy and behaviour, has been at the forefront of environmental issues since its inception, and has used the mass media as an effective campaigning tool. The key findings that emerged in the South African context was that of a sector that has a low-level of knowledge of social media services and an accompanying low level of adoption. This is partly explained by factors at a national level including macro-economic policies, and a low level of Internet penetration and ICT readiness. Using Greenpeace as a case study revealed that while social media-led activism is increasingly being seen as strategic, there is a level of organisational introspection that is required to precisely determine how traditional CSOs can exploit social media while maintaining their core values and traditions. Social media is not a panacea for the issues confronting activism in an increasingly connected world, but rather is seen as complementing traditional advocacy with its ability to coordinate, synchronise and document campaigns.