Gold. Power. Protest

research-paper by Doug Specht, published by New Media and Society


Colombia’s Internet connectivity has increased immensely. Colombia has also ‘opened for business’, leading to an influx of extractive projects to which social movements object heavily. Studies on the role of digital media in political mobilisation in developing countries are still scarce. Using surveys, interviews, and reviews of literature, policy papers, website and social media content, this study examines the role of digital and social media in social movement organisations and asks how increased digital connectivity can help spread knowledge and mobilise mining protests. Results show that the use of new media in Colombia is hindered by socioeconomic constraints, fear of oppression, the constraints of keyboard activism and strong hierarchical power structures within social movements. Hence, effects on political mobilisation are still limited. Social media do not spontaneously produce non-hierarchical knowledge structures. Attention to both internal and external knowledge sharing is therefore conditional to optimising digital and social media use.

Doug Specht


Doug Specht is a Chartered Geographer (CGeog. FRGS) and a Senior Lecturer (SFHEA) at the Communication and Media Research Institute, within the University of Westminster. His research examines how knowledge is constructed and codified through digital and cartographic artefacts, focusing on development issues, and he has written on this subject in numerous books and papers. He has also spoken on topics of data ethics and mapping practices at conferences and invited lectures around the world. He is a member of the editorial board at Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, and sits on BSi committee IST/36 Geographic Information, where he focuses on geographic data in the SDGs. Doug is additionally a trustee of the Santa Rosa Fund, an educational charity; and a core member of the Environmental Network for Central America.


20 April 2016
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New Media and Society
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