Surfing for better democracy. Reflections based on some Latin American experiences

In Latin America frequently tension emerges between governments that tend to ignore the “will of the people” and the people themselves, who on occasions shed their apathy and mobilize. In this context, an active civil society is key to building democracy. In a best-case scenario, civil society organizations can force open the political system and re-establish a link between representatives and those who are represented. Societal organizations with the capacity to engage in –and sustain over time– the politics of protest are becoming increasingly important. By enhancing the speed, flexibility and reach of information flows, by allowing for communication across large distances in real time, digital networks provide the technological infrastructure for the emergence and renovation of social movements. By analyzing five political campaigns that have been launched in a bid to influence national policy making, this presentation first examines the extent to which the use of digital media is changing the prevalent patterns of civic and political involvement amongst civil society organizations in Latin America. Second, explores the conditions under which social movements take advantage of digital media in their campaigns and the specific characteristics of the political context that condition the way digital media are used. Third, the same theoretical approach is analyzed to assess to what extent research in the field needs to rethink existing theoretical approaches and develop new concepts.