Mobilization is the action by which individuals are called upon to gather in the public space for a concerted effort, be it to express or defend a common cause or to participate in an event. In this respect, it is a social phenomenon appertaining to mobility. This article has been written by Sylvie Landriève, Dominic Villeneuve, Vincent Kaufmann and Christophe Gay.
The movement triggered by mobility results in movement to a chosen gathering place, either to occupy it in a static, more or less temporary way (symbolic occupation of public spaces like Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street in 2011 or Taksim Square in Istanbul in 2013), or as a departure point for group marches (commemorations, demonstrations, parades, etc.) along authorized or unauthorized routes.
Mobilization often takes the form of a slow march, the symbol of non-violent protest, and can take place on foot (the most common case, like the March for Equality and Against Racism in 1983), by bicycle (like Critical Mass), moped (like the March for Equality and Against Racism in 1984), rollerblade, taxi or truck. Due to the fact that it disrupts traffic in the public space (which is the whole point), occupation often seems more hostile than marches.
What are the “motives” that trigger movement? Causes for mobilization can be quite different. For instance, mobilization can serve to alert, draw attention to a cause to put it on the political agenda, e.g. social, societal issues or environmental (salary demands, education, etc.), to defend values (secularism, freedom of the press, etc.), to pressure the government into abandoning a law or withdraw military troops (Vietnam or, more recently, Iraq, in the U.S. and U.K.) or, increasingly common in the past 50 years, to defend the rights of minorities (Civil Rights in the U.S. or Gay Pride in a growing number of cities around the world). Mobilization in such cases is not an end in itself. The driving force for mobilization is thus the gathering of people who think that, together, they can make a difference.
Mobilizations can also simply take the form of collective participation in commemorative events (the burial of personalities like Victor Hugo) or celebrations (sports victories like the World Cup in 1998 on the Champs-Élysées). They can also be festive, like rave parties, flash mobs or techno parades. It is not uncommon to find several registers during a single mobilization (e.g. music and singing during political manifestations or disguises during Gay Pride parades).
Mobilization can be exceptional (the parade for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in May 1989 for example) or annual/bi-annual events (Worker’s day parades, national marches women’s rights day, press day, etc.).
It may result from:
Mobilizations can either be spontaneous (e.g. the October 2015 events in Beirut for garbage collection) or organized and planned in advance (date, time and place, often for authorization/security reasons), like international marches for the environment or against AIDS. They can also be reactive, like the demonstration following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015, or pro-active.
Mobilization involves at least three key types of actors:
The number of spectators has grown considerably with the development of mass media. Nowadays it is common witness mobilization not only physically, but also on television and via online information websites and social networks (Periscope on Twitter, Facebook live, media specific to social networks like “Brut”). A mobilization’s success is measured by its media coverage. The media draw the public’s attention to certain facts by providing information about and interpreting events (Nedelmann 1987: 182).
Digital technology increases the possibilities for event organization and intensifying their impact. With the development of social networks, mobilization channels have broadened and become more efficient. Through such networks, nowadays it is possible to quickly reach tens of thousands of people (e.g. to set a meeting place).
The cognitive dimension of mobilization. This is the process by which actors define their interests in relation to other actors. Recognition and definition of these interests are the result of joint efforts to build awareness of specific problems and give them political and cultural meaning through interaction ( ibid .: 186). Traditional media and social networks play an important role in this dimension of mobilization as agents; effectively, through information management, it is possible to "adapt" the representation of reality.
The emotional dimension of mobilization. The "emotional" dimension of mobilization is what creates a sense of solidarity between actors. As Lolive notes (1997: 129), this key aspect is the "cement of mobilization." Excitement and indignation are intense emotions trigger mobilization even for abstract ideas, arousing feelings of solidarity among strangers. Livet and Thévenot, for instance, (2003) argue that the feeling of injustice prepares individuals for action and can trigger mobilization.
This is mobilization organized by institutional actors, notably political parties, states or associations (NGOs, etc.) that provide citizens opportunities for political participation through their organization. Political parties, for instance, create vertical mobilization by organizing and funding meetings and demonstrations, inviting people to take part in politics or circulating petitions so that citizens express opinions in the form of signatures (Rosenstone and Hansen 2003: 26-27). It may also consist in transporting citizens to a polling places free of charge, or providing security services so they are free to vote. It is the involvement of political elites that gives citizens the opportunity to participate and learn about political issues (idem).
This autonomous and/or spontaneous form of mobilization involves affinity networks, friends, colleagues, neighbors, social network contacts or family members.
New digital mobile communication tools and the Internet have changed the face of mobilization (Anduiza, Cantijoch & Gallego, 2009; Postmes & Brunsting, 2002). In addition to the “sounding board” effect, digital technology is increasingly used by mobilization actors. This has led to new forms of mobilization, like those that marked the Arab springtime in the early 2010s, and a kind of reactive “vibration” on the web translated by mobilization in the public space in general (Boullier 2015). To conclude, digital technology has been a catalyst for mobilization, making it possible to mobilize more people faster and more spontaneously.
The authors argue that use of the Internet as a tool for mobilization does not greatly diverge from that of traditional tools, and paper petitions in particular. While this may have been true in 2008, rapid developments in new mobile communication technologies, Internet access and social networks have given rise to new practices, like indirect mobilization between individuals who do not know each other (via Twitter or Facebook) during the Arab Spring or live webcasts of demonstrations during Occupy Wall Street (Costanza-Chock, 2012, 382).
We also use the term "flash mob" to describe a group of people who assemble in a public place to do something unusual over a short time period before quickly dispersing. The participants typically do not know each other or communicate prior to or following the event, and generally coordinate via social networks.
According to a study of the occupation movement by students of British universities against an increase in tuition fees, new technologies have specific advantages, such as high speed message broadcasting, moral support and networking ease for multiple organizations (Ward, Gibson & Lusoli, 2003, 187).
Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign is an interesting example of the Internet as a mobilization tool. According to Cogburn and Espinoza-Vasquez (2011), the use of technological tools in political campaigns is not new. However, the Obama campaign used them in an unprecedented way. Web 2.0 tools played a decisive role in the Democratic candidate’s victory, thanks, among other things, to the mobilization of the four million voters. Emails, videos and an iPhone app mobilized citizens by sending them personalized messages inviting them to participate in nearby political events. Indirect mobilization was likewise possible using the same tools, especially during key primary battles in swing States: the contact information stored in supporters’ phones were analyzed to identify those of people who lived in the targeted swing State. The application then suggested to said citizen that he/she call his/her friends – those selected - and talk to them about Obama (Cogburn and Espinoza-Vasquez 2011: 203).
One could even go so far as to say that the Internet has become a public space of mobilization in its own right, thanks notably to the growing number of opportunities for signing online petitions and instantly being able to see the number of people mobilized on a given issue.
The effects of mobilization and nature of their impact on the political system vary depending on the scale. Although mobilization often takes place at the national scale for large parades (military marches, for example), local and international mobilization has likewise considerably developed in recent years.
At the local level mobilization has the power to change how governments govern, leading to new, and more cooperative forms of governance. According to Balme and Faure (2002: 124), "(l)ocal political mobilization institutes the State's monopoly in public action and contributes to the development of a kind of 'polycentric governance,' meaning a less hierarchical, less centralized way of wielding political authority than in the past—in other words, decentralized governance marked by cooperation between different levels of government and private actors."
International mobilizations, like marches for the environment targeting global institutions (the G8, WTO, etc.) have become increasingly frequent.
The politcal dimension of mobilization is the subject of abundant scientific literature. Identity-oriented or festive spatial mobilizations, on the other hand, are much less studied and still represent relatively uncharted territory in mobility research.
Movement is the crossing of space by people, objects, capital, ideas and other information. It is either oriented, and therefore occurs between an origin and one or more destinations, or it is more akin to the idea of simply wandering, with no real origin or destination.En savoir plus x
Mobilization is the action by which individuals are called upon to gather in the public space for a concerted effort, be it to express or defend a common cause or to participate in an event. In this respect, it is a social phenomenon appertaining to mobility. This article has been written by Sylvie Landriève, Dominic Villeneuve, Vincent Kaufmann and Christophe Gay.En savoir plus x
For the Mobile Lives Forum, mobility is understood as the process of how individuals travel across distances in order to deploy through time and space the activities that make up their lifestyles. These travel practices are embedded in socio-technical systems, produced by transport and communication industries and techniques, and by normative discourses on these practices, with considerable social, environmental and spatial impacts.En savoir plus x
To cite this publication :
Sylvie Landriève et Dominic Villeneuve (09 May 2017), « Mobilization », Préparer la transition mobilitaire. Consulté le 08 February 2023, URL: https://forumviesmobiles.org/en/dictionary/3609/mobilization