Research background


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Some background on identity, citizen agency and transnational activism

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People usually take action based on what concerns them in their immediate surrounding and solution-finding is strongly bound to local circumstances, cultures and traditions. People are searching for human identity and community, which is shaped by the communities we live in. However, circumstances are of increasingly dispersed nature, cultures are mutually engaging and traditions are communicated pervasively. The current global situation constructs a pervasive patchwork of cross-nationally networked people, increasingly connecting in the common thrive for justice of translocal matters. The world has witnessed massively pervasive engagement and action throughout the last years; however, it yet has to be seen in how far such mobilization transforms into a more structural level of citizen engagement and consequent new level of civil society challenging the contemporary socio-political world order. An increasingly intertwining global market does trigger the societal demand for solutions on an increasingly global scale and adjusted forms of governance.Despite the increasing lack of national governmental representation, it is to be explored if global evolvements and (ICT-facilitated) civic engagement do have a direct impact on people’s sense of belonging and consequently reshape the motivation for people’s civic engagement - extend the scope, and consequently challenging the traditional notion of citizenship as individual entity within civil society in a geo-spatially bound concept.

The question of citizenship
Recent years have generated a strong debate on the concept of bound or unbound citizenship in the course of technological innovation. Citizenship reflects which groups participate in their social construction and how. According to Cammaerts and Audenhove (2005) two main positions regarding citizenship and its transformation took shape in recent years. Opposing authors hold on to the classic definition of citizenship with strong focus on the nation state whilst others claim a transformation of citizenship against the background of globalization, transnationalization and new ICTs. The latter promote the emergence of new forms of ‘unbound’ citizenship, ‘linked to cosmopolitanism, multiple identities and embedded in a transnational civil society’. Such arguments point towards political participation disconnected (‘below and above’) the nation state. Such participation would emerge in the form of ‘communities of interest that go beyond the confinements or boundaries of the nation state and beyond mere rights’. ICTs are said to play an enabling role in this regard.Kaldor (2003 in Kavada 2005) claims the emergence of a global civil society – triggered by socio political changes related to globalization and facilitated by ICT innovations. Dispersed living people start feeling part of one community through the availability of visual impressions and information from elsewhere.Hence, the shift from geo-spatially towards socio-spatially bound frameworks of interaction and the generally transcending scope of economic and political challenges in correlation with the technological means for dispersed civic engagement suggests a reconsideration of the very concept of citizenship and the concept of agency therein. Citizens on a dispersed scale seemingly rise up and take action to claim (back) agency over their situations (Ross 2011).

ICTs, Civic action and transcending identities
The phenomenon of transnational citizen engagement we are currently facing is certainly facilitated by the rapid progress of new ICTs and consequent opportunities for a globally spanned network of scaled collective reflection and consequent action supported by the immensely increased visibility and circulation of citizen-driven information online and in consequence offline. Such new opportunities impact the variety of access to information citizens have, the opportunities for self-expression as well as the chances for collective reflection, mutual inspiration beyond local spheres and nation states, and consequent action on an increasingly disperse level, causing entirely new dynamics. It can be considered that increasingly dispersed means of communication in correlation with increasingly transnational threats are fostering the awareness of translocal commonality. Hence, circumstances, traditions and cultures may not be replaced but may attain a new scope of immediacy, impacting ways of identity formation, community-building and consequent action that might lead to a shifting hegemonic discourse., challenging traditional concepts of citizenship.