Saturday, 29 October 2011

What Does it Take to Make a Movement?


I am just having a quick look through the Annual Report 09-10 and Strategic Plan to 2015 of the Wikimedia Foundation - the people behind all things Wiki.

What's interesting is the way in which the Founation presents itself as a 'movement'.

The Strategic Plan, for example, makes this point unequivocally:

Wikimedia is and will remain adecentralized movement comprised of readers, editors, the Wikimedia Foundation andchapters, advisers and like-minded organizations — each playing different formaland informal leadership and support roles.

This plan captures our common aspirationsand priorities. It articulates the work we will undertake to achieve our shared goalsover the next five years, and reflects our collective vision for the future.

From a labour movement perspective it is interesting to question to what degree the Wikimedia projects can truly be determined as a movement. Some of the standard literature here tends to be fairly prescriptive.

For example Beverly Silver's 2003 publication Forces of Labor: Worker's Movements and Globalization since 1870 emphasises:

- Voluntarism as the dominant method by which aspirations are identified and progressed
- Collectivity
- Progressive ideals
- Alliance with political wings either formally or looser

Much of Silver's (and others) theoretical positioning however, is quite significantly challenged in more recent literature which encompasses a more contemporary focus on broader social movements which create alternative considerations.

The work of people like Pete Waterman (and others) suggests that new determining factors include:

- The impact of and relationship to globalisation
- Internationalism - and in particular the concept of global social movements
- The inter-dependency of workers in globalisation, and as such a transition to cross-border activity as a move away from nation state-specific movements

I am not suggesting that the Wikimedia concept cannot fit easily within historic or more contemporary definitions of the conceptualisation of 'movements' moreso that we need to be able to create a flexible, modern notion of the inter-relationship of movements - particularly to identify and exploit over lapping agendas.

Any questions/comments welcome as ever.

In Solidarity


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