The emergence of the new communications technology has dramatically changed the way social movements are organised. It enables them to radically accelerate the processes of recruitment, mobilisation, communication and dissemination of information, as well as expanding spaces of mobilisation that were previously restricted by physical limitations.
The development of these new technologies was largely driven by the needs of international military and corporate users who required a large volume of digitised signals to be transported over a global network at high speed. As a result, intense efforts were made to upgrade the old copper wires with optical fibre cables and new satellite systems and to develop digital switches that could process this unprecedented flow of data. These developments brought with them the promise of a vast potential market for digital services, from wristwatch data phones to slimmed-down personal computers capable of cruising the Internet.
In many utopian writings, ICTs are seen as a revolutionary force that can fundamentally alter societies and individual lives (Hiltz and Turoff, 1978; Toffler, 1980). This is called the techno-centric perspective, which argues that the imperatives of technological development determine the nature of society and the structure of human life.
It has been found that in order to be successful, social movements need a variety of resources that guarantee their organisation and continuity, such as money, cadres, skills, alliances with other groups and a number of traditional and modern means of mobilisation. However, the most important resource for most social movements is their leader, who must be able to convince the movement’s members that his or her vision of the world is worth pursuing. This is exemplified by Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Franchise League in England, who managed to change the convictions of women and led them to victory over laws denying women the vote; or Martin Luther King, who gave voice to the African American civil rights movement, winning a great deal of support for his cause.