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Democracy 2.0 and the 15-M movement

For years, people have been talking about Democracy 2.0: the use of communications technologies to create public areas in cyberspace based on democratic principles. Nonetheless, the phrase tends to generate uncertainty, especially because of the tendency to put the 2.0 tag on any new development on the internet, obscuring, in a way, the principles that underlie these developments. If we are referring to democracy, it will exist on the web solely on the basis of the methods and criteria used to design and organize websites.


The 15-M movement, organized by ¡Democracia Real Ya!, has had an important impact on Spanish public opinion and has spread to other countries. It is undeniable that new communications channels on the internet have contributed to the expansion of its ideals, but they have not been the only methods by which the movement has been fuelled and motivated. The Cocktail Analysis, a consultancy, recently published a study called Movilización y redes sociales (Mobilization and social networks) looking at how Spanish web users evaluate the 15-M movement.

Contrary to what many may think, most people first became aware of 15-M on the television (51.9 percent versus 29.6 percent who found out first on the internet). Subsequently, however, they turned to the internet to find out more, with 43.1 percent finding better information on the web compared to 34.2 percent who preferred television. Other media were much less used: newspapers by 13.6 percent of respondents, and radio by 6.8 percent. Neither is there any doubt that social networks were the principal source of information (53.8 percent) among internet users. Through social networks, users distributed and shared information on the issue (18.1 percent) as a form of participation. Other ways of getting involved included taking part in demonstrations (17.9 percent) and sharing information through other channels online (13.9 percent). Participation in meetings, though small at 6.8 percent, was nonetheless significant.

The 15-M movement has helped citizens and groups of citizens express their opinions – that it is its greatest achievement. A horizontal organization structure is not easy to maintain for logistical and planning reasons, but it cannot be done away with in some stages of the process. The number of people who identify with the causes of the movement is high (88.3 percent), similar to the number who support its continuation (83.4 percent), regardless of the criticisms and questions that have been raised by some strategies in some cities. Its influence in the local elections was seen as important (according to 23 percent of respondents) although its real impact has yet to be evaluated. For that reason the next steps of the 15-M movement are crucial: 62.7 percent of people polled agree with the call for a general strike organized by the movement.

In social networks and online media, the movement has found a platform to organize, plan and interact with the aim of building experience and articulating interests. However, real democracy is on the street, in the democratic institutions and in active participation in public spaces. Political parties will have to have the capacity to decipher the signals coming from a society that demands transparency and change. Movements such as 15-M will have to show creativity and intelligence in presenting viable and coherent proposals.

This article has been translated from Spanish with the author’s permission. Read the original Spanish version here.

Este artículo ha sido traducido del español con el permiso del autor. Lea el original aquí.

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Published: Jul 18 2011
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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1 Comment for “Democracy 2.0 and the 15-M movement”

  1. The immediate outcome of 15-M is twofold: causes shared by a huge majority of the people have been publicised (no less, no more). And: there are no mechanisms to follow up (if the demands are met).

    This is a gaping wide opening, again, for populism, especially for the PSOE, which has a bigger apparatus than IU, even though many of the 15-M’s demands smack of core IU ideology. The whole constellation is doubly good for the PSOE because it a) sets an agenda unfavourable to the PP and b) it leaves little room for alternatives on the left. And maybe also c): the 15-M is no movement that would favour secession; another competitor down.

    And in all this lies no solution, but more problems. The populist abuse of genuinely popular demands, of the best criticism so far Spain has seen of the current economic and political crisis, is a problem in itself. If this populism prevents a basically healthy change of government, there’s the second problem. The combination of these two problems above is even more serious: the continuation of more of the same with some vain and empty kowtow to popular demands, at the price of shedding out some dough to quieten, not even to appease.

    And the alternatives? Even worse. An IU majority, or, more realistically, a PSOE-IU coalition, both of which will not happen. And if one or the other did, there is no indication we would not get either a totally ideologised government (ZP 3.0, squared, with the successive loss of money and prestige) or, again, more of the same. Or a PP-led government, that would happily (and to a great deal rightfully) blame the preceding government for the lack of funding that will lead it to apply even more severe austerity measures (Catalonia is a case in point), but would not rule for the people. Instead, at best, it would rule for 2/3 of the people and leave one third in utter misery. At worst, it would rule for for the happy 1/5 of their core electorate.

    With a 15-M movement unwilling or unable to make politics beyond Plaza del Sol, political parties that know only of “clientelismo ” and a partisan press that opts for the bad if not for the ugly, the outlook is bleak.

    The next 15-M will march from Sol straight into Moncloa, and Spain being Spain, others might be marching from down south, in a very orderly fashion.

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