Exploring the Facebook Networks of German Anti-Immigration Groups
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This dissertation investigates the role of digital media for contentious collective action. More precisely, it focuses on German anti-asylum-shelter (AAS) groups on Facebook and the way these organizations’ usage of platform affordances can be read from an adaptation of the framework of Modes of Coordination (MoC) of collective action. To do so, the thesis starts with an inquiry of the theoretical debate on the role of information and communication technology for social movements and collective action and highlights some misconceptions and discrepancies, especially on the role of formal organizations (chapter II). It argues to carefully explore the different interorganizational ties that form between AAS-groups and the networks that emerge from these in light of the two dimensions of resource exchange and boundary definition. After that, chapter III provides detailed accounts of case selection and data collection and of the research questions that structure the subsequent analyses. To answer these, chapter IV-i explores the temporal and spatial activity patterns of AAS-groups both on- and offline, finding a clear correspondence between the two. Chapter IV-ii uses topic modelling to explore the content of groups’ communication, identifying a narrative of the reasonable and peaceful in-group and a combination of criminal (asylum-seekers), treacherous (politicians) and lying (press) outgroups. This clearly debunks a narrative of centrist “concerned citizens” and shows the deeply racist and right-wing extremist nature of AAS activity. The third empirical part (chapter IV-iii) discusses five types of networks that emerge from groups’ activities and combines these into four different MoC. We can identify a prevalence of the organizational mode of coordination, that involves limited exchange in terms of both resource exchange and boundary definition. However, a small but dense network also emerges from those ties that are defined by the social movement mode. Exponential Random Graph Modelling shows that while spatial proximity is a key determinant for tie formation across all modes, the role of formal organizations (right-wing parties) must not be dismissed. In fact, it differs both by party and by MoC in question. Overall, as chapter V sums up, the dissertation proves the relevance of a relational perspective to the study of digitally mediated collective action in general, as well as of an adapted framework of MoC in particular.