Communications Networks, Movements and the Neoliberal City: The Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia

Berger, Dan; Funke, Peter; Wolfson, Todd
Transforming Anthropology

Using the Philadelphia-based organization Media Mobilizing Project as a case study, this article argues for a more sophisticated understanding of social movement networks. We argue that the fragmentation of the neoliberal city has increased the saliency of networked-based organizing. Contrary to much of the existing scholarly literature, however, we argue that such networks combine horizontal and vertical forms of organization, as well as online and offline media. Networks are not purely horizontal, nor are new media necessarily the best or most natural apparatus for developing networked social movements. Instead, we argue, radio and video may be better suited to connecting poor people in today's cities. We also shift the locus of analysis away from transnational networks to local ones. While the fragmentation of communities and isolation of the poor can be found across a range of deindustrialized cities in the United States and globally, the effect of deindustrialization and neoliberalism is asymmetrical. This difference gives the specifics of particular locations greater saliency in scholarly analysis. The local network reveals a three-dimensional political and organizational response that joins the contemporary urban landscape with the contemporary media landscape.