Indigenous Movements, Collective Action, and Social Media: New Opportunities or New Barriers?
Indigenous peoples remain among the most marginalized population groups in the Americas. The decline of the Indigenous protest cycle in Latin America by the mid-2000s meant that research on collective action turned elsewhere just as the use of social media was becoming more prominent in the tactical repertoire of collective action, and we know little about how Indigenous groups have adapted new technologies for the purpose of civic engagement. If social media has begun to take the place of disruptive action (the most effective tactics in the 1990s according to Indigenous leaders), if personalized action is replacing collective identity (a strength of the Indigenous movements in the 1980s–1990s) and if their access to technology is limited, what does this mean for the ability of Indigenous communities to pursue their claims? Based on 2 years of fieldwork, this article addresses this question from the perspective of Indigenous organizations in three Latin American countries, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador. We find that some Indigenous organizations have benefited from the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in terms of enhanced communication, access to information, visibility, interest promotion, and commercialization of products and services. At this point in time, however, it appears that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.