The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


This paper develops current understandings of social movements by incorporating research on state formation and counterinsurgency, expanding political process theory by introducing the concepts of legibility and capacity. It then considers the changes caused by widespread use of Internet communications technologies (ICTs). The paper conceptualizes state-movement contention as a competition for access to civil society and its resources. Movements and states attempt to maximize their access, otherwise known as capacity, and minimize that of their rival. The legibility of society to either side impacts their success. Success, or lack thereof, determines future capacity. Increased usage of ICTs and digital surveillance have decentralized movements, changing their organizational structures from hierarchical to decentralized and interlinked structures. Capacity, legibility, and action all take place through semi-spontaneous individual efforts, and knowledge and tactics are spread through social, not organizational, networks. As a result, trust has become a key component of capacity, rivalling – if not replacing – legibility.