Content

Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan, Valentina Gevorgyan, 3 A New Channel of Information? The Challenge of Using the Social Media as a Mobilising Tool for the Armenian Civil Society in:

Wolfram Hilz, Shushanik Minasyan (Ed.)

Armenian Developments, page 27 - 44

Perspectives of Democratization and the Role of the Civil Society

1. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4287-8, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7197-7, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828871977-27

Series: Bonner Studien zum globalen Wandel, vol. 24

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
27 3 A New Channel of Information? The Challenge of Using the Social Media as a Mobilising Tool for the Armenian Civil Society Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan / Valentina Gevorgyan 1 Introduction Armenian civil society today is more diverse than it was ten, or even five years ago. At the turn of the 21st century, Armenian civil society was equated with NGOs. Not anymore. Since 2007 a new and increasingly visible actor entered the stage: youth-driven, social media-powered, issue-specific civic activism is a new form of expression in the realm of civil society. The so-called civic initiatives are loosely organised miniature social movements, mostly confined to Yerevan, but gradually gaining visibility. The term is a self-description used by a variety of activist groups united around a common, often very specific cause (blocking a construction in a public park, protesting against a new mine and so on). These new forms of civic participation led a few successful struggles.1 Armenian civil society today is a diverse mix of various players: from apolitical clubs to radical movements, from professionally staffed NGOs to spontaneously formed activist groups, from wellestablished organisations with clearly defined missions to fluid structures with shifting purposes. The civil society develops and functions against the general backdrop of Armenian political cul- 1 See Ishkanian, Armine et al.: Civil Society, Development and Environmental Activism in Armenia, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Yerevan, 2013, available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/54755/ (1 March 2018). 28 ture, challenging the entrenched post-communist syndrome of disengagement and cynicism towards the public sphere. In order to accurately assess the odds of increased participation in civil society, a more detailed analysis of trends and patterns of Armenian political culture are necessary. This chapter looks at public opinion survey data to examine social and political participation among the Armenian population. The aim of the paper is to place the Armenian civil society in the context of the political culture it operates in. In examining the overall context, we pay particular attention to the use of social media by the Armenian public and its various subgroups. Social media is extensively used by civil society to organise and to spread.2 Hence, we want to find out whether civil society actors are using this new channel of communication effectively. The following research question is formulated: to what extent do the social media reach out to potential activists? 2 Literature Review Civil society is generally defined as a sphere of social activities and organisations outside the state, the market and the private sphere that is based on principles of voluntarism, pluralism, and tolerance.3 Civil society studies often focus on organisations, but there are other players in the civil society arena. Not all civil society activities are channelled through formal institutions, nor do they all take conventional forms. Social movements are also a component of civil society, although their and often unconvention- 2 See Bagiyan, Armine: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civic Activism in Armenia. Master Thesis, Armenia, 2015; Kankanyan, Nina: Environmental Activism in Armenia. Master Thesis, Yerevan, 2015. 3 See Anheier, Helmut: Civil Society: Measurement, Evaluation, Policy, Sterling, 2004; Diamond, Larry: Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation, Baltimore & London, 1999; Linz, Juan & Stepan, Alfred: Toward Consolidated Democracies, in: Diamond, Larry (ed.): Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies: Themes and Perspectives, Baltimore & London, 1997, pp. 14- 33; Salamon, Lester & Sokolowski, Wojciech & List, Regina: Global Civil Society: An Overview - The Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, 2003, available at: http://www.jhu.edu/cnp/research/index.html (1 March 2018). 29 al repertoire of action make them a specific object of research in an ad hoc scientific literature.4 Although studies of civil society and studies of social movements have generally been advanced through separate schools within social science, there clearly is an overlap. Social movements can be of civil society, or vice versa, the vibrant associational life of civil society can be seen as a part of broader social movement dynamics .5 The two schools of thought can be integrated, using a framework proposed by Edwards.6 To do justice to the emerging diversity within the Armenian civil society, we conceptualise it as an ecosystem , in which two of its many elements, NGOs and nascent social movements function. Just like an ecosystem, the Armenian civil society is influenced by the overall social climate: a mix of stable elements of the political culture, including mistrust and low membership in civil society organisations,7 and new developments, such as technological advances powering the new social media. The role of social media in empowering civil society manifested itself in a particularly dramatic way during the Arab Spring,8 draw- 4 See Della Porta, Donatella & Diani, Mario: Social Movements: An Introduction, Oxford, 1999; Kriesi, Hanspeter: The Political Opportunity Structure of New Social Movements: Its Impact on Their Mobilization, in: Jenkins, Craig & Klandermans, Bert (eds.): The Politics of Social Protest: Comparative Perspectives on States and Social Movements, Minneapolis, 1995, pp. 167-198; Tarrow, Sidney: Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Politics, 1st edition, Cambridge & New York, 1994; Tilly, Charles & Tarrow, Sidney: Contentious Politics, Boulder, 2007. 5 See Della Porta, Donatella & Diani, Mario: Social Movements, in: Edwards, Michael (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Civil Society, Oxford, 2011, pp. 68- 79, p. 69. 6 See Edwards, Michael: Civil Society, 3rd edition, New York, 2014, p. 32. 7 See Paturyan, Yevgenya & Gevorgyan, Valentina: Armenian Civil Society after Twenty Years of Transition: Still Post-communist? Yerevan, 2014, available at: http://tcpa.aua.am/files/2012/07/Armenian_Civil_Society_after- _Twenty_Years_of_Transition_Manuscript_November_2014-fin.pdf (25 June 2018), p. 55-58. 8 See Breuer, Anita: The Role of Social Media in Mobilizing Political Protest: Evidence from the Tunisian Revolution, German Development Institute Discussion Paper, No. 10, 2012; Tufekci, Zeynep & Wilson, Christopher: Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations from Tahrir Square, in: Journal of Communication, Vol. 62, No. 2, 2012, pp. 363- 379; Eltantawy, Nahed & Wiest, Julie: Social Media in the Egyptian Revolu- 30 ing researchers attention to social networks as a tool for political change9 and for empowering public voices of ordinary people.10 Some studies demonstrate that the internet has a positive effect on civic engagement; the social media facilitates collective action.11 Social networking enhances the likelihood of citizen engagement in politics,12 impacts organisational membership and protest attendance.13 The importance of the internet has been framed as helping to build bridging social capital,14 which, in its turn, helps consolidate cooperative mutual engagement and promotes collective action.15 There are also counterarguments to the importance of the internet and the social media. Some authors suggest that while usage of mobilising potential and makes them lose contact with their social environment.16 Social media is because activists owe their achievements mostly to the traditional tion: Reconsidering Resource Mobilization Theory, in: International Journal of Communication, Vol. 5, No. 18, 2011, pp. 1207-1224. 9 See Raoof, Jihanet et al.: Using Social Network Systems as a Tool for Political Change, in: International Journal of Physical Sciences, Vol. 8, No. 21, 2013, pp. 1143-1148. 10 See Kirkpatrick, David: Does Facebook Have a Foreign Policy?, in: Foreign Policy, No. 190, 2011, p. 55. 11 See Yang, Guobin: The Co-Evolution of the Internet and Civil Society in China, in: Asian Survey, Vol. 43, No. 3, 2003, pp. 405-422. 12 See La Due Lake, Ronald & Huckfeldt, Robert: Social Capital, Social Networks, and Political Participation, in: Political Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 3, 1998, pp. 567-584. 13 See Schwarz, Elizabeth: The Impact of Social Network Websites on Social Movement Involvement, Working paper, Riverside, 2011, available at: http://cbsmpapers.web.unc.edu/files/2011/08/SchwarzSNSSocialMovements. pdf (20 October 2011). 14 See Kavanaugh, Andrea L. et al.: Weak Ties in Networked Communities, in: The Information Society, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2005, pp. 119-131. 15 See Granovetter, Mark: The Strength of Weak Ties, in: American Journal of Sociology, 1973, pp. 1360-1380; Putnam, Robert: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, New York, 2000. 16 See Nie, Norman & Erbring, Lutz: Internet and Society, in: Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, Stanford, 2000, available at: itsy.co.uk/archive/sisn/Pos/silver/IntAndSoc.pdf (1 March 2018); van Laer, Jeroen: Activists Online and Offline: The Internet as an Information Channel for Protest Demonstrations, in: Mobilization: An International Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2010, pp. 347-366. 31 means of protests; social media is good in framing the protest, not in organising it.17 3 Methodology We look at secondary data on various types of political and civic participation in Armenia and contrast it with data on the use of the internet and social media. The aim is to explore the overall political culture in which new civic initiatives have to operate and to juxtapose typical characteristics of a social media user and a potential activist, estimating the overlap between these two groups. We use data from the following surveys: the World Values Survey (WVS 1997 and 2011); the Caucasus Barometer (2008-2015); Alternative Resources in Media (2011 and 2013) and the CIVICUS Civil Society Index survey 2014. All these surveys were based on nationwide representative samples of adult residents of Armenia.18 The analysis in this chapter is based on data from the third and the sixth waves of WVS because these are the only two waves that included Armenia. The Caucasus Barometer (CB) is an annual nationwide representative survey conducted in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia by the Caucasus Research Resources Centres (CRRC) since 2008. Two nationwide representative surveys conducted by CRRC-Armenia in 2011 and 2013 titled Alternative Resources in Media (ARMedia) focus specifically on media consumption patterns and media perceptions.19 The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is a participa- 17 See Metwalli, Performance, in: The Case of Egypt: 6th April Movement, Durham, 2010; Theocharis, Yannis: Cuts, Tweets, Solidarity and Mobilisation: How the Internet Shaped the Student Occupations, in: Parliamentary Affairs, Vol. 65, No. 1, 2011, available at: http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/11/16/pa.gsr049.short (1 March 2018); Tusa, Felix: How Social Media Can Shape a Protest Movement: The Cases of Egypt in 2011 and Iran in 2009, in: Arab Media and Society, Vol. 17, 2013, available at: https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/184966/20130221104512_Tusa_Felix.pdf (1 March 2018); Valenzuela, Sebastián & Arriagada, Arturo & Scherman, Andrés: The Social Media Basis of Youth Protest Behavior: The Case of Chile, in: Journal of Communication, Vol. 62, No. 2, 2012, pp. 299-314. 18 ARMedia included younger respondents of 15+, WVS has 17+ respondents. 19 Information about CRRC and the CB is available at: http://www.crrccenters.org (1 March 2018). Information about CRRC- Armenia and the ARMedia study is available at: http://www.crrc.am (1 March 2018). 32 tory action-research project assessing the state of civil society in countries around the world. The CSI is initiated and implemented by local partner organisations, in partnership with the CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation.20 4 Armenian Civil Society: NGOs and Protests Twenty-five years of post-communist development resulted in a fairly well-developed NGO sector in the republic. There are more than 3.000 NGOs formally registered in Armenia; about 800 of those are probably functioning.21 The NGO sector overall is well organised but suffers from low civic engagement and weak impact.22 Its heavy dependence on donor funds earned it a label of 23. Public trust towards NGOs is low, yet NGOs think they are trusted.24 Overall, the NGO sector can thus be described as developed but detached from the public. As already mentioned, Armenian civil society is no longer just NGOs. Less formally structured civic initiatives have become an alternative mode of civic engagement and have grown from small campaigns to rather large and clearly political demonstrations of public disapproval of state policies. The three largest recent campaigns25 are briefly introduced below. In 2013-2014 a series of large scale well-organised protests against an unpopular pension reform caught the government and many analysts of Armenian civic activism by surprise. As a result, the implementation of the reform was postponed. The Prime Minister resigned, and the government was reshuffled, although officially the 20 Information is available at: https://civicus.org/index.php (1 March 2018). 21 See Paturyan, Yevgenya & Gevorgyan, Valentina: Civic Activism as a Novel Component of Armenian Civil Society, Yerevan, 2016, available at: http://tcpa.aua.am/files/2012/07/English-3.pdf (1 March 2018). 22 See Hakobyan, Lusine et al.: Armenian Civil Society: From Transition to Consolidation, Analytical Country Report, CIVICUS Civil Society Index, Yerevan, 2010. 23 Ishkanian, Armine: Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia, London & New York, 2008, p. 23. 24 See Paturyan, Yevgenya: Armenian Civil Society: It is not All about NGOs, in: Segert, Dieter (ed.): Civic Education and Democratisation in the Eastern Partnership Countries, Vol. 73, Bonn, 2016, pp. 69-75. 25 In the period of 2013-2016. 33 resignation of the Prime Minister was caused by other, unexplained reasons. In June 2015 thousands of people took to the streets to protest a proposed electricity price hike. Non-stop two weeks of protests and sit-ins blocked one of th hundred meters from the Presidential residence and the National Assembly. The protests spread beyond the capital. Nonetheless the , after its twitter hashtag. The most recent and controversial wave of protests erupted in summer 2016. A group of armed gunmen known as the Daredevils of Sasun took over a police station in Yerevan, killing a police officer in the process, and holding hostages. The group demanded the release of their jailed leader whom they considered to be a political prisoner and a resignation of the President. Thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate support for the Daredevils and force the government to negotiate. The standoff lasted for two weeks and claimed a life of a second police officer shortly before the gunmen surrendered. Thus, Armenian civil society includes an institutionalised but detached NGO sector on the one hand and the spontaneous outbursts of civic and political activism on the other hand. Both elements are influenced by gradually changing political culture and rapidly developing new technology. What are the challenges and the opportunities? What options does Armenian civil society have to improve its ability to voice and channel public concerns? We examine some elements of the political culture, and particularly patterns of social media use to deepen our understanding of the overall environment, in which Armenian civil society operates. 5 Are Armenians Willing to Participate? First, let us consider the overall public attitude towards activism. The WVS survey has data on confidence towards two types of soof these there are more negative than positive opinions: in 2011, 31% say they have either great deal or quite a lot of confidence not very much or none at all . For the environmental movement, the percentage of positive vs. negative answers are 36% and 42%, respectively. Noteworthy however is that environmental movements 34 emerged since mid-1980s in Armenia and represented the only subject of protest.26 The lack of environmental education, governmental transparency and mechanisms ensuring public participation in the decision-making of environmental policy triggered the movement, which later served as a basis for gradual emergence of other protest movements advocating political goals and eventually leading to the departure of the Soviet system. Rega WVS data show an increase: the mean, measured on the scale from 1 (a great deal) to 4 (none at all) changed from 3.05 in 1997 to 2.74 in 2011 (higher numbers mean less confidence). For both movements, the percentage of those undecided has increased, as depicted in Figure 1. Figure 1: Confidence in social movements (WVS, %) Membership in various associations in Armenia remains dismally small and has even decreased compared to 1997: 7% of the population was active in at least one organisation in 2011 as compared to 17% in 1997.27 According to the CIVICUS CSI survey, 2.4% of the population reported being a member of an informal civic group or a movement in 2014. No earlier data on participation in informal civic groups are available. People are not willing to join associations and are ambivalent or distrustful of NGOs. When asked about their trust towards NGOs, most Armenian respondents of the CB 2015 26 See Abrahamian, Levon: Armenian Identity in a Changing World, Costa Mesa, CA, 2006. 27 See Paturyan, Yevgenya & Gevorgyan, Valentina: Civic Activism as a Novel Component of Armenian Civil Society, Yerevan, 2016, p. 58, available at: http://tcpa.aua.am/files/2012/07/English-3.pdf (1 March 2018). 35 said neither trust nor distrusts (34%) followed by the attitude of distrust expressed by 29%. Unlike formal membership in associations, some informal types of civic engagement in the community seem to be on the rise in Armenia. Volunteering increased in the recent years: according to CB data, 37% of the Armenian population reported doing voluntary work in 2015 as compared to 22% in 2011. Non-conventional political participation in Armenia today is lower than in the mid-1990s. For all the four types of non-conventional political actions measured in WVS (signing a petition, joining in boycotts, attending demonstrations and joining strikes) the percentages of both those who reported having done it and those who said they might do it declined from 1997 to 2011, as evident from Figure 2 below. Figure 2: Political activism in Armenia (WVS, %) Based on survey data, we can infer that the Armenian civil society today finds itself in an environment of very low membership and mistrust of both NGOs and social movements, declining political participation but increasing volunteering. Things are changing, not least thanks to a rapid spread and diversification of alternative information channels. Can civil society use the new opportunities to improve its image and encourage more participation? In the rest of the chapter, we explore patterns of social media use among more and less active segments of the Armenian population. 36 6 Use of Social Media Since civil society often relies on the internet and particularly on social media to spread information, mobilise support and organise some of its activities, it is important to understand Armenian online media landscape and its recent trends. ARMedia surveys provide a wealth of data in that respect. The importance of internet as the most important source of information on current events and news grew from 6% in 2011 to 17% in 2013. Online publications are used at least once or twice per month to get information about current events and news by 34% of the population in 2013 as compared to 15% in 2011. Use of social networking sites for the similar purpose increased from 22% to 36% respectively. Additionally, the Caucasus Barometer data 2017 shows that 34% of respondents who use the internet said that they read listen or watch the news including watching online TV (apart from news on social networking sites). Figure 3 below illustrates, the importance of the internet in general, and social networking sites in particular, has grown. Trust towards these alternative sources of information increased as well. On a four-point scale (where one means no trust at all and four means of 2.63 in 2011 and 2.73 in 2013. Trust towards social networking sites increased slightly: from average 2.54 in 2011 to 2.59 in 2013. Among social network users, the percentage of those who use it for sharing political and/or social news increased from 16% in 2011 to 21% in 2013 (3.4% and 7.5% of the general population, respectively). 37 Figure 3: Increased importance of the internet as an information source (ARMedia, %) 7 Are Online Media Users the Same as Activists? After exploring the overall attitudinal context and online media usage patterns, we turn to our research question. To what extent do social media reach potential activists? To answer it, we need to understand (a) who is more likely to partake in activism and (b) to what extent potential activists can be reached through social networks. Unfortunately, we have no single database that would contain information on activism and on the use of social media in Armenia; we are unable to directly compare these two elements. WVS has data on activism but not data on the use of social networks while ARMedia has data on the use of social networks but no data on activism. To piece these two bits of information together, we project existing data onto standard variables that can be compared. We use basic socio-demographic variables: age, gender, education and income to depict a typical Armenian social network user and compare that socio-demographic portrait with a typical Armenian political activist to see whether there is a match between these two groups. 7.1 On the Receiving End of Online Information As we have demonstrated in the descriptive section of the analysis, internet usage is on the rise in Armenia. This is an opportunity for civil society to spread its information to more people and mobilise 38 support. But who are the people on the receiving end of this new and increasingly popular channel of communication? To understand that, we ran a number of statistical tests with the standard sociodemographic variables (age, gender, education and income) and four of the variables described above: use of the internet, trust towards online information sources (online publications and social networking sites in particular), and frequency of use of social networking sites to gain information about current events and news. We conducted tests for both years 2011 and 2013. Unless specified otherwise, we report results of statistical tests for the year 2013 only, while discussing a pattern that applies to both years, not to clog the chapter with too many numbers. Age: Younger people use the internet more. The average age of those who report using the internet in the past 12 months in 2013 is 38 as compared to the average age of 56 for non-users; this difference is statistically significant.28 Younger people are more trustful of online media29 and social networks.30 The pattern is very clear and runs steadily through age cohorts, as depicted in Figure 4. Younger people are also more frequent users of social networking sites as a source to get information about current events.31 Figure 4: Average trust towards online information sources by age cohorts 28 T-test: t (1397) = -20.997, p < 0.001 for 2013. 29 -0.274, N = 677, p < 0.001 for 2013. 30 -0.283, N = 647, p < 0.001 for 2013. 31 39 Gender has no influence on the frequency of internet use, neither on trust towards online media and social networks. Interestingly, in 2011 men reported using social networking sites as a source of information for current events more frequently than women.32 By 2013, however, the discrepancy between genders disappeared: women use social networking sites as a source of information as frequently as men. Education influences the usage of the internet. Those who reported using the internet in the last 12 months have higher education.33 Education does not seem to affect levels of trust towards social networks, but it does affect the frequency of using those as a source of information about current events and news: the higher the education, the more frequently the respondent will use social networking sites as a source of information.34 Income: Respondents, who perceive themselves to be relatively better off,35 are more likely to report having used the internet in the last 12 months.36 They also report higher levels of trust towards online media37 and social networks,38 and the use of social networking sites as a source of information about current events and news more frequently.39 32 T-test: t (1375) = -2.106, p < 0.05 for 2011. 33 T-test: t (1398) = 13.896, p < 0.001 for 2013. 34 -0.272, N = 1384, p < 0.001 for 2013. 35 The survey does not include questions on respondent or household income levels. Instead the following question was used to estimate relative wellbest reflects the current financial situation of your family/household? Money is not enough for food, Money is enough for the food, but not for clothes, Money is enough for food and clothes, but it is not enough for buying expensive things such as a TV and washing machine. We can afford some expensive goods (e.g., TV set or washing machine). We can afford expensive goods, to have summer vacation, to buy a car, but we cannot buy an apart- 36 T-test: t (1373) = 14.289, p < 0.001 for 2013. 37 38 39 -0.364, N = 1359, p < 0.001 for 2013. 40 7.2 Actual and Potential Activists Civil society needs popular support. If civil society actors want to attract more people to their cause, it is logical to target people that are more inclined towards taking action. We use WVS data on four types of non-conventional political participation, (petitions, boycotts, demonstrations, and strikes) as measurements of activism. To simplify the analysis, we recalculated original data into new dummy variables, grouping have done and might do response categories together, creating a simple dichotomy between people who said they would never engage in the type of activity mentioned and those who are willing or have already done so. We look at each of the four types of actions, assessing whether age, gender, education and income influence the likelihood of participation. We also note whether the picture in 2011 is different from that in 1997. Table 1 below summarizes the results of T-Test and Chisquare analysis. Only statistically significant results are reported. It is clear that in 1997 the distinction between those willing and unwilling to participate was more pronounced: except petitions (for which age, gender, and education did not matter) participants were likely to be younger more educated less earning men. In 2011 the differences have all but disappeared, with the exception of education. Age and income do not matter anymore, gender matters only for participation in boycotts. Thus, education is the most important predictor of activism. In that sense, internet and social networks user: more educated use the internet more often and turn to social networks to get information more often. Use of social networks as a tool to spread information and attract potential activist seems to be a good strategy to target those most likely to answer the call. In terms of other socio-demographic variables, there is less of a match. 41 Table 1: Non-conventional political participation by socio-demographic variables, WVS Age Gender Education Income Petition - - 2011: more educated are more likely to participate 1997: worse-off are more likely to participate Boycott 1997: younger are more likely to participate 1997 and 2011: men are more likely to participate 1997 and 2011: more educated are more likely to participate 1997: worse-off are more likely to participate Demonstration 1997: younger are more likely to participate 1997: men are more likely to participate 1997 and 2011: more educated are more likely to participate 1997: worse-off are more likely to participate Strike 1997: younger are more likely to participate 1997: men are more likely to participate 1997 and 2011: more educated are more likely to participate 1997: worse-off are more likely to participate For instance, we found that younger people use the internet and social networking sites as a source of information more often. But older people are just as likely to participate in demonstrations as younger people. Hence, information spread through social networks misses out some potential joiners of older age. Same can be said about the income: better-off are more likely to be on the receiving end of the internet spread information, but worse-off are just as likely to partake in various types of activism. Our analysis shows to mobilise support are 42 very heterogeneous, while the internet is only targeting a part of those. 8 Conclusion & Discussion The picture of Armenian political culture, depicted by the survey data we discussed is not very encouraging for civil society, but there are a few silver linings. Potentially negative factors include low public confidence, extremely low membership in associations, and negative public attitude towards participation. Nonconventional political participation in 2011 is less common than in 1997, but there is more heterogeneity in terms of participants: in 1997 young, educated men with lower incomes were more likely to sign petitions and partake in boycotts, demonstrations, and strikes. In 2011 age, gender and income levels lose their predictive power. Education still matters: the higher the education, the higher is the likelihood of participation. Among findings that can be interpreted as good news for civil society is the fact that confidence in social movements has increased since the mid-1990s. Volunteering is on the rise. The internet is spreading fast. One-third of the population uses social networking sites as sources of information about social and political events, making social networks a good venue for civic mobilisation. Drawing parallels between social media users and potential activists, we can see that social media reaches younger, more educated and financially better-off people, while potential activists come from all walks of life. Figure 5 below is a graphical reflection of the situation: frequent internet users are a relatively larger but more homogenous group of younger, better-off people, while actual and potential activists are a relatively smaller but more heterogeneous group of people of various ages and walks of life. Not all of them are reachable through the internet. Thus, if civil society aims to mobilise larger public support, the organisers need to think how to spread information in addition to social networks, to reach those potential participants who are not users of social networks, or who are distrustful of them. 43 Figure 5: Partial overlap between internet users and activists Acknowledgements This publication is a result of a research project supported by a grant from the Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN). We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the Turpanjian Center for Policy Analysis research team. Without the work of Tatevik Badalyan, Armine Bagiyan, Nvard Grigoryan, Nina Kankanyan and Ani Kojoyan this publication would not have been possible.

Chapter Preview

References

Abstract

The development of societies during and after periods of authoritarian or totalitarian rule is among the most interesting research topics in social sciences. On the one hand, the analysis is directed at why, when and how societies resist tyrannies and what ultimately leads to the downfall of seemingly invincible regimes. On the other hand, once such authoritarian regimes unravel, it is important to comprehend how societal groups organize themselves and how they try to influence political processes. In the case of the former Soviet republics, this transition was a complex and incalculable development that led to very heterogeneous political and societal situations. Due to the territorial situation of Armenia – wedged between the predominantly hostile neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan, in the shadow of hegemonial Russia and Iran – the domestic Armenian development options seemed limited for decades. However, the transformation of the civil society in the Republic of Armenia finally paved its way slowly but constantly in recent years. The aim of this volume is to shed light on the ongoing discussion on civil society in Armenia in the context of democratization and to examine its potential for democratic consolidation. The perspectives recount diverse facets of the Armenian civic landscape, as well as the recent processes of democratization. The contributions from predominantly Armenian experts focus on the necessary structures and important actors for an understanding and characterization of the current situation of the Armenian civil society.