Mediated through the dissolution of vertical hierarchies into horizontal networks of communications, the rise of transnational movements is a phenomenal response to the evolution of technological revolution brought about by the Internet. To some extent this has been a mutually reinforcing relationship. However, when seen in the context of the WSF, this expansion of ideas and movements on a horizontal matrix of transnational networking has not been a truly pluralizing event so far. The WSF process has an inherent (inbuilt) weakness according to which the communicative action brought in by transnational activity never reaches a critical, optimum threshold. This is partly because of the nature of configuration of the WSF. The force of all this surge and mobility; the soft power is getting dissipated along various tangential trajectories. In the process, the participatory quotient of mobilization does not reach a critical mass where it can offset or frustrate the hegemony of its counterpart, as was the case in Seattle.

To put this simply, the role of mediated communications should be to present the Forum more like a campaign and less like an event to realize the pluralizing potential of the concepts like ‘e-mobilization, ‘symbolic mobilization’ or ‘e-participation’. This is where transition to real participatory democratization begins to take shape through the agency of mediated communications at the WSF.

Perhaps the best example is the inception of Independent Media Centre and role it played in Seattle, an activity which was the result of a coalition of few aspiring communications activists who were able to put the emancipating aspects of a technological innovation and the spirit of democracy to its right use (Kidd 2002: 02) and it worked quite dramatically creating a sporadic chain of participatory communicative action traversing across borders, toppling the Ministerial meeting of the WTO. This is an example of harnessing a movement of protest networks through e-mobilization and channeling a kind of symbolic collective action through technological means. Another example is Zapatista movement, which has been able to politically activate their communications circuits through achieving competence in proper networking through the internet.

A concrete, concentrated communicative action and debate engendered through the pluralizing nature of alternative media is worthy to be a dominant narrative for the future of the WSF. The social organizations of feminist movement, environmental movement and Zapatista movement through the use of networking and mediated technologies deserve to be looked as best practices (to borrow a cliché from developmental jargon). The nuts and bolts are there. They need to be fastened to rationalize a system with the objective to orchestrate some order into this highly charged field of ‘creative chaos’ composed of spheres of communicative dissipation.

There is, however, one obvious difference between feminist, environmental and Zapatista movements and the WSF. Whereas they have limited focus and are able to contain their objectives, the WSF is a large, open and fluid movement of movements and that is where the split occurs which is both a paradox and also a conundrum for using mediated and communicative action to harness the benefits of participatory democracy within the Forum. Seattle was one example where this fragmented synergy worked. But the WSF has not yet found that harmonizing alchemy. In this sense the ‘learning-by-doing’ approach needs to be administered within the forum based on continuous course correction and harnessing of communications potential both internally as well as externally to work towards a larger participatory democratic discourse to sustain and contain the movement.

The communicative action needs to rise above this predicament to find a communicative frequency that can help overcome the split, which does not mean co-optation of alternative democratic media by mainstream capitalist media. Instead what is required, is a step towards overcoming a gap where a process of necessary reformation of fostering an alternative dialogue can begin with the ability to stand-up to the hegemony from above.

A parallel civilizing process for anti-globalization needs to be in place to create a balancing act to over come this disjuncture. The evidence is within the World Social Forum itself, which defined as a movement of movements, is dynamic and evolving but not sure of its trajectory or course it will assume. Various nodes, points and elements of this ‘multitude’ (Hardt & Negri, 2000) meet but do not connect enough to strike a communicative construct that can usher into a participatory democratic voice with the ability to fill up the large and empty space lying between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic globalization. A space which is devoid of rational critical debate; which has been depoliticized so much so that it is beginning to lose impact of its unity.

All this proliferation of products, people and ideas has created fragmented galaxies within the World Social Forum. The vital communicative-connect has yet to find its anchor to provide impetus to these networks of solidarity to serve as effective conduits of democratization. If this transnational fire is not fuelled and harnessed properly it will continue to further strengthen the right wing politics and the ‘alchemy’ of this ‘sea-change’ will never be enough to transform the metaphors of hegemony into a counter-hegemonic change from-below. Otherwise this movement will assume a course which will run parallel to globalization, where globalization will remain as globalization and the left will remain as global left and in the process it will keep strengthening the right-wing politics and the negative gap, the spheres of communicative dissipation will further increase the chasm. This inherent split has to be overcome at some point in time to start a process of reformation, if this movement of movements promoted through a network of networks has to realize the democratic potential of its participatory sphere ever.

Copyrights © 2005 Sumaira Sagheer Toor
Masters Dissertation, MA in Global Media and Postnational Communication, School of Oriental and African Studies, London