Resisting far-right extremism: research infrastructures and capabilities

This article is drawn from conversations and observations with colleagues at Uplift over the course of eight years. Working with a small team in Ireland and with colleagues from elsewhere, I helped found the organisation in 2013 and grow it into what is now one of Ireland’s most important collective democratic voices.

This is the story of another organisation, the Far Right Observatory, established by coalition of organisations and individuals in Ireland including Uplift. In it, I show something about how we can challenge the harms done by far-right groups in Ireland and elsewhere.

But more than that, I bring together some strategies about how to identify, challenge and resist wider changes in our digital infrastructures that make these harms worse. How researchers and communities and campaigners can together build the capabilities, tools and research infrastructures needed to do this work.

Title: Collective capabilities for resisting far-right extremism online and in the real world

Author: Cian O’Donovan

Journal: Journal of Peer Production – special issue: transitions.

Keywords: collective action, digital advocacy organisations, far-right extremism, human capabilities, research infrastructure


This article examines the capacity of groups in civil society to observe and mitigate far-right extremism. A critical feature of far-right activity today is the adoption of digital technologies such as social media platforms, email, and distributed chat servers. But transitions in underlying sociomaterial systems also contribute to capabilities for civil society to fight back. Using a framework that integrates sociomaterial perspectives of digital transformation with the Capability Approach, the article identifies a set of capabilities for collective action valued at the Far-Right Observatory in Ireland. The FRO is intellectually and empirically interesting because it aims to combine a commitment to building capabilities amongst communities most impacted by extremism; the cultivation of in-house expertise; and collective capabilities developed by new forms of digital advocacy organisations. In conclusion, the article speculates on the possibilities for digital advocacy organisations more broadly to cultivate capabilities that challenge narrow technologically-directed transition and instead contribute to more plural radical transformation.