Students in Austria have sparked a new, European-wide movement using social networking tools, as Global Voices Online reports; it's a fascinating example of participatory, grassroots public media in action. Faced with underfunded university systems across Europe, students have used social networking tools to find each other, brainstorm approaches, and mobilize for action, through the movement they call unibrent (university on fire.) Launched in October 2009, within a month the movement spread to Germany, Switzerland, Albania, Serbia, France, Italy, Croatia and the Netherlands.
Students are using a traditional non violent method of sit-ins but are incorporating various social media tools to organize and communicate. All the sit-ins are filmed so as to avoid any rumors that students are behaving violently. Global Voices Online journalist Helge Farhnberger reports, "It looks like the case of #unibrennt may become an early milestone in the transformation of Austrian politics by the use of online social media. It has created wide attention - and confusion - among established media and political structures, and created a spirit of empowerment among students and digital leaders."
European social media experts who are analyzing the process are also using social media tools. Max Kossats from the blog Wizen belastet has created a map, shown below, that charts the emergence of 'tweets' with the hashtags #unibrennt and #unsereuni (”university on fire” and “our university”) over the past month.