The 5 activist functions of technology and #Riots
5 Mar 2012
In 2011, Women'sNet conducted 2 sets of workshops on e-advocacy techniques and digital actvism in the framework of the OWRAP Program and with the Building Women's Collective Power project. More specifically, those workshop have focused on the use of social media platforms and a set of online tools that can help feminist actvists in their advocacy campaigns. Recently, the Arab Spring, and more specifically the Egyptian and Tunisian popular uprisings of 2011, were fuelled by online activists, organising through blogs, SMS, and social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook. How can the feminist movement in South Africa can take advantage of new online and mobile tehnologies to improve their advocacy practices? The following publications start a reflexion on activism and technology in our hyper connected world.
Mary C Joyce of the Meta-Activism project summarizes in a recent blog post the key functions of technology for activist purposes: to shpae public opinion, plan an action, protect activists, share a call to action and take action digitally.
From the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring and Occupy Movements to non-profits and bloggers advocating online to political candidates on Twitter, many people hoping to change the world (or slightly improve it) are using technology to do so. It seems that every day we learn about a new tactic, a new social media tool, a new argument about how technology has been over-hyped or undersold. The variety and complexity seems infinite.
I’ve been studying digital activism for the past six years, and during that time I’ve had the nagging sense that this variety is not infinite, that if we look at digital activism for long enough, we will start seeing patterns. What previously seemed like infinite applications will turn out to be a limited number of technological functions appearing in diverse contexts. Digital activism’s variety comes from context, not technical capacity. Today’s digital technologies are capable of a broad, but finite, number of uses.
So I’m going to make a bold claim, digital technology can only do five things for activists. These five uses can be carried out through a variety of tools (blogs, micro-blogs, SMS, websites, social networks, video, the list goes on) and in a variety of contexts (revolutionary struggle under a repressive regime, international social justice campaign, local advocacy, democratic political elections…), but there are still only five of them. To read more click here.
Bill Wasick of Wired Magazine reflects on the use of social media and mobile technology in the context of "Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts".
Let’s start with the fundamental paradox: Our personal technology in the 21st century—our laptops and smartphones, our browsers and apps—does everything it can to keep us out of crowds.
Why pack into Target when Amazon can speed the essentials of life to your door? Why approach strangers at parties or bars when dating sites like OkCupid (to say nothing of hookup apps like Grindr) can more efficiently shuttle potential mates into your bed? Why sit in a cinema when you can stream? Why cram into arena seats when you can pay per view? We declare the obsolescence of “bricks and mortar,” but let’s be honest: What we usually want to avoid is the flesh and blood, the unpleasant waits and stares and sweat entailed in vying against other bodies in the same place, at the same time, in pursuit of the same resources.
And yet: On those rare occasions when we want to form a crowd, our tech can work a strange, dark magic. To read more click here.