Final Project Research–Cyberactivism
// Posted by Elizabeth on 11/10/2014 (7:02 PM)
Bringing together all the research and feedback I’ve done to write my final paper on cyberactivism seems really overwhelming, but it’s also exciting, and I think I have a lot of great stuff to pull together into what will hopefully be an insightful and interesting work. It seems like my project pitch on Monday went well and that everyone understood how my research on Bye Felipe, Greenpeace Greenwire and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge supports my argument. I think using these case studies will really keep my paper focused and make my argument seem very well supported.
I was so grateful to receive feedback from my peers about my project as it has developed so far. Specifically, I asked them to consider the presence of “hashtag activism,” or their friends or acquaintances posting about political or other social issues, in their day-to-day use of social media. I hoped they would reflect on what this means for cyberactivism, and think about if it’s at all effective or just irritating. While there was some variety in the answers I got, there was a general consensus among all four responders that activism doesn’t necessarily belong on Facebook. Damien, for example, brought up the worthwhile concern that many people who continuously express political opinions on Facebook or other networks are actually very uninformed. I think this is a great point, and it will be interesting to consider with regards to slacktivism; I could definitely see this as a component of the issue, but I’m not sure what the theory might say about such an idea. Emily and Nicola actually both confessed to deleting or blocking users who post about societal issues on their pages and have opposing views from their own. Aisling seemed to mind less that such users were present on her social media networks, and she said that she appreciated observing the conversations her peers are having about social issues. But she also recognized that activists might be better off in their own spaces. It will be really interesting to consider all this insight as I write my paper.
In general, I still plan to argue that because of the dangers of slacktivism, cyberactivism will continue to be most effective when coupled with offline organized and acts of protest. Evidence for this argument can be seen in an analysis of the success and progress created by the Bye Felipe and ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and in my paper I’ll specifically consider issues of slacktivism and awareness raising as they relate to these two campaigns. In this space I’ll also consider what the research says about slacktivism and try to tie in this theoretical evidence with my own thoughts on the first two cases. I’ll then take the argument a step further by analyzing the purpose and effectiveness of Greenpeace Greenwire, and considering how it could shape future uses of cyberactivism. What I find most significant about this final case, however, is that its creators and users have no intention of exclusively using Greenpeace Greenwire to promote environmental protection, and I’ll argue that while cyberactivism is a powerful tool, it will be most successful in creating change with supplementary efforts. In this section I’ll reflect briefly on the comments I received from my peers about activism on their social media pages and networks, and I’ll use their comments about these experiences as additional support for the idea that activists could probably benefit from the creation of spaces catered to their interests, whatever they may be, online.
Quick thought re: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge–what about Ebola?? Where is the giant campaign soliciting donations for a disease that’s devastating Africa? Is there proportionality here?
As I’m going through and reflecting upon my research so far to solidify my argument, I want to highlight a passage about the Bye Felipe campaign that I think is really relevant to my overall topic of cyberactivism and its strengths and flaws. The creator of Bye Felipe writes:
“While Bye Felipe (a take on the meme ‘Bye Felicia‘) uses humor to take away some of the power these insults may carry, I also like to point folks to the Tumblr ‘When Women Refuse,’ which chronicles the serious problem of actual violence women experience at the hands of men who have been rejected.
I have been asked multiple times, ‘What’s the answer to this? What can these dating sites do to curb this problem?’ And I struggle to answer, because this is just a symptom of a larger problem. Censoring these messages may help in the short term, but the messages featured on Bye Felipe are like an immortalized version of the catcalls and threats women receive on the the street every day, just walking around and existing. Until we change the cultural atmosphere, women will continue to receive these hurtful messages online and in real life.”
An interesting perspective on the point of the online campaign–Tweten implies that Bye Felipe is a humor-based approach to cyberactivism meant more to chronicle these offensive messages and empower the women receiving them, not necessarily to call for corrective action to this problem. Of course, in a very Quinn Norton-esque explanation, the campaign creator also implies that these messages are a greater reflection of the treatment and harassment in society, and not isolated to the online spaces that can be seen on the Instagram account. To solve this issue, she seems to argue, would require a greater cultural shift in the treatment of women in our society.
Here’s the blog post: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2014/10/31/why-i-created-bye-felipe/
Interesting proposition in reason #2: The author claims that the Ice Bucket Challenge creates a sort of competition among charity organizations to develop their own viral campaigns. Is this true? What about IBC spin-offs? Also, does this imply that charities are/will be creating online campaigns specifically?
Here’s a list of a few international Ice Bucket Challenge offshoots: http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-04/these-eight-ice-bucket-challenge-spin-offs-are-boosting-causes-worldwide
It seems that “slacktivism” is a term inherently associated with digital technology. This article defines it as “…the use of low-barrier digital actions to effect change. These actions are somewhat less energetic than traditional activists are used to, to put it mildly: clicking on a button to upvote a statement encouraging change, adding your name to an online petition, and in its most persistent (or pernicious) forms, adding a hashtag to a tweet, changing your online avatar and altering your status.”
But were there “slackers” in historical protest movements outside the digital realm? What form could a “slacktivist” have taken in the past?
One of the (very important and valid) questions Dr. Rosatelli posed after I submitted my research proposal about cyberactivism concerned the parameters I’ll use to measure the “success” of activist movements. Certainly, success would consist of governmental or societal change; these are tangible results that provide evidence of progress. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, though, is a little bit harder to evaluate, and I’ve run into a bit of a roadblock in answering Dr. Rosatelli’s question in the context of this campaign. Its tangible results are certainly the money raised for ALS research, but the campaign is also praised for raising awareness about the relatively unfamiliar disease.
So, what about raising awareness? People throw around the term constantly, and I’ve heard it used both mockingly and genuinely. Does raising consciousness, as it’s also called, really matter? Does this count as success in any activist movement? Or did it only really apply to ALS because it was previously such a little-known problem?
The author of this piece says no: “But the funny part about all of this awareness-raising is that it doesn’t accomplish all that much. The underlying assumption of so many attempts to influence people’s behavior — that they make bad choices because they lack the information to empower them to do otherwise — is, except in a few cases, false. And what’s worse, awareness-raising done in the wrong way can actually backfire, encouraging the negative activities in question.”
The author goes on to explain, and seems to particularly attack hashtag activism.
Note::: Googling “raising awareness” and “the importance of raising awareness” automatically brings up articles about the Ice Bucket Challenge!!
To add to my case study about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the issue of wasting clean water, (see the photo from my very first research post) I wanted to dig a little deeper and compare the two problems. Obviously, they’re both devastating issues, but is the critique of the challenge as an ignorant campaign to correct a “first-world problem” really valid?
Matt Damon, co-founder of a nonprofit called water.org, really called attention to this issue with his ice bucket challenge video: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/25/matt-damon-ice-bucket-challenge_n_5710431.html
Here’s a blog post from a particularly bitter observer of the IBC: http://dustinlyle.com/als-and-your-priorities/
And a photo from that post–it’s thought-provoking, despite its grammatical error:
A few additional sources:::
The Guardian on slacktivism: http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/mar/14/online-activism-social-media-engage
I definitely would like to hunt down this book: http://www.tweetsandthestreets.org/
I also need to look for more information about “researchers Phillip Howard, Mary Joyce and Frank Edwards of the Digital Activism Research Project (DARP)” as mentioned in this article–looks like it could be a great source for scholarly research on this topic
Part of what I’m looking at in my final project is Greenpeace’s social networking site, called Greenwire. It’s really the first of it’s kind in terms of a social network designed specifically for activists to connect online outside of traditional platforms like Facebook and Twitter–and I find it really inspiring. Check out the “About Greenpeace Greenwire” link (at the very bottom of the page) if you want to read a little bit more about the site and its purpose: https://greenwire.greenpeace.org/usa/en
Recently on Greenwire, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts in response to and in support of the protests going on in Ferguson, Missouri since the shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Of course, Greenwire and Greenpeace is primarily designed to promote grassroots environmental activism, but all conversation seems to be welcome. I think it’s really interesting to consider not only specific activist campaigns and social media use, but the presence of the greater progressive movement as a whole on social media sites and how people interact and start conversations on these platforms. A couple of articles/issues I’ve found discussed on Greenwire include:
A comprehensive video about Bye Felipe, shown on a segment Good Morning America. The video talks about publicly shaming the men sending these offensive messages, revealing the harassment women face in online dating, the effects of anonymity on these mens’ comments, and making positive social change to combat the issue:
I don’t think I want to extend my project to include a discussion of Ferguson–this would add a lot of material to an already far-reaching paper/project, and it could also perhaps be difficult because it is still such a current and ongoing issue. Still, I’ve seen post after post discussing the topic, particularly on Facebook, and I feel like I should record some of the most powerful statuses and links I’ve come across.
One person wrote about this article: “If you read anything about Ferguson, read this:”
A petition calling the government/people to take action even after Darren Wilson is not indicted:
An unorthodox Thanksgiving post:
“As we all prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is important to acknowledge that it was not a day that commemorated the unity of indigenous Americans and settlers, but of the massacre of Pequot people. This country was built on the genocide of people of color with the slave labor of people of color and continues to function as a system of militarized racism. Unarmed black men are shot down without consequences, and yet people are still more concerned about rioting. This is not an isolated incident. It is a pattern of systematic oppression that causes many people in this country to live in fear of law enforcement, because this is not a system that was designed to serve and protect them. #IndictAmerica #blacklivesmatter #Ferguson”
This one deals directly with slacktivism! :
“Please, please, please everyone, channel your anger into something other than Facebook rants. DO something real.”
An interesting critique of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge I found on Twitter:
Some simple background articles about my project and cyber activism: