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Slacktivism (Phase 1)

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (9:29 PM)

The focus of my project is slacktivism. In recent years, activism is changing as a result of the use of social media. Thus, I had many initial questions:

Does a shift in how activism is carried out, change activism all… Read more

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The focus of my project is slacktivism. In recent years, activism is changing as a result of the use of social media. Thus, I had many initial questions:

Does a shift in how activism is carried out, change activism all together? On a very basic level, what is activism today? Since it is so easy to become an “activist”, do individuals know what they fighting for? If activism is usually described as vigorous campaigning, is this new activism through social media too easy? What does pure activism lose when social media becomes part of the equation?

Obviously, these initial questions are very large brushstrokes when exploring slacktivism (a new theory in and of itself). Still, they have been very helpful in engaging slacktivism as each individual question acted as a jumping off point.

Like anything, my project has faced some roadblocks. First of all, slacktivism is a huge topic so I had to find a way to reframe my project on some more specific questions that were relevant to the notion of “Digital America.” My research was spawn by the eruption of the Kony 2012 campaign. Kony seemed to be a prominent example of how formal “take to the street” mentalities of protest have morphed into “click (or like) to support” campaigns. Thus, I engaged in Facebook and Twitter to understand the nature of this new activism, slacktivism. I then took it a step further and looked into three websites that encourage virtual protests, petitions and activism:

  • Change.org
  • MoveOn.org Civic Action Center – SignOn.org
  • ai50.ca/smac (Canada’s Amnesty International)

Each of these three sites have a clear culture. Change.org seems to be the easiest to navigate which suggests that it is more accessible to the generationally-diverse public. You sign petitions on Change.org, but the site also provides tips on how to rally through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Trayvon Martin Petition Goes Viral on Change.org

Canada’s Amnesty International has a Social Media Action Center which “gives you the opportunity to take a simple action for justice every two weeks from May 2011 to May 2012. These actions link with Amnesty supporters from across the globe.” Thus, becoming part of the action center for AI takes a little more commitment since you have to sign up, but its nature is the same in terms of social media. The site explains that virtual events are online protests, which “take the idea of a traditional protest and [bring] it to the digital world. Virtual Events bring people together at the same time to speak out about the same issue. Each event is made up of digital actions, like signing a petition or posting a Facebook message. On [the day of the release] everyone’s posts, tweets and emails are sent out at the EXACT same time. The result? Networks and inboxes are flooded with the same message at the same time. Pretty powerful!”

Social Media Action Center

It seems that MoveOn.org and SignOn.org are the least accessible and mainstream. Of course, both have users, but unlike AI and Change.org the users seem to be a much more specific group. Unlike the other two sites, it does not encourage its users to share in the same capacity (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).

SignUp.org

Through this semester, much of what we have read has contributed to the theory in which I have based my research. The shift in activism suggests Marshall McLuhan’s idea that the medium is the message—without the medium of Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites, slacktivism would not be possible. The fact that individuals can instantly organize and support throughout the world at the same time is another example of how powerful the medium is with regard to slacktivism. Additionally, Poster also suggest that multiculturalism or diaspora leads to global understanding which is turn can lead to the sort of activism we see today. On each of the sites I have engaged in, the causes are not located in any one location, the causes effect various and diverse places in the world. Like the causes, the supporters are more all over the world. This suggests that borders have begun to disappear relative to the increase in protest social media. The notion of feedback is also key. It is much easier to get an individual to support a cause, when their feedback shows that their friends also support the cause. This is the power behind the AI SMAC and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Shirky’s theories are also immensely powerful in this discussion. Through my research thus far, it seems that it is important that “Everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows” when it comes to slacktivism?

For my group assignment, I asked the group to look into one of the three above sites with these questions as a framework to look into one of the three sites: Is it “American” to want low-risk, low-cost, technologically mediated participation/activism? If it’s not “American” what is it? What are the positive and negative outcomes of such participate (slacktivism)? I felt as those these questions would be crucial in reframing my broad research of slacktivism to fall more in line with the focus of the course. However, I also provided the group with my initial research questions to give them a background of my project. So far the feedback I have received has fallen in line with what I myself had found on the sites.

Phase 2 of my project will be focused on the questions I provided to my group for feedback: Is it “American” to want low-risk, low-cost, technologically mediated participation/activism? If it’s not “American” what is it? What are the positive and negative outcomes of such participate (slacktivism)? I am going to really engage more of Shirky’s theory to better address these questions. The following parts of Shirky’s theory from Here Comes Everybody will be particularly helpful:

“[B]ecause the minimum costs of being an organization in the first place are relatively high, certain activities may have some value but not enough to make them worth pursuing in any organized way. New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action.”

“Information sharing produces shared awareness among the participants, and collaborative production relies on shared creation, but collective action creates shared responsibility, by tying the user’s identity to the identity of the group.”

“Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it.”

 

Here’s the link to my final blog!


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Electronic Dance Music and American Culture (Phase 1)

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (12:17 PM)

Skrillex, a popular producer of EDM, at a live show

Here is the link to my final project!

My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it… Read more

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Skrillex, a popular producer of EDM, at a live show

Here is the link to my final project!

My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it would. Initially, I wanted to explore the similarities and differences in the hippie culture of the 1960s-1970s and the rave scene that is becoming a part of mainstream culture today. While trying to connect these cultures to theories that discuss digital media, I realized that the idea might be too broad to fully explore in the amount of time that we have. Simultaneously, I learned that electronic dance music, the epicenter of rave culture, is so deeply rooted in the Internet that without the technology we have today, the genre wouldn’t exist. EDM exists through the production, sharing, and reproduction of music on the Internet through podcasts, blogs, and artists’ websites. Additionally, the blogs that the genre relies on to spread the word about new music are technically illegal because they rarely pay for their music. Many popular EDM blogs have been shut down for posting links to illegal downloading websites, an issue that has been growing in the past few years.
My research problem is to discover what EDM says about American culture and how it gets the message across. In this aspect of culture, the medium is very important and the way that music is both produced and spread is essential to understanding what it is saying. Also, I want to further explore what each DJ or producer brings to rave culture and what that will do for it in the near future.
To start my research, I interviewed a few University of Richmond students who have EDM blogs and understand how music gets from the producer to the general public. My initial questions for my research were answered in these interviews and allowed me to continue on with a little bit more knowledge of how the genre works to generate music. I learned how people with these blogs find new music from producers, obtain the music (legally or illegally), publish the music to their blogs, and how they decide what is worth the legal risk and what is not. I hoped that the last of my initial questions would be answered after observing one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world firsthand. This experience helped me understand rave culture and what aspects of it are helping American culture as well as what aspects may be a threat in the future.

Rave clothing at Ultra Music Festival

I haven’t encountered too many roadblocks since refocusing my project. One of the major roadblocks in the beginning of my research was not having the informal knowledge that I needed to fully understand the process of downloading and publishing music. Once I was able to interview a few people who could explain the initial process, I was able to understand what I was actually looking for. Another roadblock that I encountered is that the EDM that I am studying and is discussed on blogs is fairly new. There are very few scholarly articles in online journals so I had to find some reliable sources that weren’t necessarily published articles on a certain database.
My most useful supporting media for my project is artists’ and producers’ websites. From there, I am able to find additional information from their blogs, twitter, and facebooks. I am also following popular music blogs that are affected by the legislation that will be forming laws for digital media. One of the blogs, Electronic Life, is a guide to almost all aspects of rave culture and EDM.
The theoretical foundation for my project is coming from a few different theorists. Lawrence Lessig’s theories on the music industry today support the innovation of electronic music and blame the music industry for restricting culture. This theory is the foundation of the EDM genre and is the future that many of the producers hope for. Shirky’s writing on social media is applicable to the artists’ pages because they direct their fans to their other social media. Many of Poster’s theories apply to this genre of music and the idea of innovation in place of invention. Almost all of EDM exists in Poster’s “third space” that has created its own culture. Poster’s critiques of the music industry are almost exactly what many individuals involved in EDM are saying about the music industry. The theory of a consumer becoming a producer and therefore a user is also a foundation of the EDM genre. Consumers of the music often become producers because the genre has a feeling of a community and many people feel that they can participate and contribute to it. Applications such as Figure are promoting the idea of easy-to-create music. This participation changes people who were once consumers into producers and creates a cycle of contribution to the genre and the culture as a whole.
My plan for the second half of my project is to go deeper into my research of the music industry to better understand what role EDM is playing in it. I think this research will lead me to better understanding the role it is playing in American culture and where it may take it in the future. Additionally, information about copyright laws and newer laws that are being created to restrict illegal downloading will help me further understand the future of the genre of digital music.
I still have many important questions to answer such as: what will happen with illegal downloading in the future? How will these laws affect the genre of EDM? How will these laws affect both rave culture an American culture? How could ideas from theorists such as Lessig and Hansen be applied to this genre of music and make a difference? One of the biggest questions in the future of EDM is what will happen to it in the future and who’s hands will it fall into. This New York Times article explains what may happen to EDM in the future and who will try to control its growing popularity.


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