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Final Project Research–Cyberactivism

// Posted by on 11/10/2014 (7:02 PM)

12/7

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… Read more

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12/7

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.

 

11/30

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?

 

11/30

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/

 

11/29

http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2014/08/19/think-the-ice-bucket-challenge-is-stupid-youre-wrong/

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

 

11/29

http://www.dailydot.com/society/activism-slacktivism-history-timeline/

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?

 

11/29

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?

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/07/awareness-is-overrated.html

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!!

 

11/29

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:

http://dustinlyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ALS.jpg

 

11/29

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/

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/13/social-media-stew-plays-potent-role-in-global-digi/?page=all

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

 

11/29

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:

Sweatshop labor–http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/11/12/the-haunting-poetry-of-a-chinese-factory-worker-who-committed-suicide/

Again, Ferguson–http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/08/18/ferguson-matters-us-really-matters-greenpeace/

 

11/28

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:

https://gma.yahoo.com/bye-felipe-instagram-account-singles-rude-online-daters-164623331–abc-news-sex.html

 

11/28

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:”

http://www.khq.com/story/27489010/nfl-player-benjamin-watsons-ferguson-post-on-facebook-goes-viral#.VHZ-jo7-16r.facebook

A petition calling the government/people to take action even after Darren Wilson is not indicted:

http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/justicemikebrownforward/?sp_ref=87958060.176.10569.f.41006.2&referring_akid=3921.1739924.Ug7NK5&source=fb_sp

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.”

 

11/10

An interesting critique of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge I found on Twitter:

 

https://marcsimony.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/the-other-water-bucket-challenge.jpeg

 

 

11/10

Some simple background articles about my project and cyber activism:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/08/bringbackourgirls-kony2012-and-the-complete-divisive-history-of-hashtag-activism/

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/10/rise-of-the-feminist-creep-busting-web-vigilante/381809/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/boston-made-the-ice-bucket-challenge-go-big-facebook-says/377159/

 

 


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Online or Offline, or Both?

// Posted by on 04/08/2013 (6:37 PM)

In the past, activist movements usually took place offline and had a lack of connection to the Internet. Nowadays these movements are taking place online more and more. An interesting article I found online speaks of the… Read more

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In the past, activist movements usually took place offline and had a lack of connection to the Internet. Nowadays these movements are taking place online more and more. An interesting article I found online speaks of the blurring of online and offline movements to create a more influential and far reaching movement. Mob Lab wrote an interesting article describing the move from offline movements to a more combined approach using both offline and online tactics to help expand their ideas.

One interesting example  in the article was that of the Belgium Food Bank. The organization used likes on Facebook to help donate money to the food banks. However in addition to that they put up a live feed that would show the picture of whoever liked the page being printed and then put on a massive wall. This technique worked well because the people who liked the page actually got to see their personal picture being put up on a live video that was accessible to the whole world. This helped to entice people to see that they had a bigger impact than simply clicking a like button on Facebook.

The opportunities that the Internet provide for connecting offline movements to online movements is a giant step towards online activism. I believe that incorporating both the offline and online aspects of any organization into activist movements will help to propel the influence of movements that would otherwise not make a big impact on the global community.

One thing that organizations must avoid however is the possibility of helping to expand slactivism. Slactivism could potentially become a major problem by delegitimizing movements that have a good idea at heart but lack the actual drive and motivation that is only possible by real people doing real things, not just clicking a button and thinking you are changing the world. As organizations start to blend the offline and online aspects of their respective movements I believe that it is important to remember that we live in a physical world and not in an abstract online based community.

While the Internet has undoubtedly helped to increase global participation and awareness I believe that it is important to stick to our roots offline and use the internet as tool to advance ideas instead of the only outlet for activist movements. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how organizations choose to go about raising awareness for causes and then actually taking action towards those goals in the real world, not just the Internet.

Check out this video for more info:


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#WeAreAndiola

// Posted by on 03/31/2013 (6:31 PM)

Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo,… Read more

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Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo, or wearing a color or symbol that represents or supports a specific cause. Prominent examples of slacktivism are the Kony 2012 campaign and the Trayvon Martin case. More recently we have seen slacktivists take up the Mexican-American immigration cause.

This past January the police showed up to Erika Andiola’s house and both her mother and brother were handcuffed and detained in immigration detention centers, ready for deportation. Ms. Andiola is the co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that fights for the rights of immigrant children brought illegally to the United, as she was. Immediately after her mother and brother were hauled away Ms. Andiola posted a video on Youtube.

This video is a prime example of how digital media can turn local issues into global issues. As Ms. Andiola says in the tearful video, “this is not just happening to me, this is happening to families everywhere”. Ms. Andiola’s message was heard by the digital world and her family was released shortly from custody after the Obama administration was put under severe pressure from activists. Activists tooks on Ms. Andiola’s cause through phone calls, e-mails and online petitions, but primarily on Twitter, where they mobilized support under the hashtag, #WeAreAndiola.

The New York Times article argues that, “their swift releases underline the power of the youth-immigrant movement and their social media activism”. But slacktivism, or social media activism, such the movement on behalf of Ms. Andiola, is often highly criticized. Gabrielle Corvese, from the Brown Daily Herald, writes, “The vastness of social media makes these acts incredibly easy. You can share a picture to let your Facebook friends know you care. Twitter has a hashtag for every cause. But what is the actual effect of these actions? Though social networks allow the easy spread of information, a problem arises when the only support for a cause is a photo with a few thousand shares. While it is satisfying and convenient for the individual to show concern for an issue, those in need of support receive little benefit.”

To reply to Ms. Corvese’s statement I would argue that the Erika Andiola case clearly illustrates the power and effect of “slacktivism”. A single tweet alone may not cause change, but thousands and millions of tweets can attract enough attention and support to put pressure on our politicians to enact political and legal reform. Digital activism can more than often lead to actual, real life action.

While I take the side of these “slacktivists” arguing that any and all activism is positive there are still many, like Corvese that would not agree with me. What do you think are the positive and negative outcomes slacktivism? Do you slacktivism proves that our digital generation has become lazy? Or do you see it like me, as activism naturally transitioning alongside with our culture into the digital realm?


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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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