One may suspect that a lot of confusion might be avoided in debates such as those listed at the bottom if those participating in the debates chose to compare like with like. Digital activism is a communication activity. Digital activism is really about spreading messages, consciousness raising, and other communication activities. Its counterpart in “traditional activism” would consist of activities such as posting flyers, making posters, producing newsletters, circulating petitions, giving radio interviews, community television, speeches and petitions…not street protests, sit ins, blockades, pelting stones and Molotov cocktails, getting beaten and arrested by the police. (Perhaps the two might be confused because of the number of “digital activists” in the Middle East who have been imprisoned and beaten for their online information campaigns.) Hacking and other forms of cyber warfare might be the digital counterpart of street protests, but this is not considered in the debates linked to below.
Also left out of the debates is any focused discussion on why “activism” is being separated out from other oppositional activities, such as armed revolution, only to lament that activism (usually represented as the classic street protest) often fails to produce the changes sought (just like digital activism, which for some reason is more readily likened to slacktivism). Yes, it is very easy to merely click “like” in Facebook; likewise, it is just as easy to merely wear a button or patch on one’s jacket. It is difficult to understand why signing a paper petition is less “slacktivist” than signing an electronic petition.
At some point, when we get past the intellectual cul-de-sacs brought on by technological faddism, we might have a discussion that is just focused on activism, less obsessed with the medium or having to apologize for using electronic media.
- Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, “Twitter, Facebook, and social activism.”
- “The False Poles of Digital and Traditional Activism,” by Jillian C. York
- “Information: Can you social network your way to revolution?” The Economist
- “Your (Brilliant) Responses to Gladwell on Social Media and Activism,” compiled by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic
- Will social networks boost good political change? | Marginal Revolution
- Does social media help or hurt activism? (impact.webershandwick.com)
- Social Media and Social Activism: Four Reasons Why Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong (gauravonomics.com)
- Malcolm Gladwell Is Dead Wrong (leighhimel.blogspot.com)
- Online Revolutions Are Not Just A Lazy Protestor’s Form Of Activism (businessinsider.com)
- Can The Internet Support or Even Inspire Political Revolution? (psychologytoday.com)
- Twitter’s Weak Ties May Not Be So Weak (wired.com)
- Why the revolution will not be tweeted (3quarksdaily.com)
- Social Media for Good and Evil, Strong and Weak Ties, Online/Offline,and Orgs and Networks (bethkanter.org)