Written on November 19, 2009 <!-- by -->
As some of you my know, my essay about the Internet in authoritarian states is the cover story of December issue of Prospect. Patrick Meier wrote a long post, raising some issues about my arguments
The reason why I use http://digg.com/ is two fold. First off, each story submitted has a wonderful comments section where you can have a real discussion about the story, its ramifications, and is a great place to meet some like-minded people.
Second, and more important to the overall realm of internet activism, is that digg has the potential to spread information to a far wider audience than any of the other social networking sites. It does this by the power of the Front Page. It works like this, you submit an article to digg, then users can give it a thumbs up (digg it) or a thumbs down (bury it). If a submit gets enough positive diggs in a certain span of time (usually ~24 hours), it will hit the Front Page, exposing it to many thousands of people and give it a huge boost on google searches (by having a higher page rank), exposing it to tens of thousands more. I’ve also noticed that the debates on digg often help shape the greater message on the cable news channels, and some of us have been cited by the MSM before.
USE TWITTER TO PROMOTE PROGRESSIVE CONTENT
There was a time when you could contact your digg friends directly via a ‘shout’ system on the site. Digg shouts have gone the way of the dinosaur, so in order to promote your stories, Twitter seems to be the mode everyone is migrating to in order to direct traffic to digg submits.
Hashtags just mean putting a # before a word so that it more easily searched at places like: http://search.twitter.com/ and http://www.hashtags.org/ An incomplete, short list of important hashtags to use are:
#p2 #topprog #rebelleft progressive issues
#digg #digguser #diggmates let ppl know it’s a digg submit
#hcr #hc09 #healthcare #singlepayer #publicoption for health care reform
#green #eco #enviro #cc #wildlife green, ecological, environmental, climate change
#mmot #marijuana #legalization #norml #pot #drugwar #weed legalization issues
#atheists #agnostic #secular #deist #pagan various non-religious umbrellas
#fem2 #FAB #WOC #prochoice various womens and reproductive issues
#LGBT #equalrights LGBT civil rights
#EFCA #unions #aflcio #seiu #ufcw #ibew workers rights and unions
#RI4A #dreamact #immigration immigration reform
#followfriday (or #FF) great way to find other recommended tweeters
#SameSexSundays (or #SSS) find #lgbt and #= #equalrights folks on Sundays
#EcoMonday find green, environmental activists on Mondays
#ProgressiveTuesday network with progressives on Tuesdays
It is amusing to see how the U.S. is automatically exempted from any critiques of authoritarianism, as if it was playing the role of benevolent international saviour of all people's living under "authoritarian" regimes. Interesting to see such Bush-think make its way into academic discourse.
Regarding the fourth bullet point above:
It is amusing to see how the U.S. is automatically exempted from any critiques of authoritarianism, as if it was playing the role of benevolent international saviour of all people’s living under “authoritarian” regimes. Interesting to see such Bush-think make its way into academic discourse.
And to which “authoritarian regimes” must the U.S. “respond”? Its allies? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Kuwait?
Trying to/playing at divorcing one’s politics from a discussion of politics is not the way to go, and needs to be attended to well before one even thinks of going the route of getting “civil resistance” and “digital activism” to cross-fertilize each other (which, incidentally, suggests a lack of fertility in both, or a genetic deficiency — one might want to attend to those assumptions first as well).
Initiative to help grassroots organizations use digital technology
1. Deploying a team of experienced technologists to work with civil society organizations around the globe to provide training and support to build their digital capacity. The competencies developed in the trainings will include:
• How to build a website
• How to blog
• How to launch a text messaging campaign
• How to build an online community
• How to leverage social networks for a cause
Urbina’s story is an example of advocacy journalism at its best. Armed with research conducted by Global Witness, a leading pressure group focused on increasing transparency in resource-rich countries, Urbina points to rules bent or ignored by two US government departments, the possible complicity of two US oil companies and the role played by a prominent Washington PR firm as the EG government’s paid apologists.
Susan Sontag’s recent book, Regarding the Pain of Others:
Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question is what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing “we” can do – but who is that “we”? – and nothing “they” can do either – and who are “they” – then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic.
The group 350.org is one of the best examples of using internet organization to disseminate an idea–that policymakers need to use 350 ppm when determining limits to CO2–and gather a vast and diverse collection of people all over the world to demand action. Starting from basically nowhere, a group of 6 recent college graduates essentially organized the world: 5200+ actions in 181 countries on the same day, countries that included the Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, China and other places where concerted environmental activism is basically unheard of. If you go to the 350.org website you can see the 21,000 photos they produced, documenting their efforts. While, obviously, the 350 ppm position hasn’t been adopted yet, these efforts inspired entire governments to participate and sanction events, the Secretary General of the UN to applaud the effort, and people in the poorest places to have their voices heard in a large international arena–all good things. And with the 350 ppm concept now out in the world, it has become a measure against which the treaty writers’ work will be judged.
“does it matter if action is effective or ineffective if we can demonstrate that action leads to more interest in a topic and more knowledge acquisition?”
Of course it does, unless the person is a marketer crafting a better sales-pitch (”interest”), or an academic valuing learning for its own sake (”knowledge”). In fact, taken to the limit, this is a justification for a bad kind of self-indulgence – talk endlessly about a topic, then vigorously pat on back for having generated interest and knowledge among the talkers and their audience.
“And help us – me, Evgeny, Patrick, the Berkman Center, and everyone else studying this phenomenon – think about how we can bring data to the table and test some of these questions.”
Well, one problem is that much (granted not all, not you) of the Berkman Center is caught up in what’s been called “the liberation theology of the Net”, with too many people basing their career advancement and financial success on spinning appealing tales which fit with what others want to hear. They are completely impervious to contrary data, having developed a whole line of hucksterism to wall-off reality – doing two-steps between hype and triviality, blather about early days, much rhetorical sophistry, etc. This time it’s different!
“Here’s my question: does it matter if action is effective or ineffective if we can demonstrate that action leads to more interest in a topic and more knowledge acquisition?”
I don’t think those people with green avatars or Facebook group membership are actually expecting to overthrow Ahmedinejad or ban Obieng from traveling. More often, it is the media and pundits that assign a transformative expectation to digital activism. The practitioners, especially the masses (not the organizers), are often more interested in doing simply what you say: raising awareness and knowledge.
Take, for example, the comment from the green avatar guy on a recent post of mine; he wanted to raise awareness: http://blurringborders.com/2009/10/19/not-every-digitally-mediated-act-is-a-political-one/#disqus_thread
Kevin, that’s indeed a very interesting article. I was struck by this part:
“It isn’t, as Evgeny writes, that “our digital efforts make us feel very useful and important but have zero social impact.” Instead, it is that the digital acts are innately social that they have impact, but for important personal social interests, not necessarily wider societal goals.”
The writer did a rhetorical twist on the phrase “social impact”, fogging it between the political/civic meaning and the personal/chat meaning. He might just as well have as “Sure they have a social benefit, people feeling like they did something is beneficial to them”.
That is, he didn’t refute what Evgeny meant, but rather substituted a different meaning associated with the same string of words, which then gives the impression he refuted it.
Ethan – See the sophistry problem?
The "cause that didn't exist"? It's provocative, but clearly the cause did exist in the minds of the joiners.