Digital Activism

Activists are increasingly turning to online resources to help bring about progressive, grassroots-empowering social change.  Clay Shirky wrote about the power of social networking in accessible and thoughtful terms in Here Comes Everybody.  In a more scholarly vein, Jeff Juris’s book Networking Futures: The Movements Against Corporate Globalization explores the global justice movement’s use of networked technology and horizontal organizational forms.  More recently, Social Text organized a moderated forum on the role of networked dissident technologies in Iran following the disputed election of summer 2009.

I recently learned of two interesting initiatives to build awareness of the possibilities for networked activism.  The first comes in the form of the Tactical Information Collective’s film Ten Tactics for Turning Information into Action. The film, and the website that supports it, offer a kind of DIY manual on how to use digital media to bring about social change. There are some fascinating case studies included here, and the organization’s non-Eurocentric orientation is particularly impressive.

Another strength of TIC’s work is their emphasis on thinking carefully about the ethical implications of digital activism, including the danger that online interventions by human rights campaigners can be tracked down and used against them by abusive regimes or individuals.

Also of note along these lines is a recent report from the United Nations Foundation on the role of New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts. The emphasis here is on the use of networked technology in improving responses to emergencies and conflicts, as well as in rebuilding efforts. Like TIC’s film, the UN report offers some fascinating profiles of organizations that are developing the potential of digital activism in interesting ways.

Related Posts

Mapping and Counter-Mapping Facebook Appearing not once, but twice in Facebook's Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated IPO Registration document is a beautiful map by Paul Butler. It is not hard to see why the map plays a large role in the document. It symbolizes the global reach and global ambition of Facebook during its recentl...

Ashley Dawson

Ashley Dawson, a professor of English at the Graduate Center/CUNY and the College of Staten Island, is a scholar of postcolonial studies and a climate justice activist. He is the author of two recent books on topics relating to the environmental issues, Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (Verso, 2017) and Extinction: A Radical History (O/R, 2016), as well as many other books on topics relating to migration, global justice, and cultural struggles. He is currently completing a book on energy democracy and just transition entitled The Energy Common.