Thinking about digital activism
I stumbled upon this because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how civil society and digital activism. I’ve been focusing mostly on social media mostly, but also looking at other tools: TASCHApress, Ushahidi, HomicideWatch.org, Alaveteli (What Do They Know), My Society (Fix My Street, They Work For You), Apathy is Boring’s Citizen Factory, and Citizen Budget. Also data journalism and visualizations.
I spent two weeks in Georgia last month, conducting in-depth interviews with nine NGOs — looking at how they use ICT tools in advocacy and communication campaigns — and conducting two training sessions.
Here are some other good chunks of content, which will lead you to a bunch of other goodies if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole:
Central Asia: An Exception to the “Cute Cats” Theory of Internet Revolution
By anthroplogist Sarah Kendzior. Read especially the comments. Very good discussion. Sarah and Katy Pearce also wrote a full-on journal article related to this: Networked Authoritarianism and Social Media in Azerbaijan.
Onnik Krikorian’s interview with Micael Bogar
A must-listen. I wonder how this conversation would be different if it took place today. (Onnik is the Caucasus Editor of Global Voices and he conducted a more in-depth social media training in Tbilisi the month before I did.)
Forums and flame wars in Georgia
By Bijan Kafi, written for OpenDemocracy.net. It’s dated (April 2010, OK not that old… but the online landscape in Georgia appears to have shifted a lot since then), but take the time to read the whole thing. Here’s one of my favorite parts, because it highlights the importance of creating a campaign that combines online and offline components:
When Zurab Tchiaberashvili was mayor of Tbilisi, this was precisely what he did. His public appearances were robustly criticized, so he engaged his critics online. The technological limits quickly became apparent, though, because many of them doubted the identity of the “virtual mayor”. Tchiaberashvili did what any Georgian would do: he invited his critics for dinner. So, one evening that year a convoy of cars filled with both the mayor‘s staff and about 40 of his critics went to a Tbilisi restaurant to feast together over wine and traditional Georgian food.
So I’m going to make a bold claim, digital technology can only do five things for activists. These five uses can be carried out through a variety of tools (blogs, micro-blogs, SMS, websites, social networks, video, the list goes on) and in a variety of contexts (revolutionary struggle under a repressive regime, international social justice campaign, local advocacy, democratic political elections…), but there are still only five of them.
Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics
By Sean Aday, Henry Farrell, Marc Lynch, John Sides, John Kelly, and Ethan Zuckerman. Provides a framework to understand the impact of new media. They create five analytic buckets: individual transformation, intergroup relations, collective action, regime policies, and external attention. New media have the potential to change how citizens think or act, mitigate or exacerbate group conflict, facilitate collective action, spur a backlash among regimes, and garner international attention toward a given country.