Tag Archives: digital media

Don’t Touch My Web!

The street protests in Istanbul has forcefully revived in the past few weeks, reminiscent of the Gezi protests in Summer 2013. On Sunday, protesters in Taksim Square was shouting in tandem: “Do not touch my Internet!”


The recent political crisis that began after a major graft probe in Turkey has now a new arena of contestation: Web activism. The ruling AKP government has increasingly been freaky about circulation of news about the corruption. Here is the first few sentences of a recent New York Times article on the issue:

Shortly after an audio recording in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to be heard talking about easing zoning laws for a construction tycoon in exchange for two villas for his family, SoundCloud, the file-sharing site where it was leaked last month, was suddenly unavailable to Internet users in Turkey.

Other recordings, also apparently from wiretaps connected with a corruption inquiry linked to Mr. Erdogan and those close to him, have shown up on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter and other social media sites. Often, just as quickly as they appear, they disappear, only to show up soon after somewhere else on the Internet, like a game of Whac-a-Mole. Continue reading

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Not All Like That, a New Project in the Mold of It Gets Better

Christian author John Shore and LGBT-positive non-profit organization Truth Wins Out have recently launched the Not All Like That (NALT) project with author/activist/one-man web presence Dan Savage’s enthusiastic support. The term “NALT” is, in fact, borrowed from Savage who has referred to LGBT-affirming Christians as “NALT Christians.” Savage’s support is notable because the campaign is modeled after the It Gets Better Project, started in 2010 by Savage and his partner Terry Miller, where people would upload videos of themselves encouraging LGBT teens to stay resilient in the face of bullying and harassment to YouTube. It Gets Better, while not without criticism, has been highly visible, spawning messages from politicians and celebrities, videos from all over the world, and even a tour. The NALT project is seeking to capitalize on this model by creating a forum for LGBT-positive religious people to upload their own videos, letting LGBT people know that, as the young woman in the video below demonstrates, they’re “not all like that.”

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Singing and not singing: The activist age divide

The year 2012 is a special one in Massachusetts: the centennial of the 1912 Lawrence textile strike has been celebrated with literally dozens of events, with more still planned. The gatherings I’ve attended have given me glimpses into the cultures of different wings of today’s progressive movements. My conclusion is that participatory singing as a political act is becoming an outmoded relic of former movements.

At the big Labor Day event, the crowd included UNITE-HERE members and other Lawrence-area union members, mostly Latinos younger than 50. Union members wore union t-shirts to signify their affiliations; and they marched in contingents; but they didn’t sing as they marched. Some of the musical performers that day sang in Spanish, and young and/or Latino festival-goers either sat and listened or they danced along – but they never sang along.

A number of white and black singers at the Labor Day festival encouraged sing-alongs, and I watched to see who sang and who didn’t sing. In particular, because Bread and Puppet Theater, with its giant puppets and stilt-walkers, is so inherently interesting to all ages and races, I was able to watch their big diverse audience respond to calls to sing along. Perhaps Mobilizing Ideas readers won’t be surprised to learn that those who sang along were old and white. Many of them were seasoned leftists whose experience stretched back to the ‘60s or earlier.

At other Lawrence centennial events I saw the same singing demographic: old and white. The only middle-aged exceptions were approximately four of us hard-core political folkies, those who knew by heart all four verses of the “Bread and Roses” song about the 1912 strike. But except for us, everyone else who sang “Solidarity Forever” had white hair and weathered faces. Ditto with “Union Maid.” And twice, when “The Internationale” was sung, everyone else who stood up and raised their right fist appeared to be 75 or older; this old socialist tradition seems not to have been passed down.

During the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s I realized that young activists in that movement did not sing during protests. And the music of the Occupy movement seemed to be either performance or participatory drumming, not participatory singing (see this collection). But during those two mobilizations I thought that the singing/not-singing breakpoint was about age 35. At this year’s Lawrence events, I realized that the age divide is much older, and that political singing seems to have virtually died out even among middle-aged activists.

For those of us raised on Civil Rights freedom songs, anti-war songs, wimmin’s music, De Colores and anti-apartheid music, a movement that doesn’t sing seems strange and culturally impoverished. Media jamming and crowd-sourced creativity through Youtube, Facebook and Twitter are the new mode of activist participatory creativity; activists now have protest tools unimagined in the 1960s.

But when I think of some of the situations in which the anti-apartheid movement sang their freedom songs – between jail cells on death row, in the poverty of exile, and while marching under violent repression – I worry about how future activists will keep their spirits up and build solidarity when all their electronic devices are unavailable to them.


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How about a social movement app?

Apparently a new iPad app called “Revolutionaries of the Past Century” (also called “Making of a Century” depending on where you look) was launched recently, and guess what, it lets you explore the past 100 years of revolutions and social movements. You can even look at the profiles of revolutionary leaders and their movements and how it relates to particular historical events. Digging into the background of the app a bit, I found that it was a Bahraini civil rights activist Esra’a Al-Shafei who had created the app (full article here). Pretty cool huh, a social movement app?

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Social Movements: The Video Game

The U.S. military is on to something.   For recruitment and training purposes it has created video arcades, advertisements embedded in video games, combat simulators, and its own popular series of first-person shooter game, America’s Army. Your 13 year-old could join the Allied forces in Call of Duty, NATO’s counterterrorism unit in Rainbow Six, or U.S. Navy SEALs in SOCOM. The list goes on. Of course video games can be used to recruit and train. So why aren’t activists doing it?

People Power: News ItemsThankfully, they are. Brought to you by the makers of A Force More Powerful (the book and the movie), People Power: The Game of Civil Resistance puts you in control of your own social movement. For ten bucks you could be playing in five minutes. The games creators describe it this way: Continue reading

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Internet Censorship Bill Proposed in Russia

The Russian Parliament has proposed legislation that would amend federal law to create an internet blacklist, requiring internet providers to ban access to each website appearing on a federally sanctioned list. Though intended to target child pornography and websites that promote drug use and teen suicide, some commentators have voiced caution that Bill № 89417-6 could be used to stymie collective action against the state.

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Social Movement Organizations and Online Directories

An open yellow pages type phone book

Photo by How can I recycle this

It has long been established that social movement organizations (SMOs) adopt many business-like practices in the pursuit of social change. These practices typically include acquiring labor, capital, and talent through a competitive process. Social movement organizations will then appropriate those resources toward acquiring the attention of the public and political officials. In order to sustain such attention, professional SMOs must engage with the public through both presenting self-initiated messages and availing themselves for further messages if prompted. After a publicized demonstration concludes, a professional SMO should prepare to receive–and answer–follow-up telephone calls.

In order to acquire the commerce of potential customers and possibly divert such commerce from competitors, local businesses will traditionally provide their contact information and location in community directories. Likewise, in order to acquire the attention of the public and possibly divert such attention from competitors, SMOs may provide their contact information and location in community directories. With the global rise of communication infrastructure, such directories have grown exponentially in scale and made great strides in centralizing previously fragmented information. One’s inclusion in these vast directories is typically cheap, if not free, and extremely convenient for organizations and the broader public alike. Continue reading


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The McActivist Happy Meal

Since you’re reading this blog, the odds are good that you semi-regularly use one or more forms of social media. That also means in the last few days you have come into at least passing contact with the slick new video from Invisible Children, a U.S.-based organization seeking the arrest and prosecution of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerrilla group. The video has gone viral (as of this writing it has 67,106,844 views on YouTube), but just in case you’ve have somehow missed the bazillion tweets, Facebook posts, and such, here it is:

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SOPA Protests Show What a Flash Flood of Activism Can Look Like

Katrina Kimport and I follow other scholars in arguing in Digitally Enabled Social Change that web-based activism introduces a new model for the power of movements, which is more like a flash flood in its quick but devastating wrath. People wonder if online protests “matter” if the flood doesn’t last for long periods. The recent protests against SOPA showed exactly how massive this kind of flash flood of activism can become: the LA Times reported on two anti-SOPA petitions that together had almost 6 million signatures, two other websites that reported over 350,000 emails to congressional leaders on SOPA, and almost 40,000 blogs that got involved through either black outs or ribbons. The anti-SOPA online protests also showed how persuasive such a flash flood can be, leading a number of legislators, including bill co-sponsors, to pull their support or ask for more review before legislative action moves forward. Notably, most of the action was online, with only small and not very well-covered protests in the streets.

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Twitter vs. the Human Microphone

Frida Berrigan

A few months ago, I was at a peace conference in Barcelona (I know, some people have all the luck). It was organized by War Resisters International and brought together campaigners from all over the world to share information and analysis about war profiteering.

It was a fairly low-tech gathering. A lot of people had laptops and international cellphones and most of us needed little radios for translation, but it was at an old Salesian monastery crowded with greenery and little palazzos and very few of the presenters used that old Pentagon technology—the Powerpoint. Continue reading

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