Working On My Voice

I chose these two paragraphs mostly because I haven’t added much of ‘other people’s voices’ in my paper. Although I feel good about my voice in this section, I’m also a bit worried about both my tone as well as what I’m saying.

Is Gladwell just being nostalgic, wishing we could go back to the “good ol’ days”, when blood, sweat and tears were the only way to get things done? Although on-the-ground activism, like boycotts and marches do still hold power and relevance to create social change, it’s no longer the only way to impact society. A new, powerful, easily accessible and increasingly popular form of activism has come about – social media activism – and it is no less effective either. Twitter is becoming just as important as the national mall as a site for activism. The “slacktivists” of today can now accomplish a great deal for their cause in 140 characters or less from the comfort of a Starbucks.

Recent research published by Georgetown University disputes the notion that this so-called “slacktivism” is a lazy, ineffective form of traditional activism. It found that people who use social media to promote ideas like feminism “are twice as likely to volunteer their time (30% vs. 15%) and to take part in an event or walk (25% vs. 11%).” and are also “more than four times as likely to encourage others to contact political representatives (22% vs. 5%), and five times as likely to recruit others to sign petitions for a cause or social issue (20% vs. 4%).” This shows that not only are the “slacktivists”, themselves, more likely to participate, but are also much more likely to get others to participate as well.

House Hunting

I’ve chosen weebly.com as the home of my final inquiry project. I looked at both that and wix.com. I found the latter to be more confusing, whereas weebly seemed to be a much more natural platform that would allow me to edit my document the way I wanted. It also had a lot of interesting and helpful features, like being able to add social media links, embed posts, and add pictures/videos. I think it gives me the most freedom to make my final project look the way I want and have the impact I want. I also think the site layout is visually appealing and would help make my project look professional and attractive.

Partial Draft

Social media has transformed modern life; from the way we interact with one another to the way we get our news (and even the way news organizations get their news.) A majority of online adults use social media, 72% as of May 2013, according to the Pew Research Center. Although many people use social media to post pictures of cute cats or to share the Starbucks drink they had this morning, a growing number of people use it as a platform for activism.

With the recent focus on women’s issues in the media and in congress, more feminists are speaking out and standing up, both on and offline. More and more people are tweeting, liking and reblogging posts promoting feminist ideas and it has a real impact in the way people view feminism and has strengthened the movement as a whole, not to mention the little victories that social media has had a huge part in accomplishing.

The Internet has undoubtedly transformed our world and continues to reach and reshape different areas of society every day. With the advent of web 2.0 and the ability to interact and collaborate with people all across the globe, users are no longer simply passive viewers on the vast expanse of the Internet, but very active producers and sharers.

One of the more recent and most important additions to web 2.0 is social media. In the context of activism, it houses a remarkable capacity to both change minds and shape society. It completely destroys the geographical barriers that so often limit communication between people. Social media also allows communication “not limited merely to one-to-one conversation; the unique capabilities of social networks enable conversation from many-to-many” as Sarah Joseph points out in her article Social Media, Political Change, and Human Rights.

Its unique format allows its users to learn about and explore an astronomical array of issues at a pace never before seen. More importantly, it gives people the opportunity to choose what they want to focus on, whether it is cute cats or feminism, rather than being told what to focus on by a big news corporation.

The power of social media to impact the real world has already been demonstrated in movements like the Arab Spring. In her article, Joseph explores the various social media sites, ranging from Twitter to Google Docs, which played important roles in the various “Twitter Revolutions” of the Arab Spring uprisings.

However, some critics of online activism, like Malcolm Gladwell, suggest that such activism is not as important or meaningful as “high-risk” activism, like the sit-ins or marches of the civil rights movement. Although there is a strong allure and a sort-of nostalgia associated with these more traditional activist methods, I would argue that they are no more important that the feminist social media activism that takes place online every day.

Recent research published by Georgetown University disputes the idea that this so-called “slacktivism” is a lazy, ineffective form of traditional activism. It found that people who use social media to promote ideas like feminism “are twice as likely to volunteer their time (30% vs. 15%) and to take part in an event or walk (25% vs. 11%).” and are also “more than four times as likely to encourage others to contact political representatives (22% vs. 5%), and five times as likely to recruit others to sign petitions for a cause or social issue (20% vs. 4%).” This shows that not only are the “slacktivists”, themselves, more likely to participate, but are also much more likely to get others to participate as well.

Although some assert that it does not serve as a “real” form of activism, social media is an important and valid platform for feminist activism because it is able to reach a wider audience than traditional activism, increases involvement and participation in movements, gives a voice to often marginalized members of society and aids in the organization of the feminist movement.

Research Nugget #7

Martin, C., & Valenti, V. (2012). #Femfuture: online activism. Retrieved from http://bcrw.barnard.edu/wp-content/nfs/reports/NFS8-FemFuture-Online-Revolution-Report-April-15-2013.pdf

http://bcrw.barnard.edu/wp-content/nfs/reports/NFS8-FemFuture-Online-Revolution-Report-April-15-2013.pdf

Like many of the other articles I’ve read, the authors of this report begin by introducing the idea of online feminism. They highlight the growing social media presence of feminists and articulate the importance of these movements. Included in this introduction are a lot of important examples of change arising from social media activism that I will be able to use as evidence in my final paper. This report is unique in that it also highlights many of the problems that online feminism faces, such as lack of funding, reactionary rather than proactive action, and the short-term nature of many online feminist movements. The authors then propose ways in which activists can improve and strengthen online feminism while creating important and lasting connections.

This really cool supplementary infographic highlights some of the main points of the report. It has information about the importance of online feminists and compares the current movement to feminist activism in the 1970’s.

“In spite of the powerful successes of online feminists, our stories of impact have a disappointing common trend: they’re almost all reactive and shore-term. The lack of infrastructure and sustainability for the online feminist movement makes it nearly impossible to think about more meaningful, long-term strategizing. More than ever, we need to create effective proactive campaigns and policies to prevent sexist encroachments in the first place, rather than being in a perpetual state of pushback.”

“Not only is it up to us to build our influence and challenge the sexism and bigotry that exists online but also to continue to provide sage spaces from young people to engage with one another in healthy and empowering ways.”

I think that these two nuggets highlight some of the most important flaws of the online feminist community. Not many hashtags are very popular for more than a week and this poses as problem to online activism. Though feminism does gain in popularity and in recognition, it is often short-lived and easily forgotten. As the authors said, more effort needs to be put in to proactive, preventative and informative activism. The second nugget makes an important point about the negativity that is allowed for through the freedom of the web. Another short quotation highlights some of the detrimental effects that the feeling of anonymity we so often feel on the internet can cause, “Online harassment and threats are a daily experience for online activists, and young women and girls are increasingly bombarded with vitriolic and harmful messaging on the very same forums we use for activism.”

 “The immediacy and viral nature of blogs and Twitter have fundamentally changed how we consume the news. Wherein the past relationship between the media and the public consisted of a top-down flow of information, the Internet has allowed the public to participate in and influence the larger public conversation.”

This report makes the important assertion, like one of the other articles I read, that social media has changed the way we get our news. Not only has it changed the way media is consumed, but also the way it is produced. Regular people are now able to report the news themselves in real-time. This was especially important in some of the Arab Spring movements, as Sarah Joseph pointed out in the article I discussed in Research Nugget #1. People can give their opinions and can receive instantaneous feedback. Social media allows its users to bypass traditional media outlets and focus on topics that are important to them. A new, interactive media has arisen which puts its users in control of the content they want to see, rather than a news organization deciding what is important.

“The new lateral relationship between the online public and media has also created possibilities for stronger cultural accountability. sexism, transphobia, and nationalism in mainstream media are far too commonplace, but online responses to these biases are helping to push media stakeholders to be more accurate and less harmful. Online activism has convinced the New York Times, for example, to publicly acknowledge victim-blaming content in their articles and reexamine their coverage of transgender people.”

This nugget ties in with the previous one by focusing on the ways in which social media is shaping the actions of larger new media organizations. They provide a great example of the power that online activists have to challenge the status quo and generate real-world change.

This report also led me to an important research study conducted by the Pew Research Center that I will likely use in my inquiry project. It argues that “Young adult women ages 18-29 are the power users of social networking.” which can be really important for my argument since that is the group of people most likely to engage in online feminist activism.

Concept Experience #6

  •  It has been shown through research that feelings displayed on Facebook are contagious. If you see more positive posts than negative posts, then you start posting more positive posts as well.

There are a few problems with this example. The author introduces the article as “research” whereas it probably would have been better to call it a “study” as #3 and #4 did. The second link is useless in relation to the topic, as it describes the difference between literal contagious and infectious diseases, which adds nothing to the discussion at hand. The author does provide a tiny clue as to what is in the article, but it isn’t nearly enough to cover all of the important points in the article adequitely.

  • There have been studies done on Facebook and all the emotions related to posts. “We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

I think that this piece may be worse than the first one, because it doesn’t even link to the article containing the information. They use the same irrelavent link as #1 but they add a link to the facebook homepage, which has little to no useful information on it. Although they do have a quotation, they haven’t introduced or analyzed it at all.

  • Researchers in a new study have found that feelings displayed on Facebook are contagious. They found enough data to show that “emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

Although this is better than both #1 and #2, it is still missing a lot of information that would be useful to the reader. They at least included a link to the article, but they are missing more elaborative links as well as more information about the study.

  • In a new study, researchers from University of California, San Diego have found that feelings displayed on Facebook are contagious. Publishing a paper in the journal PLOS ONE, the team analyzed over a billion anonymous status updates from more than 100 million Facebook subscribers across the United States and found that positive posts beget positive posts and negative posts beget negative posts. They said that while both are common on the site, the positive posts are more influential. They concluded, “We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

This piece provides a link to the article and establishes some credibility by telling us where the research was done and providing a link to the journal it was published in. They provide enough background information to hit all of the main points as well as make the quotation meaningful and make more sense. They could have also added links to similar studies if they had them.

The full article links to a lot of relevant topics on their site, which is good for their site but I think that a variety of links would have been more helpful. The article was really informative in regards to the study and its implications. I like how the author added links that spoke to the validity of the study, like the journal’s website and the profile of the study’s lead author.

 

Pesronal Dynamic Media Nugget

This article was quite thought provoking and it was pretty amazing to read about the type of technology being developed more than thirty years ago. Reading this article made me realize why certain computer terms, like desktop, window, etc., are named the way they are which is something I’d never thought of before but I thought it was interesting. The nugget I ended up choosing was this one:

Some mass items, such as cars and television sets, attempt to anticipate and provide for a variety of applications in a fairly inflexible way; those who wish to do something different will have to put in considerable effort. Other items, such as paper and clay, offer many dimensions of possibility and high resolution; these can be used in an unanticipated way by many, though tools need to be made or obtained to stir some of the medium’s possibilities while constraining others.

We would like the Dynabook to have the flexibility and generality of this second kind of item, combined with tools which have the power of the first kind. Thus a great deal of effort has been put into providing both endless possibilities and easy tool-making through the Smalltalk programming language.

Our design strategy, then, divides the problem. The burden of system design and specification is transferred to the user. This approach will only work if we do a very careful and comprehensive job of providing a general medium of communication which will allow ordinary users to casually and easily describe their desires for a specific tool. We must also provide enough already-written general tools so that a user need not start from scratch for most things she or he may wish to do.”

One of my first thoughts while reading Kay’s article was that we have this technology today. I immediately thought of the iPad and other tablets. This article examines the relationship between Kay’s dynabook and Apple’s iPad, and also has some interesting information about the relationship between Steve Jobs and Alan Kay.

The ipad is undoubtedly similar to the dynabook, but after thinking about it some more I’ve noticed one very important and fundamental difference between the two. The presence of smalltalk.

Nowadays, only people with the necessary knowledge and skills can create programs, or apps, to be used on the iPad. Since most users don’t know how to make their own apps, they are forced to use the ones that other people have produced. These may have features that users might not need and others that are missing. But users would have to rely on programmers to add the features they want or fix the problems that arise.

From my understanding, Alan Kay envisioned the dynabook and his smalltalk programming language as a tool for allowing people, children specifically, to easily make their own programs.

This is smalltalk’s website and exploring it can give you a better understanding of exactly what it is and what you can do with it.

I was really surprised that technology like smalltalk isn’t more popular today. It sounds like an intuitive way for people to bypass programmers and app developers to create programs that do exactly what they want them to do.

This article examines the many reasons why smalltalk may have not become more popular.

Research Nugget #6

Shaw, F. (2012). ‘Hottest 100 women’: cross-platform discursive activism in feminist blogging networks. Australian Feminist Studies, (74), 373-387. doi: 10.1080/08164649.2012.727270

Shaw’s article looks at how feminist blogs use discursive activism to create political change. She highlights the various ways in which scholars have looked at online activism and presents her view, one which has not yet been acknowledged. She demonstrates, through an Australian case study, that online discourse, specifically on feminist blogs, have the power to create offline change.

Social media has become an increasing part of people’s use of the internet, and activist cultures have developed within these social networks. Networks of political blogs engage with and disrupt the discourse of the mainstream media by responding to political events with alternative perspectives, by criticising the ideological stances implicit in the media and by sharing information on systemic injustices and issues not given coverage in the mainstream press (Bahnisch 2006). Social networking applications have become spaces in which political protests are organised and planned, as well as the locations of political protest themselves, as will be seen in the case study in this paper.”

This is a point that, surprisingly, none of the other papers I’ve read has pointed out. They have discussed the power that social media has to amplify the voices of its users, but not specifically to challenge the mainstream media. I think that this is an important point because social media allows feminists and other activists to dispel myths about their movement and focus on important topics that the mainstream media may not be focusing on.

Scholarship on feminist activism online is enriched by a critique of social movement studies approaches to the study of internet politics. The important point here is that, while feminist social movement studies take discursive activism seriously, these insights have not been applied to the area of internet activism. Discursive activism has been consistently left out of such analyses. The case study in this paper demonstrates that discursive activism is an integral part of the work that feminist bloggers do to further feminist politics, and this needs to be recognised. Such an omission of discursive activism from the study of online activism has further consequences for the study of contemporary social change and contemporary social movements, leaving out models of discursive activism from analyses of movements like ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and other similar recent social movement activities.”

One of Shaw’s main points is highlighted here – that nobody has really taken online discursive activism seriously and she is the first to examine its real-world effects. Although a year later, Schuster (from the last nugget post I did) does acknowledge, as Shaw does in this nugget, that online discussion and debate is an important part of the work that feminists do nowadays. I’ve discovered that with the accessibility of social media, discourse is actually becoming a form of activism rather than a separate activity.

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