Blog #2: Activism and the internet

 

With the rise of social media and the use of the internet, activism has now become more digitized. The movement is slowly depending on media sources on the internet to gain more popularity and mass support. I am interested in knowing more about the involvement of the internet that has shaped up the rhetoric of activism and changed the way socially motivated movements are heard now. I would be exploring the future of activism and following are 5 topics I have narrowed down my research to:

  1. Social media and activism: With more than 1.5 billion active Facebook users, social media has become an integral part of advertising and making your voice heard. The power and reach of social media have made many popular social movements dependent on using this platform to further their cause and at the same time accept suggestions from people all over the globe. The validation and acceptance on various social platforms have positively affected activism in the 21st century. Thesis: How much should a movement depend on social media to make sure it’s message reaches the higher authorities?
  2. Effectiveness of Contemporary Activism: Contemporary activism mostly uses social media and the internet to further it’s cause. With the rise of technology, activism has seen major changes in the last 2 decades. But due to easy access of a strong platform, many movements that started off from the internet are now struggling to find a solid background to support their transition into the real world. Talking about social issues on the internet rather than getting in a group and actively protesting on the streets/ offices is slowly killing the very essence of an activist movement. Thesis: How much of this contemporary style of protesting would actually be effective?
  3. Effects of mass involvement on the internet: Mass involvement and freedom of speech on the internet has resulted in various conflicts and “trolling” on various social media websites. Seeing the mass getting involved in particular issue and plastering it all over someone’s news feed sometimes has a reverse effect; making people sick of seeing the same topic everyday. This severely reduces the legitimacy and seriousness of an issue which eventually reduces the interest people have in that movement. The constant degradation of the feminist movement on the internet is one such example of this. Thesis: What effect does mass involvement have on an activist movement?
  4. Activism and media: The media has always been extremely important in making sure the effects of a movement are heard amongst the people. Activist movements have heavily relied on media coverage to make sure that their movement spreads amongst people. Thesis: With the rise in the use of the internet to advertise their movement, how important is the media now given the change in the dynamics of activism?
  5. Rhetoric of Hacktivism (my topic): Hacktivism came from the words “hacking” and “activism” and is a form of activism in which personal information is used subversively to further a political movement. Hacktivism is considered to be ethically wrong despite the effect it generates for a politically inclined movement. I am really interested to research more about the rhetoric of hacktivism and how the media influences the perceived image of this movement amongst the people. I would also be researching about the political influence on hacktivism and the risk associated with indulging in such a practice by analyzing the Edward Snowden case.
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2 thoughts on “Blog #2: Activism and the internet”

  1. I’m curious to see where you go with the Rhetoric of Hacktivism, and I think early on you’ll have to define and categorize what exactly ‘Hacktivism’ is. It’s an issue that hacking is more a popular term than a technical term, so that (say) social engineering and actually finding holes in code fall under the same umbrella term. I’d say you should definitely touch on Anonymous, which is a very different kind of creature from Edward Snowden. I like your focus on how the moral grayness of hacktivism, and there’s definitely a thesis to be made in what sorts of hacking we find “okay”. Does it matter if a government does it versus a private individual? If it threatens national security? If it hurts individuals? If it hurts a single person? As a final idea, you might look at creating the tools that enable activism as flavor of hacktivism… the construction of Bitcoin and TOR, for instance, both definitelty have ‘subversive’ elements to them.

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  2. You mentioned many internet-related topics of activism – combining internet activism with our previous reading on culture jamming and recuperation, I was reminded of Correct the Record as well as the use of Internet bots. Correct the Record was a Clinton super PAC that would promote Clinton-supporting posts and call into question Clinton-criticizing posts, thus effectively recuperating Internet messaging boards for their own purposes. Likewise, it has been suggested that there are Russian agents hired to post pro-Trump propaganda. A lot of the time, it’s difficult to tell whether someone commenting on a Facebook article is a real person or if they’re just a one-day-old account posting propaganda.

    With regards to hacktivism, the main thing that comes to mind is Anonymous. Anonymous, to me, in general seems like a reasonably effective group; however, my two main criticisms of it are that it is incredibly unorganized by definition and that it can sometimes engage in acts that can seem immature or irresponsible. Another thing related to your analysis of the relationship between hacktivism and the media – the media obviously controls what news it puts out, so it can effectively manipulate the image of hacktivism in the public sphere. I’m definitely curious to hear more about what these media portrayals are like, and I’m also interested in whether there have been large hacktivism campaigns that have gone unreported by the media. Lastly, I would just like to draw attention back to Tim Jordan’s idea of transgression in “activism!” – does hacking constitute the sort of extreme transgression that Jordan described, or is it a conservative way to manipulate the system?

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