All posts by ilaganf

Presentation Reflections

  1. Presentation that made me want to learn more: David’s presentation was topical, engaging, and thought-provoking. It pointed to a very clear reason for the political polarization of the company, raising points that gave me pause. I would like to learn more about Citizens United and political polarization because I’m sure that there’s more to the story – I’m now asking questions about what else could be main driving forces of the divide we’ve seen in America.
  2. Presentation that taught me the most about its topic: Marianne’s presentation did an excellent job of establishing the importance of historical storytelling within activist movements and further explaining the deliberate choices and strategies at play. I already knew that activists and organizations use deliberate rhetoric and framing when presenting their causes to the public, but Marianne’s presentation taught me the nuances of how and why. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of this pattern in the future, now that I’m attenuated to it.
  3. Presentation that surprised me the most: Michael’s topic took me by surprise, mostly because I had not really stopped to think about Pinochet’s effect on Chile’s schooling system before and the resulting aftermath. The conditions and widespread political engagement among the young people there were completely new to me, and the fact that Michael had spent time in Chile engaged with the protests (super cool, by the way) was an interesting revelation.
  4. Presentation that inspired me the most: Zoe’s presentation about rhetoric and strategies within agribusiness inspired me to look at vegetarianism and food marketing in a new light. I had taken for granted the lifestyle and culture surrounding animal product consumption, and Zoe’s presentation really made me aware of it. I now think I am more conscious about my eating decisions and am inspired to talk about vegetarianism and its alternatives.

Hacktivism: Roots, Causes, and Motivation

Research Questions: 

Why has hacktivism gained such prevalence in modern culture? What caused this rise? What is the unifying motivation of the hacktivist movement, if there is one?

Thesis and Roadmap

For the purposes of my paper, hacktivism is the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends. Firstly, I posit that the rise of hacktivism is a direct result of increased Internet surveillance and censorship on the part of the government since the advent of the War on Terror, rather than the injection of conventional activism into the digital realm. Consequently, since this shift in online power is the underlying cause for the emergence of hacktivism, I argue that the movement does indeed have a main unifying motivation: the promotion of Internet freedom and expression. Furthermore, it has gained such prevalence by appealing to the public’s desire for political power without the loss of anonymity.

Since there are far too many hacktivist organizations to track at time of writing, I will focus on the fairly well-known hacktivist organization known as Anonymous. Its global scope and relative seniority in the history of the movement allow me to use it as a representative example for the hacktivist movement as a whole. To argue my thesis, I will first prove that there has been a shift in online power and an increase in surveillance and censorship. From there, I will demonstrate how the public feels about this change. Finally, I can then analyze the history, actions, and rhetoric of Anonymous to show both that they arose as a result of Big Brother and that their main motivation is the promotion of Internet freedom.

Infographic Reflection and Steps Forward

link to infographic:

Description of feedback: Happily enough, the infographic was fairly well-received. Classmates liked the clean layout and clear highlighting of important information/topics. Content-wise, classmates found the “Important Events” helpful in visualizing the conflict between hacktivism and governmental regulation. I was limited by space in the infographic, so I hope to include some more background about Internet control and censorship, in order to really tie those concepts strongly with the rise of hacktivism and Anonymous.

Research question and tentative thesis: What caused the current prevalence of the hacktivism movement? What are the underlying motivations of the movement, as exhibited by the prominent group Anonymous?

To answer this question, I will examine the recent emergence of legislation that seeks to monitor and control the Internet (the “surveillance state”) and business practices that attempt to filter and censor opposing views. Then, I will examine the beginnings of hacktivism and analyze the behavior of Anonymous, one of the largest and most well-known hacktivist groups. From there, I will attempt to demonstrate a causal relationship between societal movement away from a free and open Internet and the emergence and lasting appeal of Anonymous and hacktivism. I argue that both the success of Anonymous and the rise of hacktivism can be attributed to this shifting online power dynamic, rather than the movement of existing activist groups and practices to the digital realm.

The right tools for the job – research proposals to study different forms of activism

  1. Environmental Activism – the effectiveness of “camping” actions like at the Dakota Access Pipeline to force federal or corporate action
  2. The privatization of activism – public philanthropic and activist figures such as Bill Gates have become more prominent in recent years. Is this a fundamental shift in the power of activism? Is activism from a place of privilege truly activism?
  3. Militant, organized, violent activism – detailing a demarcation between terrorism, organized and violent unrest, and other forms of violent protest
  4. Slacktivism – examine how social media affects voter turnout, public opinion, actual change. Facebook’s “fake news” scandal may have had a profound impact in the recent election. How and to what extend does the influence of our onine networks color political will in the millenial generation?
  5. Activism in countries with differing governmental/economic systems

Of these topics, I would be interested in the last one – I’d be curious to see what forms activism might take in countries with significantly different cultures. Which strategies are most effective in societies without protection for the right to free speech? Given a non-capitalist economy and a corresponding lack of corporate branding, how do activists still speak out or culture jam? In an increasingly global society, how do activist efforts and media coverage in one country attract action from other countries?

This topic could be important for a few different reasons. Firstly, researching the trends of activism in other cultures gives us valuable insight into the dynamics of power outside of the traditional Western canon. Practically speaking, this research could translate into valuable information for activist efforts in our own culture. Looking at the history of activism in other countries could give us insight into what works and what doesn’t. Additionally, an appreciation for other cultures is important; the rising amount of refugees integrating into different countries and interacting with different cultures attests to this point. Such an appreciation could help formulate a strategy for energizing political will and increasing public engagement with social issues involving other cultures.

The Convoluted Game of Culture Jamming

“…I know you. And you know you. And I know that you know that I know that you know you” -Ben Stiller as White Goodman in the film Dodgeball: a True Underdog Story

The warring ideas of corporate branding and culture jam are today’s topic of discussion. For any unfamiliar, “culture jamming” is the deliberate subversion and repurposing of commonly accepted mainstream symbolism to spread a message in opposition to the symbol’s original meaning. The examples given in Tim Jordan’s Activism!: Direct Action, Hacktivism, and the Future of Society include altered billboards that emasculate virile cigarette models (Jordan, Activism! pg. 105) and spoof ads, such as the campaign that mocked Absolut Vodka with slogans such as “Absolut Impotence” (107).

What I find most interesting about modern culture jam is the corporate response. Instead of simply trying to prosecute the vandalism or ignore it altogether, certain firms have responded by leaning in to the counterculture. The example that most stuck with me in Activism! was the criticism of Nike’s branding that may have been circulated by Nike itself (112-114). Firms “jamming” their own marketing is probably one of the most brilliant mind games to undermine the effectiveness of cultural jammers. It creates the “I knew you knew I know” dynamic that quickly ramps up the hopeless moral complexity of symbolic protest. By engaging in the game, the companies take away the clear message culture jammers intend to spread. Viewers now need to ask: “is this message truly protesting a transgression? Or is it simply an ironic, possibly controversial marketing campaign designed to generate publicity?”

If effective culture jamming is to continue, it must either adapt to the game or abandon it altogether. Going one level deeper (maybe by pre-empting attempts to counter-jam by making fun of corporations trying to be controversial) could be a clever way to defeat the opposition while still leveraging pre-existing marketing symbolism, tapping straight into the consumer culture that is the backbone of most developed nations. Abandoning culture jam, on the other hand, is another attractive option. It may feel like a moral defeat, but perhaps an evolution is necessary. Jordan brings up an important point: “Does the use of corporate… cultural codes reinforce these codes, even when the overt message is to oppose them?” (114).