Peer-to-Peer & Top-to-Bottom: Activism in a Digital Communication Era

With the catalyst of a book review that I need to tackle, I’ve been looking slightly more comprehensively at the role digital can play in the activist set. The necessary disclosure is of course that this book was compliments of the publisher, but I promise to make this less fawning and critical and more of a conversation starter.

First, a quick segue, TechPresident wonderfully shared a perfect example surrounding an online advocacy campaign to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The cost and ease of starting a movement has gotten significantly easier, and between the video and the story (that appears to be related to, you can see why:

Judging from the tape, Lauren and Ellie are two college students in Colorado who, through a combination of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network website, Google, and giggling, organize a dorm campaign to convince Colorado’s Democratic Senator Michael Bennet to back a repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, in what seems to be real-life mini-case study of how online-offline organizing plays out.

Why does this matter? Well, not only does lower barrier to entry help make everyone a member of the media, it also makes it possible for more people to get involved in trying to influence the public by way of that. The definition that’s losing old is that of formal “organizations,” because connection of similar interest is really all you need. [Feel free to insert my favorite allusion to the Long Tail about how the tiny corners of the end of the Internet still have room for two people with similar interests to connect at the same cost/investment as those general feelings].

We are well passed the age where (most) people need to be convinced to be online if they want to be heard. It’s almost at the point that it’s a wasted effort to not be found on the Internet. How do you get to the next step, though? You realize you want to be there, but have minimal engagement experience. If that’s where you are in an organization’s being, then Tom Head’s It’s Your World, So Change It will provide the first blueprint to getting the wheels going.

Like anything in print (and in paperback), the landscape changes quickly. If you’re actively reading daily for the next big thing and how to leverage it for your ongoing program, Head’s book may be a little behind you. For a pretty good 101, though, Head’s checklist covers the parts of online ethics, fundraising and building the presence that will certainly be helpful.

As a shaky cam and search engine tutorial can tell you, complicated isn’t always the most important thing to getting noticed online. You have to start somewhere.


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