“Could the ability to organize massive protests quickly on Facebook and Twitter be making those protests vulnerable in the long term? If new technologies are so empowering, why are so many movements failing to curb authoritarianism’s rise? Is a glut of misinformation more effective censorship than directly forbidding speech? Why are so many of today’s movements leaderless?” – twitterandteargas.org
This and more is discussed in Zeynep Tufekci’s consider-all and awfully insightful Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power of the Networked Protest. She could be affectionately known as the cooler Aunt of online activism, and her perceptive outlook on the networked community of today and how this interrelates with both war and peace, definitely earn her a seat at the table of 21st Century interventionists. I was intrigued by the very sociology behind the notion and wanted to create a piece that raised questions that perhaps are a part of this meta-narrative of our technological story. I found myself crossing these ideas over a lot with topics on blockchain, censorship, and global media flows in BCM322; Global Media Interventions.
Many of the issues that both arise and are resolved by blockchain and censorship are aligned with the growing trend of online protests and movements, in regards to governance, corruption, ethics, and rights. The Journal of Political Psychology (Jost, J., et al. 2018) segregates the platforms abilities into three key sections;
- Social media host a space to exchange information related to protest coordination, logistics, and support;
- Platforms provide both emotional, motivational, content both supportive and opposing;
- The ability of social networks to assist an activism event to either succeed or fail.
While my creative piece could be perceived as more focused on the ‘slacktivism’ aspect of a networked protest, I hoped to equally outline the power as identified by Tufekci in her TED presentation. The ability to even contribute to a movement from the confines of a censored community is enough to showcase the empowering nature of a networked world. I worked to compose a video that asked questions about the plausibility of not just online protests, but how online activism can contribute to real, and sometimes violent, situations.
Not dissimilar to Susan Sachtachtinskagia’s on blockchain frameworks; “there is the question of how censorship-resistance could be implemented on a network that does not stop to evolve and change. Does the governance model allow to change the rules, to what extent, with what incentives, what are the predictable future tendencies for the network?” (Sachtachtinskagia, S. 2017). Of course, this could be related directly to the #MeToo movements and many more, specifically to its censorship in China (Kuo, L. 2018).
This rhetorical micro-mashup fits neatly into this quote from Malcolm Gladwell from The New Yorker on why the revolution will not be tweeted; “Smartphones and social media are supposed to have made organizing easier, and activists today speak more about numbers and reach than about lasting results. Is protest a productive use of our political attention? Or is it just a bit of social theatre we perform to make ourselves feel virtuous, useful, and in the right?”. I wanted to question the legitimacy and efficiency of online protesting to back physical protesting, and believe this creative piece achieves so in an abstract manner.
Funnell, A., (2017). Activism is broken: Here’s how we fix it, ABC News. Available: <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-25/activism-is-broken-heres-how-we-fix-it/9077372>.
Gladwell, M., (2017), Small Change, The New Yorker, Accessed: <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-malcolm-gladwell>.
Heller, N., (2018). Is There Any Point to Protesting?, The New Yorker. Available: <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/21/is-there-any-point-to-protesting>.
Jost, J., Barberá, P., Bonneau, R., Langer, M., Metzger, M., Nagler, J., Sterling, J. and Tucker, J. (2018). How Social Media Facilitates Political Protest: Information, Motivation, and Social Networks. Political Psychology, 39, pp.85-118. Available: <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pops.12478>.
Kuo, L., 2018, #Metoo in China: fledgling movement in universities fights censorship, The Guardian, Accessed: <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/18/metoo-in-china-fledgling-movement-in-universities-fights-censorship>.
Leetaru, K., 2018, Is Twitter Really Censoring Free Speech?, Forbes, Accessed: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2018/01/12/is-twitter-really-censoring-free-speech/#650b798465f5>.
Liao, S., 2018, Chinese internet users employ the blockchain to share a censored news article, The Verge, Accessed: <https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/24/17607690/chinese-internet-users-blockchain-share-censored-news-article-vaccines>.
López Tena, A., (2017). Twitter has gone from bastion of free speech to global censor, Business Insider. Available: <https://www.businessinsider.com/twitter-has-gone-from-bastion-of-free-speech-to-global-censor-2017-6?IR=T>.
McGuire, A., 2018, How Blockchain Provides Privacy Under Oppressive Governments, Irish Tech News, Accessed: <https://irishtechnews.ie/how-blockchain-provides-privacy-under-oppressive-governments/>.
Sachtachtinskagia, S., (2017), Censorship-Resistance and Public Blockchains, Medium.com, Accessed: <https://medium.com/pandoraboxchain/censorship-resistance-and-public-blockchains-7e1dd41537d5>.
Tufekci, Z., (2017). Does a Protest’s Size Matter?. The New York Times. Available: <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/opinion/does-a-protests-size-matter.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fzeynep-tufekci&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=collection>.
How the Internet has made social change easy to organize, hard to win. (2015).
Directed by Z. Tufekci. TED. <How the Internet has made social change easy to organize, hard to win: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo2Ai7ESNL8&t=408s>
Tufekci, Z., (2018). Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. [S.l.]: Yale University Press, pp.11-16, 29-42.
Emotions – Argofox https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQYfa9XKGns
Twitter Evolutions: The Changing Role of Social Media in War and Protest – United States Institute of Peace https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CZ4laoUPak
Protesting Vintage – Gunnar Gissel https://archive.org/details/GunnarGisselProtest
Twitter Brightness Glass Effect – Mavin Stuart https://pixabay.com/en/videos/twitter-brightness-glass-effect-7410/
Charger Technology – Matthias Groeneveld https://pixabay.com/en/videos/charger-mobile-battery-technology-8501/
Hashtag Social Media Symbol – Jonathan Holeton https://pixabay.com/en/videos/hashtag-hash-social-media-symbol-8343/
Riot Protest Demonstration – Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/videos/riot-protest-demonstration-423/