Task 3: A discussion of an aspect of digital activism, drawing on the documentary film We Are Legion and additional academic research.
The myriad of discussion topics within digital activism has led to my topic indecision and hence the delay of this post….so, my apology.
#Hashtagactivism (google search)
Digital activism is undoubtedly a rich land to grow discussions among critics, activists and scholars. The wide variety of topics spreads from practice methods, organisational structure, political effectiveness to ethical issues and so on. Some critics would argue that online social movement faces the challenge of volatility or instability due to its loose and flexible structure (Joyce, 2010), however, my take on this debate is to focus on the possibility and potential that the Internet has offered to collective action in this social network era.
Mary Joyce, author of Digital Activism Decoded The New Mechanics of Change, suggested that one of the potentials of the Internet for collective action is the ability to disseminate information and to draw attention to their main cause. This has brought me to the introduction of hashtag activism as a form of activist storytelling and a way to encourage people to participate in conversations about current social issues (Boyd and Mitchell, 2012).
As “The first step in solving a problem is recognising there is one”, said William Duncan McAvoy – lead anchor on News Night, the hashtag activism serves well as a debate trigger and is ‘designed to convene the conversation’ among activists. From campaign leaders point of view, if a hashtag is strategically and proactively defined, activists can use it as a framed device to effectively polarise a discussion, hence draw more people to their side of the debate. As for potentially interested public, hashtag could be used as an effective tool to navigate their way through the mess of information overload on the Internet and focus on their cause for concern. Additionally, authors of Beautiful Trouble: A toolbox for revolution considered hashtag not just as a theory but also “the most literal manifestation of a broader tendency of our highly connected socially mediated environment toward greater interactive activity” (Boyd and Mitchell, 2012).
As natural as a coin has two sides, along with other tactics used online by activists hashtag activism faces an accusation of ‘slacktivism’ or ‘clicktivism’ (Albright, 2015) Since hashtags are great for sparking initial interest and conversation, there is also a possibility that suggests they are not as effective in the long term and hence “it has no effect whatever on the planet, but it makes people feel good about themselves”, said George Will – newspaper columnist and political commentator (Bordelon, 2014). However, I personally think that this is not the case. It only takes a nanosecond to ‘like’ something on Facebook, compared to the process of composing a content with hashtag that reflects your concern and compassion toward a current issue, hashtag obviously plays a much different role. Though to be fair, the effectiveness level of a campaign can only be assessed by its leaders. But if nothing else, the least we can do is to spread the truth.
Meanwhile, have a look at this inspiring collection of the most powerful hashtags in 2014.
Martin Luther King Rr in the new era of hashtag activism
Albright, D (2015). Hashtag Activism: #powerful or #pointless?. Available from: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/hashtag-activism-powerful-pointless/ (Accessed 28 October 2015)
Bordelon, B (2014). George Will Mocks #BringBackOurGirls: ‘An Exercise in Self-Esteem’. Available from: http://dailycaller.com/2014/05/11/george-will-mocks-bringbackourgirls-an-exercise-in-self-esteem/ (Accessed 1 December 2015)
Joyce, M (2010). Digital Activism Decoded: The New Mechanics of Change. New York: IDEA.
Boyd, A. and Mitchell, D. O. (2012) Beautiful trouble: A Toolbox for revolution. United States: OR Books.
Sayre, S & King, C (2010). Entertainment and Society: Influences, Impacts and Innovation. New York: Routledge.
Hands, J. (2010) @ is for activism: Dissent, resistance and rebellion in a digital culture. London: Pluto Press.
List of images:
#hashtagacitivsm. Available from: http://www.reasonwhy.es/actualidad/social-media/amplificar-un-evento-con-twitter (Accessed 28 November 2015)
Martin Luther King Rr in the new era of hashtag activism. Available from: http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/features-issue-sections/11390/hashtag-activism-real/ (Accessed 28 November 2015)