This week, we're asking about Cyber-Activism -- social or political activism mediated and enabled by the use of cyber-tools like email, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, podcasts and so on. The internet has changed practically everything – from the way we work to the way we play. It stands to reason that it would change the way we engage in social and political action too.
What is it
Whether it's making donations and signing petitions online, or using social media to highlight political causes, cyber-activism has never been easier. With a few clicks, we can make our voices heard around the globe. But who's listening, and is anything actually changing? Does cyber-activism mobilize real-world action on the ground, or does it reduce political engagement to simple mouse-clicking and ultimately threaten the subversive nature of change? John and Ken get active with Lucy Bernolz from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, co-author of Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector. This program was recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.
John opens the show by defining cyber activism: political activism that is made possible by the use of cyber tools like email, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites. The internet has changed everything from the way we work to the way we play and also the way we engage in social and political action. Ken corroborates how the internet has changed the world by giving some examples of how we mobilize and organize people nowadays. If you want to start a petition, you need only go online, share a link, and before you know you have thousands of people sharing it. John believes that cyber tools are a great space to share, communicate, and participate, but he believes that this is a passive kind of activism: one can sign the petition from the couch. He also believes this is a symptom of a larger disease. Everybody can be an activist nowadays because the barriers of entry are so low compared to how difficult it used to be to get to be heard. Now every voice is amplified, and when everything is amplified, nothing gets heard. Ken gives the example of police shootings of the black people, events which would not have been heard if it wasn’t because of the power of the internet to make things viral. John and Ken talk some more about issues of truth and liability
John and Ken welcome guest Lucy Bernholz, Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and co-author of Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector. John asks Lucy what brought her to study the topic of the disruptive power of the internet and other digital technologies. Lucy explains that she has many siblings, which leads to the question of ownership: what is mine, what is yours, and who decides? Over time, these questions morphed into questions about what is public, private, and, again, who makes the distinction. John then asks Lucy for an overview of the internet and its relation to freedom, privacy, and whether in these regards new technology is a blessing or a curse. Lucy explains that the tools are a blessing, as they allow for access to check the voices of others as well as one’s own. However, bad habits that need to be checked arise with said technologies – for example, that we keep everything, like pictures, that otherwise we would not. Privacy policies are also troubling – “I agree” is, Lucy says, the biggest lie on the internet.
Ken asks Lucy what the single biggest difference between the post and pre-Internet eras is in how we communicate and organize. Lucy explains that now, everybody can be a change-maker or a catalyst – everybody has a chance to ignite a movement.
Lucy, John, and Ken welcome audience participation and discuss whether when all voices are amplified, any voice really be heard. Has the internet encouraged conversation or merely allowed cacophony? Has the internet democratized everything or simply made available alternative options for change? Equal access to technologies and whether information access is a human, civil right is also discussed.
Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 6:45): Shuka Kalantari talks about some events, like Iranian protests, and how word of said events got around worldwide, leading thousands to participate in advocacy and action. The notion of Clicktivism is also talked about, with Shuka talking to Brianna Cayo Cotter, Head of Global Communications at Change.org, about online petitions and social change via the internet.
- 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:08): Ian Shoales talks about the case of nurse Kaci Hickox, released from quarantine for Ebola, and his subsequent reading and responding to internet trolls and…being an internet troll himself?