the advent of the internet and mobile technology has radically changed the activism landscape. seasoned activists have grown with the tech and have been able to adopt it at their own pace. new activists, especially people who have used the internet mainly for research or entertainment, aren’t so lucky. this post is the first in a series on managing technology for activists.
effective organizing relies heavily on today’s technology (social media and mobile apps) to get messages to as large a number of people as possible, as quickly as possible. there used to be only few ways to reach large numbers of people, but now there are hundreds and hundreds of channels. channels are platforms for information sharing and don’t usually offer original content. they are mainly platforms that allow users to post and share their own content.
we’re going to start with an overview of four popular channels:
- facebook: probably the most popular social media network platform. people use personal accounts, pages (you can have one account with many pages, but each page is owned by only one account), groups, causes, and events. these are all different, but it can be easy to confuse them when posts are flying around. people can tag other people, organizations, and events, as well as share posts if the privacy settings allow. facebook is a great place for people to connect, but has limitations when it comes to organizing.
- twitter: also immensely popular, twitter is a micro-blogging platform. a tweet is a micro-blog that only allows 140 characters and cannot be edited once posted. while twitter is a veritable monsoon of information (some of it highly questionable), it can be almost instantly overwhelming. twitter has been crucial to global activism as it has often been the only way organizers can communicate in countries where internet access is severely restricted and monitored.
- instagram: visual platform (owned by facebook but does not require a facebook account) that only allows image posts. the images can be of anything within instagram’s guidelines, so users will post images of text or images that contain text. this is not a great platform for organizing, but it is a channel well-suited to share art and messaging, as well as direct users toward other platforms. many high profile celebrities and entertainers communicate heavily through instagram.
- youtube: the go-to platform for sharing videos. youtube is owned by google, and requires a google account (even if you don’t use a gmail address). posting a video and setting up a youtube channel isn’t difficult, but can be confusing. if you’re a newbie, it’s probably a good idea to watch a tutorial or get someone to help you the first couple of times.
as I mentioned, there are hundreds and hundreds of channels, but these are the big four. chances are that any one of these will offer entry points to an issue, action, or organization, as well as connection with other people. the energy to organize right now is immense, and people are now looking for new ways to share information and calls to action. mobile apps like Vote Spotter, Countable, and the website ActivismEngine (still in testing) have been created, and we’ll cover these in more detail in a later post.