Home Research Global Digital Activism Data Set: Truly Global

Note: In the interest of open research, we are sharing infographics of our in-process project, the Global Digital Activism Data Set. We hope that this transparency will elicit original perspectives and constructive critique. A previous post is here.

Last summer we at the Meta-Activism Project set out to make a list of the world’s digital activism cases. While we are still wrestling with definitions or representativeness, we can at least be confident that our data set is indeed global. Of the 193 internationally-recognized sovereign states, the Global Digital Activism Data Set records cases from over 140 of them. In the interest of open research we have decided to share this in-process data publicly though the free data visualization site Many Eyes. A larger version of the map can be found on that site at http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/visualizations/case-distribution-of-the-global-di.

Why not give a more precise number for the countries represented? I gave the approximation “over 140” because some states, like Taiwan, have challenged sovereignty. In addition, the system we are using to identify countries, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) alpha-3 codes provide a code for special administrative regions like Hong Kong, which are technically not sovereign states.

In addition, some of the codes entered by our volunteers during the initial case entry phase were erroneous, such as listing Puerto Rico as a country or entering “international” or “Southeast Asia.” We expect the exact distribution of cases among countries to change as we continue to polish and refine our case study list.

As the denomination “international” connotes, assigning geographic location to digital actions is far from straightforward. Take, for example, the case of the Nada Agha Soltan assassination video. Though it was shot in Iran, it was then sent to a friend of the videographer in the Netherlands, who uploaded it to YouTube. The video was seen by millions of people around the world, and helped to inspire the global solidarity protests. Somehow labeling the case with the single country “Iran” seems to gloss over much of what make digital activism different from earlier tactical sets.

Once coded, the data set will reveal the geographic scope of each case, leaving the possibility to identify multiple initiator and target countries. In a way, identifying the country which was the target of the action is only the tip of the iceberg in understanding the geography of digital activism, where the Internet makes global the new default.

image: Flickr/Elo Vazquez

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