Thank You National Science Foundation…

for giving me a sweet three-year fellowship!  Full write-up on my department’s website.

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Webinar: Civil Resistance 2.0

[UPDATE: presentation slides] I’ll be presenting a free webinar next Thursday on digital nonviolence on behalf of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. Details below.







Title:Civil Resistance 2.0: Digital Enhancements to the 198 Nonviolent Methods

Type: free webinar (register here)

Date: Thursday, November 29th

Time: 12:00-1:00pm EST

Description: This is s presentation on Civil Resistance 2.0, an open-source project by Patrick Meier and myself to update the key methods of nonviolent resistance for the digital age. I’ll discuss how the project works, how digital technologies can amplify and create new forms of analog tactics. I’ll also present new nonviolent methods that the project has identified.

And here are the presentation slides:

Civil Resistance 2.0: 198 Methods Upgraded from Mary Joyce

Meta-Activism Project: Time for a Transition

Standing in front of the UW communications building this summer.

As some of you know, I’ve started a PhD program in communication (last week, in fact). As part of that institutional transition I’ve created a new digital activism research project with a professor there, Philip Howard, which is called (what else?) the Digital Activism Research Project (

I realize that I will not have time to work on both that project and MAP, so MAP has come to an end. I’ll still pop into the Facebook group every now and again, and most of the work MAP created (the GDADS, the list of digital nonviolent tactics, the resource list) has already or will soon move to the DARP site.

I’ll still update this site, but as my personal blog. The basic division of labor will be that my speculative work on digital activism will remain here, while my empirical work will more to DARP.

Thanks for your support over the years and I hope you continue reading!

GV Summit Day 1: War of Positions

So I’m here in Nairobi, Kenya for the 2012 Global Voices Citizen Media Summit. The wrinkle this year is that a group of about 30 academics has been invited to hold a partially parallel conference and to talk about things — ontologies, assemblages, performativity — that will either make you want to impale yourself on an elephant tusk or get you running to the computer to download the latest issue of Journal of Theoretical Politics. But it’s actually a big, gift-wrapped piece of dream candy for MAP – the opportunity for activists and reporters to share information, perspectives and ideas with the academics who study them, and vise versa. Continue reading

Allied Media Conference: Social Media that Isolates

Summer is conference season and MAP is reporting live! Over the next few days I’ll be reporting from the Allied Media Conference in Detroit and David Faris will be reporting from the Global Voices Summit in Nairobi.Check out this blog and ourTwitter streamfor reports and ourFacebook pagefor photos

– – – – – – – – –

Day 1 @ the Allied Media Conference, where people come together to share tools and tactics for transforming communities through media activism

“We help move people from the tweets to the streets.”

“We need technology that we can use, not that uses us.”

“We don’t want to be the products being sold.”

“How can we ensure that the internet is not private property but public property?”

“We can use communication technology not only to know the world, but to change it.”

These were but a few of the wise and inspirational statements made by participants at the network gathering convened by May First/People Linkon day 1 of the Allied Media Conference(AMC). MF/PL is a non-profit web service provider that operates like an activist co-op: collecting dues, buying equipment, and providing services to people who might otherwise not have them. Today they brought together media rights activists with technologists, hoping to surface activist needs which could be met by developing new software. However, in the age of social media, creating new software is not always the best strategy for supporting activists.

As a way to get the ball rolling a number of technologists presented some examples of open source software designed for activists: Decider, Riseup Pad, Facebook alternatives Crabgrass and Diaspora, DropBox alternative SparkleShare, Twitter alternative, and Flickr alternative openphoto. Other than being open source, these tools allow greater security, autonomy, and data control because they can run off of any server, not a centralized server owned by a corporation.

This is good, but it is also not so good. It is good because it provides a more secure alternative for activists who may be under surveillance and ensures there is some level of competition, and thus user choice, in these market niches (Firefox works particularly well in this regard).

They are not so good in that the social media platforms – Crabgrass, Diaspora, and*cut activists off from the majority of the world’s citizens, who are using commercial platforms.This marginalization is why many of these tools have failed to gain much of a user base. The value of any social media platform increases with the number of members it has, a principle encapsulated in Metcalfe’s Law. Without members these platforms have little pull, except for the hard core of activists.

The truth is that mostopen source software is only used by technical elites and those who have been directly trained and educated by elites (Firefox being a major exception). This doesn’t mean that open source’s impact is small, just that the user base is usually small. For example, Apache serves more than half the world’s websites, but its actual user base is a relatively small technical elite of developers.

Open source projects work best when they operate well using a small user base. Mobile crowd-mapping application Ushahidi has dozens of instances, but for each instance only one person needs to be able to manipulate the software – the person who installs it. Everyone else just needs to be able to send a text message. Guardianwould love for thousands of people in repressive countries to use their mobile encryption tools, but if even several hundred key activists become users, they have made an impact.

Social media, on the other hand, requires scale to succeed, and this is why open source alternatives have failed. A social network with 500 people won’t succeed unless the people already have strong ties because casual users will become dormant or leave. By building alternative social networks, open source activists have create walled gardens that propose marginalization and isolation more than meaningful radical space.

During a break-out session, I proposed an alternative to this self-defeating strategy: “enter the mall.” The mall – ugh! We hate the mall. It is banal and commercial and trivial and corporate. But it is also where everyone hangs out. If you build a small alternative fair trade market down the road you may attract those who are already your ideological allies, but in order to really scale you will need to go to the mall. Now, you could enter the mall and advertise for your alternative market down the road. You could also set up the market inside the mall, between Hot Topic and The Gap. It would mean entering the belly of the capitalist beast, but it would also give the ideals of fair trade to a much larger audience and give the ideas potential to scale. I am using a rather goofy analogy, but there are serious issues of values and strategy to be worked out if supporters of alternative media were to consider using corporate media to extend their ideological reach and further their longterm goals.

Of course, open source still has value and open source technologistsinterestedin supportingactivistsshould focus their efforts on security and niche tools,like Ushahidi, that provide a specific functionality to a specific user group. However, because open source projects need to define success within the scope of a small user base, technologists building social networking, where mass is critical, will find they are fighting a losing battle. It was worth experimenting with open source social media platforms. Now it is time to access the results.

The Best of Personal Democracy Forum 2012

[UPDATED]Person Democracy Forum is the best digital politics conference in the country, maybe the world, because it’s a forum for radically idealistic new ideas. It just ended last night. Here are my favorite parts:

Day 1

  • Alexis Ohanian of Reddit’s funny meme-filled pitch for the bat-signal of the Internet (we are all Batmans, we all have online Gothams, we must protect them). Key insight: People sharing their likes and dislikes online isn’t the new slacktivism, it’s the private conversations we’ve always had around the dinner table. It’s just that they are public now. If anything this idle talk is more powerful for that reason.
  • Yochai Benkler of the Berkman Center shows day-by-day network graphics of the anti- SOPA campaign, putting to bed that alternative notion that it was just Google lobbyistsall along. Everyone wondered: how did he make those infographics and can I borrow his software?
  • Jaron Lanierof Microsoft gave my favorite keynote of PdF 2012. That man is straight brilliant. Without any slides he presented a bold and complex new idea for maintaing the middle class in the information economy: institute a system of micro-payments for all net content, which goes back to the creator. This would apply to our usage data too (the stuff people like Google and Facebook already monetize), so it is not uniquely a plan to benefit creatives. Among his best insights that the internet actually creates a more sustainable democracy if it is not totally free and, at this point, we can re-engineer society by re-engineering the internet.
  • Jan Hemme of the German Pirate Party described their new software LiquidFeedback and the term “liquid democracy.” Both represent a new midpoint between representative and direct democracy: temporary proxy voting. The system allows people to temporarily assign a proxy to vote on their behalf on internal policy decisions, but that proxy can be rescinded any time, not every 2 to 4 years, as is now the mode.

Day 2

  • Peter Fein runs Telecomix, which I had never heard of before, and which was apparently “tech support for the Arab Spring,” circumventing internet shut-downs with fax machines and the like. Democracy is obsolete, he argued, it’s time for adhocracy. Also, if you want to get something down, do it without money.
  • Sascha Meinrath of the Open Technology Institute showed us the surprising scope ofindependentintranets (mesh networks) around the world. The US, with its restrictions onmunicipalcommunicationsinfrastructure, is far behind the rest of the world.
  • Artist An Xiao Mina showed us amazing political memes from China, which were a bold and beautiful response to the censorship of text. They included online and offline images of sunflower seeds as a protest against the imprisonment of Ai Weiwei, and a sunglasses meme in support of blind activistChen Guangcheng. I hope the slides get online soon.
  • Chinese journalist Michael Anti talked about the psychic wounds of self-censorship. He urged Americans to help the Chinese people by defending their own online freedom of expression. Repressive regimes love to cherry-pick censorious policies from Western democracies.
  • Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen talked about successful anti-democratic online tacticsused against Russian activists. One interesting one was the “hand-made” DDoS -style attack on activist Facebook pages. Trolls (from India, for some reason) sign up for the pages en-masse and leave inappropriate – but not threatening – messages on the wall. The rate is so fast that admins cannot take them down quickly enough, the credibility of the page is undermined, and the admins themselves get punished by Facebook for blocking too many page members. Facebook, please fix this!
  • In a personal and moving speech, Cheryl Contee of Fission Strategy talked about the new digital divide of class, race, and gender. In the US the divide is not internet access or social media use anymore. It’s inequality of employment and investment. (News flash: not only young, white, male, Harvard drop-outs make good tech.
  • David Karpf of GW explained why the internet has not enabled a third party – as the vaunted America Elects effort attempted to do – because there is no radical center.
  • Mayor Alex Torpey of South Orange argued that American could still be filled with independent elected officials because the internet allows powerful tools for broadcast and fundraising outside of party structure.

And finally, a few critiques. There were a lot of main stage keynotes – I counted 40 in two days. This means at times we were in our seats as the non-interactive audience for two and a half hours at a stretch. While some keynotes were excellent, others were only okay, and a couple were not. An attempt to introduce interactivity into the keynotes, by using the Berkman Questions tool, did not work out, probably because the event was often running over time.

Also, the afternoon panel discussions, while they do allow PdF to comp tickets for interesting people, are never the highlight of the event. Too often it is yet another audience experience, with more (short) presentations andpreciouslittle Q&A. Making an non-interactive event for the interactive set is strange strategy. Even bringing back the stage-projected tweet stream would have helped. Others likely felt the same way as the audience dropped significantly from Day 1 to Day 2 (they roped off a number of back sessions of the auditorium to cluster the remaining audience at the front.)

Finally, there were a lot of men in dark suits and precious few tee-shirted geeks and jeans-wearing activists. To me this indicates more vendors and nonprofit types whose organizations can afford to send them and less of the young and Ramen-eating people who are doing some of the best and more innovative work online. (When you can offer a $100 early-bird discount, that’s the sign of a damned expensive conference ticket.) They’ve priced-out an important demographic.

PdF is a can’t-miss annual event for me because of the wonderful ideas they present, but they need to cut back on keynotes and create more truly interactive and inclusive intellectual space – and not only during the coffee breaks!


in Oxford for the e-Campaigning Forum

I had great time in Oxford last month at the e-Campaigning Forum, where I presented a paper on behalf of the Open Society Foundation. In addition to be surrounded by a real-life Harry Potter set, I was also surrounded by some of Europe’s (and the world’s) best digital campaigners, like Karina Brusby of Oxfam and Michael Siberman of GreenPeace.

The paper was a case-study of the Stop Stock-Outs campaign in southern Africa.  Co-written with Brett Davidson and Michael Ballard, the paper looks at how the Open Society Foundation and its grantees selected a mix of online and offline communication and information gathering tools for a Pill Check Week campaign to bring attention to essential medicine shortages in  Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia.

SXSW: Digital Activism Panel Recommender (Daily Schedule)

NOTE: After creating the SXSW: Digital Activism Panel Recommender on Thursday I realized that it might be more useful to organize the panels by day, rather than by theme. Here’s the day-by-day schedule. (✰=Meta-Activism-Project community member panel).

UPDATED with recommendations from techPresident (March 6)


SXSW Interactive kicks off next Friday in Austin, Texas and, among the explosion of panels on how to bling-out your start-up with high-tech integrated social services… or whatever… there are a few panels for those interested in digital activism and social and political change. Here are some panel recommendations.

Friday, March 9th

—– 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm —–

How 21st Century Tools Are Disrupting Global Power
Friday March 9, 2012 2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Hilton Austin Downtown
Speakers Alec Ross

Social Change, Social Media & Social Filmmaking
Friday March 9, 2012 2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Meghan Warby, Rob Dyer, Dorothy Engelman, Sherien Barsoum

—– 3:30 pm – 4:40 pm —–

Social Media Sharecropping: Black Tech Adoption
Friday March 9, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Gina Mccauley

—– 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm —–

Sparking Real World Action with Social Media
Friday March 9, 2012 5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Jessica Kirkwood, Karen Bantuveris

Saturday, March 10th

—– 11:00 am – 12:00 pm —–

SOPA/PIPA: Why the Open Internet Needs Us
Saturday March 10, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Andrew McLaughlin, Elizabeth Stark, Gary Kovacs

Real-Time Newsjacking & a Cold-Blooded Tweeter
Saturday March 10, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ Sheraton Austin
Speakers Grant Hunter, Bronx Zoo Cobra, Esty Gorman, Michael Logan, Remco Marinus

—– 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm —–

Do People Really Want Participatory Government?
Saturday March 10, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Jed Sundwall, Michelle Chronister

Design for Social Innovation and Public Good
Saturday March 10, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers: Barbara Brown Wilson, Jess Zimbabwe, John Peterson, John Bielenberg, Suzi Sosa

Is Social Media a Human Right?
Saturday March 10, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Driskill Hotel
Speakers Christian Sandvig, Ed Lee, Jason Rockwood, Michealene Risley, Nick Szuberla

SOPA Media Coverage Dissected
Saturday March 10, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Stacey Higginbotham, Brian Stelter, Jake Bialer, Kim Hart

—– 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm —–

Data Visualization and the Future of Research
Saturday March 10, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Sheraton Austin
Speakers Johan Bollen, Joshua Greenberg, Lee Dirks, Marguerite Avery

Tweeting Osama’s Death: From Citizen to Journalist
Saturday March 10, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Sheraton Austin 701 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78701
Speakers Sohaib Athar, Steve Myers

—– 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm —–

Beyond SOPA/PIPA – Moving Forward with Engine Advocacy
Saturday March 10, 2012 5:00pm – 6:00pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Mike Mcgeary

Sunday, March 11th

—– 9:30 am – 10:30 am —–

Big Data: Powering the Race for the White House
Sunday March 11, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am @ Hilton Garden Inn
Speakers Alex Lundry, Dan Siroker, Josh Hendler, Kristen Soltis, Patrick Ruffini

Stand with Planned Parenthood: A Crisis Response
Sunday March 11, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Alexandra Hart, Amy Bryant, Gabriela Lazzaro, Nakia Hansen, Stephanie Lauf

—– 11:00 am – 12:00 pm —–

How Digital Softened Brazil’s Iron Lady
Sunday March 11, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Andrew Paryzer

Internet Power: After Cyber-Optimism and Pessimism
Sunday March 11, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Chris Bronk, Richard Boly, Patrick Meier, Mary Joyce

Driving the Change: Public Media Goes Transmedia
Sunday March 11, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ Sheraton Austin
Speakers Sue Schardt, Ellen Horne, Jad Abumrad, Kara Oehler

—– 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm —–

Everybody’s a Bloody Entrepreneur! Or Are They?
Sunday March 11, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Hilton Austin Downtown
Speakers Kate Brodock, Jesse Draper, Nicole Glaros, Vanessa Keitges

How to Run a Social Site and Not Get Users Killed
Sunday March 11, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Danny O’Brien, Jillian York, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Kacem El Ghazzali, Sam Gregory

Turning Slacktivism into Online Activism
Sunday March 11, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Omni Downtown
Speakers Neil Boyd

Celebs & Causes: A Thin Line btwn #winning & #fail
Sunday March 11, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Aria Finger, Brittany Snow, Noopur Agarwal, Trevor Neilson

Crowdsourcing Government: Why Access Matters
Sunday March 11, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Tim Kelsey, Rakesh Rajani

Public Lab: Mapping, DIY Activism & Civic Science
Sunday March 11, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Gregory Foster, Jennifer Hudon, Mathew Lippincott, Shannon Dosemagen

—– 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm —–

Adapting New Technologies for Humanitarian Aid
Sunday March 11, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Ivan Gayton, Kate De Rivero, Ludovic Dupuis,Pablo Mayrgundter

What Civil Society Can Learn from Social Web
Sunday March 11, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Omni Downtown
Speakers Micki Krimmel, Ben Berkowitz, Doug Matthews, Kathryn Fink, Lenny Rachitsky, Daniel Hengeveld

Still Invisible? Waging Stories with Social Media
Sunday March 11, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Omni Downtown
Speakers Felipe Matos, Heather Cronk, Jackie Mahendra, Joe Sudbay, Jose Antonio Vargas

Election 2012: Campaigns, Coverage & the Internet
Sunday March 11, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
SpeakersClaudia Milne, Micah Sifry, Michael Scherer, Zeynep Tufekci, Teddy Goff

—– 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm —–

New Media Strategies & Insights for Election 2012
Sunday March 11, 2012 5:00pm – 6:00pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Brian Athey, Danny Allen, Liz Mair, Todd Van Etten

Occupying Media: 24 Hour Protest People
Sunday March 11, 2012 5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Hyatt Regency Austin
Speakers Colin Delany, Boyd Carter, Charles Wyble, Kira Annika, Priscilla Grim

Monday, March 12th

—– 9:30 am – 10:30 am —–

Your iPhone Is Political: Mobile Democracy
Monday March 12, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am @ Hilton Austin Downtown
Speakers Katherine Maher, Josh Levy, Nilay Patel, Parul Desai

How Not to Die: Using Tech in a Dictatorship
Monday March 12, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Mark Belinsky, Deanna Zandt, Brian Conley, Denna Zandt, Lhadon Tethong, Sabrina Hersi Issa

Can Bloggers Put Hope Back into the 2012 Election?
Monday March 12, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Rashad Robinson, Biko Baker, Chloe Hilliard, Erica Williams, Quentin James

Voting’s Viral: Voters, Election Officials & Social
Monday March 12, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Dana Chisnell, Dean Logan, Jared Marcotte, Jeannie Layson, Lee Rainie

—– 11:00 am – 12:00 pm —–

How Social Media Imperils Political Parties
Monday March 12, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Joe Trippi, Marci Harris, Mark McKinnon, Matt Bai, Nathan Daschle

LiberationTech: How Geeks Overthrow Governments
Monday March 12, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Justin Arenstein, Malek Khadhraoui

—– 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm —–

An Unusual Arsenal: Tech Tools to Topple a Tyrant
Monday March 12, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers David Gorodyansky, Jamal Dajani, Neal Ungerleider, Peter Fein, Sonja Gittens-Ottley

—– 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm —–

Intent & Impact: How Visualization Makes a Change
Monday March 12, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Robin Richards, Adam Bly, Benjamin Wiederkehr, Adam Breckler, Moritz Stefaner

Civic Media Projects in Latin America
Monday March 12, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers Jorge Luis Sierra, Lu Ortiz, Miguel Paz, Yesica Guerra

Tuesday, March 13th

—– 11:00 am – 12:00 pm —–

Social Media Boundaries: Personal/Personnel Policy
Tuesday March 13, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Amy Sample Ward, Debra Askanase, Jess Main, Vanessa Rhinesmith

We Are Legion: Digital (R)Evolution
Tuesday March 13, 2012 11:00am – 12:00pm @ Austin Convention Center
Speakers [anonymous, of course]

—– 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm —–

2012: Social Media’s New Role in Politics
Tuesday March 13, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Vishal Sankhla, Ben Parr, Khris Loux, Mark Blumenthal

Worldchanging 2.0: Evaluating Inspiration
Tuesday March 13, 2012 12:30pm – 1:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Cameron Sinclair, Mike McCaffrey

—– 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm —–

Women Drive Change: Tech in the Global South
Tuesday March 13, 2012 3:30pm – 4:30pm @ AT&T Conference Hotel
Speakers Catherine Harrington, Emily Jacobi, Jenn Sramek, Kara Andrade, Zawadi Nyong’o

Keynote at Ciudadano 3.0 in Mexico City

This past week I went to Mexico City to give a keynote address at Ciudadano 3.0 (Citizen 3.0), a summit on online political marketing organized by the Mexican Internet Association.  I went a little off topic, talking about the growing trend in mass movements around the world (see below).  The summit was in anticipation of Mexico’s presidential elections in 2012 so, despite my more global topic, most of the questions were about the Obama campaign’s use of digital and how to apply it to Mexico.

View more presentations from Mary Joyce

Panelist on Social Media and Conflict at the US Institute of Peace

L to R: Sheldon Himelfarb, Andy Carvin, Sultan Al Qassemi, Mary Joyce

Panelists L to R: Sheldon Himelfarb, Andy Carvin, Sultan Al Qassemi, Mary Joyce

Last Friday I was at the United States Institute of Peace on a panel with Andy Carvin and Sultan Al Qassemi to talk about social media and conflict. Of course, I used it as an opportunity to promote the Global Digital Activism Data Set, showing our current visualization slides (see below).

View more presentations from Mary Joyce

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