SXSW Panel Option: Ending the Lazy Discourse of Digital Activism

We’ve submitted a panel to SXSW, which is now in public voting stages. If the topic below sounds like one that you’d like to hear, please consider voting for it on the Panel Picker. Of course, if you know anyone else who might benefit from the topic, feel free to pass it along to them.


We’ve been asking the same questions about digital activism for years now: Does digital technology give activists or repressive governments an advantage? Are these technologies actually changing the dynamics of political or social power or is it just hype? We’ve got cyber-utopians and cyber-pessimists, but are both overstating their cases? We’ve dissected siloed cases of digital activism to death – the Iranian Revolution, the No Mas FARC Facebook page – but have we developed any long-lasting frameworks? But it doesn’t seem like we’re getting any closer to the answers. What do we really know about digital activism anyway?? The reason we aren’t closer to answering these questions is that we’re stuck in lazy discourse and un-winnable ping-pong debates based on sets of contradictory narratives and messy comparisons across different contexts. We lack a standard for analysis, leaving us in a free-for-all where legitimacy is based mostly on the boldness of claims and the catchiness of neologisms. The goal of this panel is to move the discussion of digital activism in a direction that supports development of foundational knowledge… and eventually a bonified field of discourse and study. We’ll spend some time constructively dissecting the current problems in how digital activism is discussed and debated and get right to the meat of what we really SHOULD be talking about in order to identify concrete ways to move the field forward.

Questions Answered

  1. How can we characterize the current discourse on digital activism?
  2. Why is this current method of discourse inadequate?
  3. How can we increase rigor and analysis in the field?
  4. How can we turn the current discussion into a more productive one, and make progress towards developing frameworks and the foundation for a long-term field of study?
  5. What can we glean from the current debates on issues like slactivism, or the cyber-utopian/cyber-pessimist divide that is more constructive, useful and progressive?

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