What Digital Tech Can Do For Activists: The Short Answer

by Mary Joyce (updated)

What can digital technology actually do for activists? The response to this question usually comes in the form of a long list of tools or a recounting of several case studies. But what if we looked at these tools and cases in the aggregate and focused on the similarities? Could we condense all the uses of digital technology into a few key functions?

This is what scholars and trainers have been trying to do recently and its a question that I’m quite interested in. Here is a list a what I think are the best functional typologies and then I’d be interested to hear what you think of them.

The first, from 2008, is from the Quick ‘n Easy Guide to Online Advocacy by the info-activism training organization Tactical Technology Collective:

1) Mobilising and Coordinating
2) Documenting and Visualizing
3) Informing and Communicating
4) Bypassing and Accessing

The second is from Anastasia Kavada‘s chapter “Activism Transforms Digital: The Social Movement Perspective,” which starts on page 101) in Digital Activism Decoded (PDF).

1) Accessing and Discovering Information
2) Disseminating Information and Reporting from the Streets
3) Coordinating and Making Decisions
4) Building Solidarity and a Sense of Collective Identity

The third, which is limited to social media, is from the introduction (PDF) to Beth Kanter and Allison Fine‘s new book The Networked Nonprofit:

1) Conversation starters like blogs, YouTube, and Twitter
2) Collaboration tools including wikis and Google Groups
3) Network builders like social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter

The fourth is mine.
It is still a work in progress:

1) Record: To encoding of information into a digital format.
2) Reveal: To publish or otherwise disseminate information.
3) Protect: To limit access to information
4) Process: To refine raw information into more useful form by grouping it or connecting it to other information
5) Co-Create: To collaborate in order to generate a online or offline product.
6) Aggregate: To bring together information, resources, or people.

These four sources are written by authors, focusing on different niches of digital technology for different intended audiences, yet the challenge is clear: How to you distill hundreds of cases and dozens of tools into a handful of functions that are both exhaustive and mutually exclusive in that they encompass all relevant phenomena while having minimal internal overlap? The goal of creating a list of functions which fulfills the divergent goals of brevity and breadth is not easy.

So, what do you think? Is any of them perfect? How might they be re-mixed?

Images: drcorneilus, Mykl Roventine, AugustaGALiving, boklm / Flickr

5 thoughts on “What Digital Tech Can Do For Activists: The Short Answer

  1. Pingback: masticable » ¿Qué puede hacer la tecnología digital por las y los activistas? La respuesta corta

  2. Pingback: Reflecting on Tech for Transparency | meta-activism project

  3. Estimo de gran valor la reflexiones realizadas por los distintos equipos y personas. Me confirman el valor humano del activismo digital y la importancia de la formacion de los que seremos agentes de tal movimiento.
    Es como tener a la Universidad accesible, civica y solidaria, con los que vamos caminando a pie, las sendas sociales.

  4. Pingback: Week 7: Make the most of your keyboard warriors | 2.0 &Me – A Digital Diary

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