Social change through activism in the new media/Internet

The term activism refers to the “ability to act and make or change history” and is an “intentional action to bring about social or political change” (Cammaerts, B. & Carpentier, N. (eds) 2007:217). Activism, happening in the new information and communication technologies such as the Internet, is revolutionary. There is a consensus that the new media represent “a groundbreaking tool for global democracy” (Kahn, R. & Kellner, D. 2004:88). For example the wake of the 11 September terror attacks has resulting in political activism against terror on a global scale, with the internet as a central role. The Internet has become a base for an unparalleled worldwide anti-war/pro-peace and social justice movement. Therefore, and to be able to participate “in the ongoing struggle inherent in cultural politics”, it is important to understand these new public spheres (Ibid.:88, 93f). Within the Internet it has developed new forms of socially-interactive forms and expression tools, such as wikis and weblogs/blogs, which connects citizens and activists to each other so they easy can share ideas and opinions which propagate and bring social changes from “the below” (Ibid.: 89). The internet was about forming a global network of informative websites, and the blogs takes it a step further and make it possible of an ongoing dialogue and debate with the opportunity to easy write and give commentary response, so that the information is spread and interpret in different ways (Ibid.:91). With the different expression tools in the new media, online activist subcultures has occurred, (Ibid.:94), for example there are many group blogs, such as the American Samizdat (http://www.drmenlo.com/samizdat/), Metafilter (http://www.metafilter.com), BoingBoing (http://www.boingboing.net) and Indymedia (http://www. indymedia.com) which post and comment upon news and events (Ibid.:91).

Activist bloggers have also demonstrated the ability to influence on decision making. One example of this is when the Speaker of the House Trent Lott made some racist remarks and those were “buried in the back of the Washington Post”, until communities of bloggers began to publicizing them, which led to Lott´s removal (Ibid.:92). Some more example of were activism have result in change is the adoption of most of the ecological policies and the legislative change allowing samesex couples to marry or adopt children by most democratic countries (Cammaerts, B. & Carpentier, N. (eds) 2007:218). So through the internet activism “Social and cultural change has become […] a process that involves changing attitudes, values and behaviors, hearts and minds of citizens (sic), after which the issues ideally permeate into the formal political agenda, leading to changes in the law” (Ibid.). As a result of these new media activism developments, violence has (at least in democratic countries) largely lost its legitimacy as a tool to resist or promote social change (see examples of this from Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2004, and Lebanon 2005) (Ibid.). “Media, in this context, can be understood both as a medium to communicate, propagate and interact, as well as a battlefield – a ‘symbolic arena’ – for the struggle to signify, where meanings making sense of the world and ideas of what citizenship entails – from a national, but increasingly also from a regional or global perspective – compete” (Ibid.:220). That is why the new media activism/Internet is a living force and one of the keys to understanding and shaping the political and cultural life and to bring social changes in a peaceful way (Kahn, R. & Kellner, D. 2004:88f). Different political events, such as the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the World Social Forum, and the G8 forums have therefore also started to use blogging in their work with development and change (Ibid.:93).

 

References

Cammaerts, B. & Carpentier, N. (eds) 2007. Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles. Intellect: Bristol, UK. (An up-to-date coverage on media, democracy and civil rights.

 

Kahn, R. & Kellner, D. 2004. New media and internet activism: from the ‘Battle of Seattle’ to blogging. SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi

 

Emma Åström

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