Coding as Activism

Lievrouw (2011) writes that social media sites used for activism are static in that they offer consumers various modules that can be used without people being able to alter them (by coding) according to their preferences. This has advantages and disadvantages. These sites clearly offer a platform for connecting with other people on a big scale. However, only if one abides by their rules.

In the past years, it was Facebook that had come under scrutiny for deleting photos of female nipples, especially those of breastfeeding mums as these apparently violate their community standards. Others have complained about their accounts being shut down for a period of time after other users reported some of their content. The question then is in how far activism of any kind can be carried out effectively on platforms that are guided by their rules and community standards which may not be in line with standards of the activists themselves. It is probably naïve to think that coding  new social media sites will immediately have an effect since the likes of Facebook and twitter do have a monopoly in the field. However, creating own sites instead of just using existing ones may be empowering and may help to further the various causes.

Blogging then may offer more options with less censoring that may come with community standards of social media. Still it may be helpful to have basic HTML knowledge in order to create custom sites oneself that look different and stick out from the rest of the crowd.

Emphasis has particularly been put on teaching girl children and women how to code. The Guardian reports that an initiave in rural Kenya trained women how to code and helped them to earn more income by equipping them with these new skills. The article concludes that gender inequality may be furthered by doing so. Hence, equipping women and girls with coding skills may have tangible outcomes in the offline world as well.



Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media Oxford: Polity Press.


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