The peasant movement in Paraguay experiences a broad support from various societal actors that themselves may have formalized their networks, but from a holistic viewpoint on the movement as a whole, the networking is of a very informal nature, spread via mouth, sms and, often private, social media accounts. The organizational networks inside the FNC continuously interact and try to coordinate the movements together with unassociated members, a representative stated in 2016(Pertoft 2017: Interview 3).
The FNC’s organization thus seems to be a child of its time. Poell and van Dijck discuss how the use of social media transforms the organization and communication of social movements from structured with a head persons/leaders to more unstructured mass user activity enabled by the social media platforms(Poell and van Dijck 2018: 1). While some scholars find that social media platforms enable more bottom-up, distributed forms of protest mobilization, organization and communication, others stress there are simply new forms of hierarchy and leadership in the social media age(Poell and van Dijck 2018: 3).
Shortly after the 2012 New Delhi gang rape and murder of 23 year old Jyoti Singh Pandey, artist Shilo Shiv Suleman initiated the feminist movement and art collective the Fearless Collective. Fearless has ever since been using participative art and affirmative storytelling techniques to tell stories of cultural and political realities, with the long term commitment to create space to replace fear with beauty, creativity and fearlessness. Through their world wide projects, they are telling stories of universal strength, and encouraging people to mobilise and tell their stories, fearlessly. Fearless Collective has since its initiation been working with projects in Pakistan, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Nepal, Lebanon, Brazil, the United States and Canada. The projects have been working with a number of different communities, and through their projects they have been touching upon subjects such as gender based violence, feminism, the oppression of transgender communities and indigenous rights. Working together with local artists and communities, Fearless are conducting their projects through affirmative storytelling techniques. The stories that are being shared within the group are then translated into public art, usually in the shape of a public mural. According to themselves, their work is to “show up in spaces of fear, isolation, and trauma and support communities as they reclaim these public spaces with the images and affirmations they choose”.
Could we imagine some years ago that something we post in Sweden will reach the audience in, let’s say, Latin America in a few seconds? Things that were not possible a decade ago, are absolutely normal today. Now, can we imagine for a minute that it will be possible to take to the streets and express your opinion freely and fearlessly in the future? Or is it just my fantasy of the utopian world? Hopefully, not. I have been reading about the situation in Hong Kong, and I see a little bit of light in the end of the tunnel. I think you know what has been happening there, so I will just remind shortly how everything began.
Activism can be a noble act to support a cause that does not concretely or fundamentally affect our everyday life. By some it may even be used as a lifestyle choice or “image”. In open and democratic societies and with access to social media, it can be comparatively easy to take a public stand. Activism in the south often happens under very different circumstances with significantly more limited resources.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on the relationship between new media, politics and democratization. Previous posts in this blog shows us numeral examples of how new media has been a powerful tool to spread awareness about inequalities, and in some examples to mobilise resistance. And while I am trying to be cautious not to be too tech-negative in debates regarding new media and political activism, I think that for us to strive towards a more holistic analysis, there are a few factors that we need to shed more light upon. Are new media and ICT platforms actually contributing to a stronger democracy?