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Clicktivism & a brave new world order

by Nishant Shah last modified Apr 02, 2011 01:02 AM
THE FIRST decade of this century has been one of accelerated change. The proliferation of the Internet has ushered in ubiquitous transformations in the way we live. And yet, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Certain human values remain sacred. As a result, more and more people have come out to voice their support for equality, justice and non-discrimination. The last ten years have seen the rise of individuals empowered by the Internet to effect change around them. Across the world people have used the power of the digital revolution to fight for issues that are relevant to them. From human rights advocacy to fighting corruption, from mobilising masses for greater participation in the electoral process to campaigning to save the environment, cyber activism has taken many shapes. These instances are shaped as much by the peoples intentions as they are by the regional contexts of the interventions. You too can become a cyber activist, but first, you must first grasp the four principles that power the participation of citizens in the processes of social change and political transformation.

 The FOAF Phenomenon

As our lives become more networked because of Facebook, Twitter and Orkut, our contact lists have become more prolific and diverse than the little black book of phone numbers. We have always belonged to different groups, but now digital networks have introduced a phenomenon that is popularly called Friend of a Friend (FOAF). When you add people to your social network, you gain access to their networks and groups, forming weak but significant ties. Most people in the networks inherit at least seven levels of FOAF, thus expanding the scope of their reach. This ability to disseminate messages and ideas across a vast number of people — going viral — is the basis of cyber activism.

Power of Clicktivism

In the digital world, people who might not have the time or resources to participate directly in causes they believe in, find a way of being valuable. Platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr offer participants the ability to relay information and messages to create awareness. People who think of clicktivism as a way of shirking responsibilities in the real world fail to recognise that these clickers have been behind mass mobilisations of opinions and resources.

Virtual Reality Imitates Life

Cyber activism does not mean that the actions remain confined to online spaces. Most successful cyber activism campaigns collapse the real life-virtual reality differences. They seamlessly work in the physical and digital domains, playing on the strengths of both the spaces. They invite and mobilise people to perform actions that range from signing petitions and participating in policy making, to performing random acts of kindness and coordinating flash-mobs as signs of protest.

No Information Fatigue Please!

Even as we droop with information fatigue, there is no denying that the information highway has given us new ways of thinking about the world around us. It is easy now to find an audience for our opinions through blogging platforms such as Wordpress and Blogspot, and the rise of user-generated content sites like Wikipedia and YouTube enable people to question their own assumptions. As a multiplicity of ideas emerge, it paves the way for the rise of a more conscious citizen, aware of their rights and keen for change. At the end of the day, cyber activism is a reminder of the fact change, like charity, begins at home. And the Internet helps in building S.M.A.R.T. (Simple. Moral. Accountable.

Responsible. Transparent) structures that empower citizens to stand up for what they think is right. It reminds us that there is power in words and that powerful words can lead to transformative actions. Cyber activism foregrounds the fact that we do not inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from the future generations, and that we have the power to protect and preserve it.

Read the original article in Mail Today here

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ASPI-CIS Partnership


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