The new face of activism

(Before anything else, allow me to say that this post is inspired by the walkout yesterday against the P1.39B UP budget cut. I was not able to participate in the rally but it does not make me less of an advocate of state education and justice.)

The new social media seems to have penetrated all fields and practices in the planet. Is there anything which can’t be done online? We talk online. We shop online. We attend burol online. And we unite and rally online. Yes, friends. There is a form of activism which thrives in the new social media. It’s the C word. Cyberactivism.


Greenpeace and cyberactivism

The environment group Greenpeace is one of the many activist organizations which have utilized the power of the new social media in forwarding their advocacies. One of its most known actions online is the Corporate 100 actions against global warming, a campaign to pressure the 100 largest US companies to support the Kyoto Protocol (international agreement on climate change and global warming).

The revolutionized face of activism

Below is a record of Greenepeace’s cyberactivism actions taken from Cyberactivism revolutionizes Greenpeace campaigns.

  • The Cyber Centre is an online effort to build a community of environment advocates to rally behind Greenpeace’s cause. According to Kevin Jardine, the international media campaigner of Greenpeace and developer of Cyber Centre, the centre serves as a venue for people from over 170 countries to get informed, discuss, and participate in the discourses and debates on environmental destruction.
  • At the Cyber Centre, activists can download action kits, send entertaining Flash-animated postcards to friends and play informative games.
  • In 2000, Greenpeace activists installed a webcam at the end of an underwater radioactive discharge pipe operated by the French nuclear agency Cogema, in La Hague, France, to provide live documentation of nuclear waste discharges.
  • Greenpeace then broadcasted the images from the pipe onto the web and onto a large screen at the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR ) in Copenhagen, Denmark, where delegates were discussing the future of nuclear reprocessing.
  • Greenpeace’s Arctic Action site was created in opposition to BP’s oil drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean and its contribution to climate change. The site included multimedia updates uploaded directly from the Arctic Ocean, the opportunity to send electronic letters to BP CEO John Browne and a choice of 1200 institutional BP investors, as well as an animated game where polar bears throw snowballs at BP Arctic drilling rigs.

Indeed, the Internet has revolutionized the way Greenpeace advances its resistance to environmental hazards and crimes. It has built communities of activists online where people get to talk and participate in a discussion of the present issues affecting the environment. Greenpeace has also engaged the public with the various tools and application which can be found in their sites such as Flash-animated postcards and games.

The Information Technology director of Greenpeace, Brian Fitzgerald, shares,

“The Internet will continue to play an important and powerful future role as an ally in the fight for the planet’s future. Whether it’s a zodiac in front of a harpoon, or the story of a tiny sailing ketch daring a government not to test a nuclear weapon, the core message of Greenpeace has always been that individuals can take action against huge destructive forces and win.”


Endnotes

The good thing about cyberactivism is that it utilizes the fullness of the new social media in informing the public and calling them to act. It provides a venue for the practice of communication, collaboration and collective action. In eliminating geographical boundaries and empowering individuals to act, activism has indeed reconfigured itself into a better face.

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9 comments
  1. Cyberactivisim can only be effective is it is able to reach the audience cyberactivists wish to reach, but we say that cyberactivism is successful when it changes peoples minds and moves people to act. 🙂

  2. I had just recently written about this as well; this time from a more personal side–Buhay Makulay. And yes, I agree that one of the best things about cyberactivism is the fact that it allows for a coming together of people with the same cause regardless of their geographical location. 🙂

    On the flip side, there’s also difficulty in knowing the extent to which people really believe in these advocacies. People can simply click on “Like” but may not necessarily really do something outside the comforts of their keyboards.

    Regardless of, I think activism in general will continue to change provided the opportunities that technology will continue to present in the future. 🙂

  3. I wish there was a way to ensure or to measure the sincerity of the people who proclaim themselves to be cyberactivists. We all know how easy it is to click the “like” button, or any other button for that matter that would say that we believe in this cause, or support this advocacy. I know people who wear their cyberactivists tags proudly but has done nothing, or may not even believe in the “cause” that they click. Others even just do it for the sake of their credentials.

    Yes, the internet has definitely made it easier to gather support for advocacies, but it has also made it harder to sift through those who are really interested to those who are not. 😦

    • I agree, Eya. Just like “liking” any other fan page, cyberactivism is only effective if it really changes people’s worldviews and actions in real life. I see a big similarity between cyberactivism and putting up booths in malls from these kinds of organizations. Are they actually recruiting or just promoting? Hmm. While the efforts of putting up such sites or pages which pertain to a specific cause is commendable, we hold no assurance of the real agenda behind all these.

  4. gj said:

    This got me thinking about which outweighs the other – online versus offline activism, and found stuff on the worldwideweb may not necessarily reflect those in the real world, and in line with Khite’s comment, I believe we can only say that cyberactivism has indeed reconfigured activism to a better face when there is a coalescence between what we say online and what we say, think and do offline.

  5. I agree with Eric and Khite. Yes, the web is a good venue to consolidate the people who are for these advocacies but the problem is that most of the time it just stops there. What cyberactivism lacks is action for the advocacy. After “liking” a page, what happens next? Nothing, right? Sometimes, people say that they are advocates but in reality, they don’t do anything for the advocacy.

  6. Gel said:

    Cyberactivism has always been an issue for “hardcore” activists, those who believe that there’s no other way of standing up for your beliefs other than being on the streets. My stand on this issue, however, is that activism is starting to take a more flexible, adaptive form. We must distinguish between form and content, and how form affects content. Would people take you less seriously because you prefer to protest online? That we have yet to see.

  7. Activism has long been in the system of our society. It has many forms and recently as you have mentioned, CYBER. However what I don’t like about this form is that it ends in the cyber form. Words and ideas must be translated into actions. It does not stop with Cyber activism, it just starts with it.

  8. As a UP student, I am opened to the idea of activism as a tool for social change, or whatsoever. However, I don’t really push for the idea of cyberactivism. Some points: (1) I believe that there is no way of actually checking if your target really gets your message, (2) One would find it hard to establish his/her credibility given the nature of the Internet.

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