Democracy is no longer a spectator sport.
Gone are the days when sparking political change was reserved for protestors in picket lines.
- Instead, Internet users are now urged to change the world from behind their computer screens.
- Former American President Al Gore, at the recent South By Southwest Conference, encouraged American citizens to use social media to revolt against the U.S. government and the current influence of special interest money.
"Our democracy has been hacked. It no longer works, in the main, to serve the best interests of the people of this country."
Gore pushed for an “Occupy Democracy”, a banding together of Internet citizens in “digital flash mobs calling out the truth."
"The Internet is the most fantastic tool ever brought into being to make things right and to fix our democracy. We can use it. It is going to happen. But how long? It depends on whether [you] feel passionate about it and get involved."
The ability for passionate individuals to create online groups and congregate for the same purpose has informed a huge surge of activism in recent years, with everything from saving rainforests to the legalisation of gay marriage gaining Internet-based campaigns. One of the most notable examples is the "Arab Spring" of 2010.
The Arab spring was a revolutionary wave of civil resistance protests across Arab countries, organised through social media. Starting in Tunisia, the political protests spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, resulting in uprising and leading to major regime changes in many Arab nations.
Social media, the global conversation
Author Deanna Zandt suggests that the conversational nature of social media is the key that has unlocked the activist inside of Internet users worldwide.
“It’s changed everything. I think one of the best parts about social media is that it’s not just about one-way communication. It’s about everyone having this giant conversation.”
- Where is the Frontline of war these days? Answer, in this age of global information and activism, the battle against tyranny in all its guises is everywhere. We are all players in the fight for a better way of life. The internet, of course, has changed the rules and so we are very much in the time if the citizen journalist. We are all wikileaks. I am Bradley Manning.
- Social media bypasses the idea of the news intermediary, whereby consumers of information passively absorb the news presented to them by journalists. Instead, the rallying global conversation enables journalism to become a two-way street, where, for once, the average citizen can influence, and change, the news.
- You can't talk about online activism without mention of the new almost infamous Kony 2012 campaign. In a 30 minute YouTube video two weeks ago, American non-profit, Invisible Children, urged Internet users worldwide to make a stand against Joseph Kony and the recruiting of child soldiers in Uganda.
- The video has garnered over 80 million YouTube hits, but many viewers took to the web in objection to the viral campaign. Kony 2012 proves that in the online environment, consumers of information still engage in an active process of rationalisation when being broadcasted to. Objection still exists, even in the online community.
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