Week 10 – Social Movements and Political Revolution – Ryan, Kayla and Angela

1 Oct



The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem

Malcolm Gladwell’s term ‘Slacktivism’ promotes an online culture of pointless clicking, searching, “liking”, “following” and not necessarily contributing. This has become an area of wide debate amongst online activists.

Dennis McCafferty, author of Activism vs Slacktivism explains it as people who are happy to click a like button about a cause and may make other nominal, supportive gestures. But they are hardly inspired with the kind of emotional fire that forces a shift in public perception.

Activism has adopted social media in order to widen its audience and broaden awareness of social issues. Sarah Kessler, author of Why Social Media is Reinventing Activism, shows these figures

The American Red Cross has:

208,500 “likes” on Facebook,

more than 200,000 “followers” on Twitter,

but only 3.6% of all donations made to the Red Cross came from online donations.

Although online donations are small, the reach to a wider audience has never been larger. Social media is allowing organisations to reach out to more people.

Salvation Armyhttps://www.facebook.com/TheSalvationArmyAustralia?fref=ts


Occupy Wall Street: https://www.facebook.com/OccupyWallSt?fref=ts

Number of those who Occupied Wall Street: 50,000-100,000


Kessler says:

All of that virtual liking, following, joining, signing, forwarding, and, yes, clicking, has a lot of potential to grow into big change.”

The most obvious and clear example of organisations utilizing social media in order to promote awareness of a charity or cause is evident in this years Kony 2012 cause. Of course we all saw the viral video and possibly even shared it or “liked” it on Facebook, but was it actually effective in helping the cause?

Kony 2012 Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/KONY20121?fref=ts

Twitter:      https://twitter.com/STOPKony_2012

The number of Likes or Followers of the Kony 2012 cause is much less than the near 93 Million views of the YouTube video.

In the end, although social media helped to promote the cause, it was also its own demise:

An article by Dennis McCafferty entitled Activism vs. Slacktivism explains:

 Activists are making full use of blogs, social media sites, mobile apps, and other tools to promote their message and gain support. Nothing grabs the heartstrings like video, and participants are producing streaming content to take advantage of this.”

Although while no one disputes that online initiatives like these draw greater attention to a cause, opinions vary with respect to whether they make a significant, lasting impact. Opinions on the effectiveness of activism through means of social media are divided. Some believe technology does not help activism to achieve it’s main objective: to influence the hearts and minds of the public and effect change. On the other hand, others counter that the impact social media causes has on the hearts and minds of the public cannot be measured.  But what can be measured is the number generated of user-traffic, signatures on e-petitions, Facebook like counts and other measures that convey growing support.

Discussion Question

Do you believe social media helps to widen the scope of a charity or organization, or are we just ‘slacktivists’ clicking the ‘like’ button?


The reading selected to share with the class is the Kyber-Revolts: Egypt, State-friended Media, and Secret Sovereign networks.

The article is about the 2011 protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. The news’ accounts of the event focused on one major separation: sovereign power of Mubarak Vs ‘people-power’.

On February 11, the victory day, a message was assembled in the square saying ‘We are the Men of Facebook.’. This message, from the social media plotters, was a gesture to the crowds that they would become the leadership core of the revolutionary youth movement. The ‘men of Facebook’ had become the representatives of the protestors. Jared Cohen sent a tweet saying the movement had no visible leader. The Social Media Plotters taking the lead couldn’t have come at a better time. The plotters becoming visible were a useful strategy to bring the movement out of the shadows.

Riots Clip:  

In the article when a [no0politician] was asked about what happens after Egypt, he replied, “Ask Facebook.” In an interview Ghonim revealed he was the admin for the Facebook page “We are All Khalid Said.” Which is actually spelt like this “We are all Khaled Said” which was a key site for the uprising. Ghonim got Facebook security admins to place a special protection on the important pages on the Facebook site.

Link to Facebook site


Ghonim said he had an open communication with Facebook throughout the uprising. Soon after a GFacebook group called, “I delegate Wael Ghonim to speak in the name of Egypt’s revolutionaries” of course he then created his own political Facebook page calling it My name is Wael Ghonim.

The other man mentioned earlier, Jared Cohen, the Google ideas executive. Jared appeared in the summer of 2009, in the June Iranian demonstrations, a twitter co-founder was asked to delay a scheduled maintenance downtime by Jared Cohen. Cohen was working for the state department at this time when his major contribution was as co-founder of the Alliance of Youth Movements.

The Alliance of Youth Movements was launched in 2008 and gathered together Media, Obama consultants, social media, and youth organisations as support of the state department. The AYM created an online hub, to bring together youth leaders from around the world.

The article continues to talk about the use of social media in politics. Are we to be the used or the users?

Discussion Question

Do you believe there is real power through Social Media?


Netwar 2.0: The convergence of streets and networks

This article focused on the Arab Springs – also known as Arab Revolutions – which started on December 18, 2010. The Arab Springs is a ‘revolutionary wave’ of protests and demonstrations, which is located and happening in the Arab world. The weapons used by the activists were mobile phones and the internet, instead of guns and bombs.

What is Arab Springs?

How Arab Springs has impacted the Globe:

Direct quote: ‘The impact of the Arab Spring concerns protests or attempts to organize growing protest movements that were inspired by or similar to the Arab Spring in the Arab-majority states of North Africa and the Middle East, according to commentators, organisers, and critics.’


Other protests which have taken place across the world, such as ‘Occupy’ movement were considered to be influenced by Arab Springs and, to some degree, were powerful and successful. From October 15, 2011, ‘Occupy’ movement influenced protests in 950 cities and 82 countries.

What is Occupy?

Occupy is a protest movement that is against social and economic disparity – the growth difference between rich and poor. The aim of this protest is the protest organisers to change the economic structures and power in society, in order for them to be fair.

After the Arab revolutions and various protests took place, there were major threats and promises from a ‘completely new global movement’ by governments. They were fully aware of what damage it would cause throughout the world. And then there is the issue of ‘digital freedoms’ on the internet and with technological devices

Social Movements:

Online Piracy Laws:

The article also briefly mentions Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Protect IP Act (PIPA), and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and how these online laws are attempting to be passed through. But as mentioned, they may be already unsuccessful. These proposed laws SOPA, PIPA and ACTA are aiming to stop copyright infringement, piracy and downloading on the internet.

But also at this time, the shutdown of Megaupload – a site for viewing and storing files – was effective.

These piracy laws are attempting to take place, due to the Arab Revolutions, Occupy demonstration and other protests that have occurred. This is simply a form of social movements.

Social movements are being mobilized in Europe, due to the trade agreement of ACTA

Direct Quotes: Blee and MacDowell (2012, p.3) state that: ‘Social movements might want audiences to retreat in fear, change their behaviour or attitudes, or stage an alternative or counter performance.’

‘…they target the general public to change cultural definitions or norms of behaviour.’

‘Digital Capitalism:’

Digital Capitalism is a separation between network and material capitalism. So therefore, it networks the global marketing system.




Activism vs. slacktivism. By: McCafferty, Dennis, Communications of the ACM, 00010782, Dec2011, Vol. 54, Issue 12

Blee, K & McDowell A 2012, ‘Social Movement Audiences’, Sociological Forum, vol. 27, no.1, pp. 1-20, viewed 24 September 2012, retrieved from Victoria University search engine



One Response to “Week 10 – Social Movements and Political Revolution – Ryan, Kayla and Angela”

  1. akel12 October 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Thank you for the presentation. I do believe there is power in the use of social media. It is certainly a powerful tool that affects real change when it is used in conjunction with other elements.

    Social media raises awareness and at times in epic proportions. However, in many instances meaningful sustainable change comes to fruition when the use of social media is coupled with action in the offline world. For example the changes that resulted from the social media organised protests we saw during the ‘Arab Spring’ did not occur through social media alone. It was also the people that actually gathered in the streets and risked their lives protesting oppressive regimes that resulted in the ousting of dictators.

    Therefore, l think the real power lies in the space in which the power of social media and the power of people taking action connects. Each has its purpose as in order to change something we must first become aware of the problem then take action.

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