Disability Rights campaigning, Filippo Trevisan, ECF 2012


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'Export with care', Experiences from disabiliity rights campaigning in UK and US, Presentation by Filippo Trevisan at eCampaigning Forum 2012, Oxford

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Disability Rights campaigning, Filippo Trevisan, ECF 2012

  1. 1. Export with Care: Lessons fromthe Experiences of DisabilityOrganisations with e-Campainingin Britain and America Filippo Trevisan University of Glasgow f.trevisan.1@research.gla.ac.uk www.filippotrevisan.net 21 March 2012
  2. 2. The Project: Online disability rightsactivism at a time of turmoil Why disability rights organisations? Political parties / The controversy over the Welfare Reform Bill in the UK (2011- 12), three macro-types ofrepresentatives Elected online campaigning actors:a) Formal disability organisations (both charities and member- led groups)b) “Digitised” activists (e.g. Disabled People Against Cuts) Disability Nonprofitsc) Digital Action Networks (e.g. The Broken of Britain) Their structure, function, and online strategies are both informed and influenced by People’s Disabled what happens above and below them (Chadwick, 2007)Movement
  3. 3. International comparison:UK vs. USA National governments firmly in control of disability policy Similar rates of internet users amongst the disabled population (UK, 41%: OXIS, 2011; USA, 52%: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2011) Both experience disability policy “crises” in 2011-12: the Welfare Reform Bill (UK) and cuts to Medicaid (USA) USA as online politics “trend-setter,” UK as “early” European adopter Different histories of disability activism Different principles around which movement organised, although independent living and equality are common goals Political environment differences: strong vs. loose parties
  4. 4. Organisation pools for comparison UK  USA
  5. 5. Methods Digital strategy survey: index of interactivity opportunity (McMillan, 2002):a) Direction of communication (one- vs. two-way)b) Amount of control devolved to usersOne-to-one Community Info Citizen-driven Accessibility comms comms broadcast campaigning features Interviews with digital strategists, communication officers, and government relations executives of 26 organisations in both countries
  6. 6. Coalition vs. Fragmentation: UK  USA & 30+ others
  7. 7. What does “membership” mean inthe digital era? US organisations enjoy a disproportionately high number of Facebook supporters: US: 1.5k 1+ million UK: 500 27k BUT: what’s the value of online “membership” to these organisations?- USA: online participation as a path to “formal” (paying) membership, “there is no such thing as online membership, active, in person participation is key.”(US disability-specific non-profit)- UK: online participation as “extended” membership at a time of political turmoil
  8. 8. Social media: “mildly terrifying” or “aforce for change”? USA: “social media arepotentially empowering for our constituents, but the lack of control is also mildly terrifying for us,” (US disability-specific non-profit)“there is a tension between the open nature of Facebook and our exclusive relation to our members” (US pan-disability non-profit) UK: “on social media people are free to criticise – this is revitalising for a typically ‘Victorian’ organisation like ours”(UK disability-specific charity) “messages received through Facebook definitely influenced decision- making and inspired action: the decision to organise local Hardest Hit marches for October [2011] came out of this” (UK disability-specific charity, Facebook admin for “The Hardest Hit”)
  9. 9. Offline vs. Online Action: USA: A hierarchy of offline vs. online “One person showing up on Capitol Hill is equivalent to 10,000 emails” (US disability-specific non-profit) “[online participation] can’t beat a real conversation with a legislator, […] to get things done in [Washington] DC you need a lot of leverage, and you don’t get that online” (US pan-disability non-profit) UK: The rising value of online action “online protest is key for our people, who couldn’t make the march and whose voices otherwise couldn’t be heard” (UK disability-specific charity) “I don’t think digital is a substitute for face-to-face participation, but they are of equal value as they let new people join in who wouldn’t be able to otherwise” (UK disability-specific charity)
  10. 10. Email is king, but why isn’t it enoughagainst the Welfare Reform Bill? Email action Classic Clicktivism+ Innovative tools (DYI network Clicktivism campaigns kit, virtual protest pages, etc.)USA 80% 21% 76% 21%UK 50% 33% 26% 50% Advantage: accessibility of email vs. social networking sites Side effect: classic clicktivism tools (e-petitions, postcards, etc.) in steep decline in both countries Factors behind these preferences: different party systems; “extraordinary” nature and magnitude of UK crisis calling for experimentation with new online repertoires
  11. 11. Personal stories as a “trademark” ofonline campaigning: YET key differences: USA: top priority (clicktivism+), embedded in history of successful American disability rights advocacy (court cases, Congress testimony), barely co-ordinated and no follow-up UK: traditionally controversial, re-discovered through social media both as contributions to mediated advocacy efforts (e.g. consultation responses, meetings with policy-makers, etc.), AND as tools for potential supporters to “make sense” of complex policy issues
  12. 12. Disability organisations in cyberspace at atime of crisis: The ‘4 Cs’ Matrix Systemic: Constitutional arrangement (strong vs. loose parties, centralised vs. federal system, legislative tradition) Competition levels in disability activism (collaboration precedents, history of disability politics) Case-specific: Crisis nature (political+policy vs. policy-only) Catalyst issue (ideological & unifying vs. resource- focussed & divisive)
  13. 13. Welfare Reform Bill vs. Medicaid onlinecampaigns: Crisis Catalyst Constitutional Competition Levels Campaign Arrangement Features High interaction Pre-existing coalition (2-way comms) Political + Ideological Strong parties on welfare issues High innovation policy (unifying) Centralised (virtual protest pages)UK Parliament as key Internet as useful High coordination legislator “space” for impromptu, (online coalition) temporary unity High integration (Online/offline of equal value) Low interaction Pre-existing (top-down comms) Policy- Resource- Loose parties collaboration on civil Low innovationUSA only focussed Federal rights issues (email) (divisive) Congress and Courts BUT Low coordination as key legislators Deep rifts amongst (fragmentation) disability-specific groups Low integration (offline/online hierarchy)
  14. 14. “If anything, at least now disabled users feel lesspowerless and have a way to vent theirfrustration”(UK digitised activist group) www.filippotrevisan.net f.trevisan.1@research.gla.ac.uk (This project was possible thanks to the support of the ESRC, Award Nr: ES/G01213X/1)