Social Action And New Media: On Becoming a Smart Mob


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workshop given at social justice conference (March 2003) about using new technologies for organizing social change

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Social Action And New Media: On Becoming a Smart Mob

  1. 1. Social Action and New Media: On Becoming a Smart Mob Richard Smyth UU Church of Haverhill Social Action Youth Conference Workshop 3 March 2007
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>What Inspired This Presentation </li></ul><ul><li>A Short History of Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Doing Democracy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the four roles of social activism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the eight stages of social movements </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Goals <ul><li>To find ways to help you use digital literacies as citizenship skills </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize technology as a prosthesis augmenting human mental and social capabilities </li></ul><ul><li>To learn effective and ineffective roles that social activists can play in social movements </li></ul><ul><li>To learn the eight stages of social movements </li></ul>
  4. 4. I. Inspiration --Howard Rheingold. “The Pedagogy of Civic Participation.” Lecture delivered in Second Life ( )
  5. 5. Inspiration my avatar, Abaris Brautigan , listening to the Howard Rheingold lecture in Second Life The full presentation is available here: http://
  6. 6. Inspiration <ul><li>“ Learning to use participatory media to learn and speak and organize about issues might well be the most important citizenship skill that digital natives need to learn if they are going to maintain or revive democratic governance.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Inspiration <ul><li>“ I think we have an opportunity today to make use of the natural enthusiasm of today’s young digital natives (for cultural production as well as consumption) to help them learn to use the media production and distribution technologies now available to them as a way to develop a public voice about issues they care about.” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Inspiration <ul><li>“ This population is both self-guided and in need of guidance. Although a willingness to learn new media by point & click exploration might come naturally to today’s student cohort, there’s nothing innate about knowing how to apply their skills to the processes of democracy.” </li></ul>
  9. 9. Inspiration <ul><li>“ Education that recognizes the full impact of networked publics and digital media must adopt a whole new way of looking at learning and teaching, not just add another set of skills to the curriculum. I’m not at all sure how to get there, I don’t pretend to be an expert on that, I don’t know exactly how to evaluate efforts to create such a curriculum and measure their impacts, or whether schooling as we know it is even the place to start building the necessary institutions.” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Small Group Discussion <ul><li>Answer the following questions in small groups of 3-4: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What new technologies do you use? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>rss feeds and blogs/vlogs? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>others not mentioned here? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you use these technologies? </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Networked Participation: Wisdom of Crowds or Stupidity of Masses? Presentation at Emerson College on 2/28/07. Quotes on the following three slides from
  12. 12. Publics vs. Masses <ul><li>The first defining characteristic of a public sphere is a balance between the ability to produce and consume ideas. According to Mills, in a public, &quot;as many people express opinions as receive them.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>In a mass, &quot;far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media&quot; (Mills, 1956, pp. 303-304; my emphasis). </li></ul>
  13. 13. Publics vs. Masses <ul><li>Advocates of the power of sociable web media argue that these media give more people the opportunity to become producers of information, not mere consumers, thus leveling the balance between those who produce and consume opinions. </li></ul><ul><li>Take for instance WikiNews , a wiki where anyone can contribute to the production of news. No longer is the production and dissemination of information about what's happening in the world the exclusive domain of big media. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Publics vs. Masses <ul><li>But how many people are involved in WikiNews as compared to the number of people writing about their favorite celebrities or products?… </li></ul><ul><li>The new power to produce will be co-opted by the old desire to consume. Consider the concept of 'contests' in YouTube. Basically, companies offer money for user-produced contribu-tions that are advertisements for their products. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Critiques of Participatory Culture <ul><li>“ We need to develop the will power to turn off the computer” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>--Trebor Scholz </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>“ We end up surrending agency to technology instead of delegating it” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>--Ulises A. Mejias </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Presentation at Emerson College on 2/28/07. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  16. 16. II. A Short History of Technology
  17. 17. Inventions  lpha  etic Literacy 1100 B.C.E. Printing Press 1447 C.E. 1901 1927 1984 The Index circa 1600 analog technologies digital technologies 1990s
  18. 18. Three Eras of Communications <ul><li>Orality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>f2f communication (storytellers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>memories/history stored in stories </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Literacy (alphabetic and print) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>memory stored in books, libraries </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Electracy (“secondary orality”) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>memory stored electronically/digitally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Pixels are the movable type of the future” (Stafford 288). </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Technology as Prosthesis <ul><li>Think of communications technologies as augmenting functions of the human mindbrain: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>memory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>reason </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>emotion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>social networking </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Technology as Amplification <ul><li>“ The knowledge and technologies that triggered the jump from clan to tribe to nation to market to network all shared one characteristic: They each amplified the way individual humans think and communicate, and magnified their ability to share what they know.” </li></ul><ul><li>(Rheingold, Smart Mobs 181) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Smart Mobs: Nonviolent Political Swarming <ul><li>November 30, 1999 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>demonstrators protesting WTO meeting used “swarming” tactics, mobile phones, websites, laptops to win “Battle of Seattle” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>January 20, 2001 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>President Estrada of Philippines loses power to a smart mob </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tens of thousands gathered within an hour of first text message volleys (Rheingold, Smart Mobs 157-58). </li></ul></ul><ul><li> for many more examples </li></ul>
  22. 22. Activity <ul><li>Write about an issue or issues that you care about. </li></ul><ul><li>(10 mins) </li></ul><ul><li>Share your thoughts in small groups (10-15 mins) </li></ul><ul><li>Large group discussion </li></ul><ul><li>(10-15 mins) </li></ul>
  23. 23. III. Doing Democracy with Technology
  24. 24. Wired and Activated? Now what? <ul><li>Four Roles of Social Activism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Citizen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rebel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reformer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change Agent </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Moyer 28-29) </li></ul>
  25. 25. Four Roles: Citizen <ul><li>Effective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>promotes positive American values, principles, and symbols </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>normal citizen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>grounded in center of society </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ineffective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>naïve citizen: believes “official policies” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>super-patriot: automatic obedience to powerholders </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Four Roles: Rebel <ul><li>Effective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>nonviolent direct action and attitude </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>actions have strategy and tactics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>empowered, exciting, courageous </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ineffective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>authoritarian anti-authoritarian </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>anti-American, anti-authority </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>strident, arrogant, egocentric: self-needs before movement needs </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Four Roles: Reformer <ul><li>Effective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>uses official mainstream system and institutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>uses variety of means (lobbying, lawsuits, rallies, candidates) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>watchdogs successes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ineffective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>patriarchal model of organizational structure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>organizational maintenance over movement needs </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Four Roles: Change Agent <ul><li>Effective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>educates/involves majority of citizens and whole society on issue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>promotes strategies and tactics for waging long-term social movement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>creates/supports grassroots activism and orgs for long-term </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ineffective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>too utopian: visions of perfectionist alternatives isolated from practical action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>tunnel-vision: advocates single issue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ignores personal issues and needs of activists </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Eight Stages of Social Movements <ul><li>Normal Times </li></ul><ul><ul><li>critical social problem exists that violates widely held values </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>public unaware of problem and supports powerholders </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Prove Failure of Official Institutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>use official channels (courts, government offices, hearings) to prove they don’t work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>become experts; do research </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Eight Stages of Social Movements <ul><li>Ripening Conditions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>recognition of problem/victim grows </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>more active local groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>20-30% of public opposes powerholder policies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Take Off </li></ul><ul><ul><li>trigger event </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>dramatic nonviolent actions/campaigns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>problem put on social agenda </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>40 % of public opposes current policies </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Eight Stages of Social Movements <ul><li>Perception of Failure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>see goals unachieved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>see powerholders unchanged </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>despair, hopelessness, burnout </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>emergence of negative rebel </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Majority Public Opinion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>majority oppose present conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>re-trigger events happen/re-enact stage 4 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>involve mainstream citizens/institutions </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Eight Stages of Social Movements <ul><li>Success </li></ul><ul><ul><li>large majority oppose current policies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>powerholders make only minimal reforms while movement demands social change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>new laws and policies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Continuing the Struggle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>extend successes (e.g. even stronger civil rights laws) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>oppose attempts at backlash </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>recognize/celebrate successes so far </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. The Two Percent Rule <ul><li>“ There’s a myth in this country, and it separates us from our strength. The myth is: to win, you have to have the majority actively with you. The winner is the one who gets more than fifty percent of the vote…” </li></ul><ul><li>(Prokosch 261) </li></ul>
  34. 34. The Two Percent Rule <ul><li>“ This is not how social change happens. During the 1960s, most Americans never sat in at lunch counters or marched against the Vietnam War. But the civil rights and antiwar movements abolished legal segregation and stopped U.S. military intervention overseas for fifteen years... </li></ul>
  35. 35. The Two Percent Rule <ul><li>“ Social scientists say that successful movements tend to have about two percent of the population active and a majority passive supporters. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Who are the two percent? Determined people like you…” </li></ul><ul><li>(Prokosch 264) </li></ul>
  36. 36. Resources <ul><li>Prokosch, Mike. “Building a New Group.” The Global Activist’s Manual: Local Ways to Change the World. Eds. Mike Prokosch and Laura Raymond. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002. 255-264. </li></ul><ul><li>Rheingold, Howard. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution . Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2002. </li></ul><ul><li>Rheingold, Howard. “The Pedagogy of Civic Participation.” Lecture 21 October 2006. Second Life New Media Campus 5. Available < >. </li></ul>