Category Archives: Activism

Hot Off the Press:

Boler, Megan. “Feminist Politics of Emotions and Critical Digital Pedagogies: A Call to Action.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 130.5 (2015): 1489 – 1496. DOI:10.1632/pmla.2015.130.5.1489

Boler, Megan. “Motivations of alternative media producers: Digital dissent in action.” The Routledge companion to alternative and community media. Ed. Chris Atton. Routledge, 2015.

Recent publications from Professor Boler’s SSHRC-funded Research Project, “Social Media in the Hands of Young Citizens.” (2010-2014)

Boler, Megan, and Jennie Phillips. “FCJ-197 Entanglements with Media and Technologies in the Occupy Movement.” The Fibreculture Journal 26 2015: Entanglements–Activism and Technology. Eds. Pip Shea, Jean Burgess, and Tanya Notley (2015).

Boler, Megan, and Christina Nitsou. “Women Activists of Occupy Wall Street: Consciousness-Raising and Connective Action in Hybrid Social Movements.Cyberactivism on the Participatory Web. Routledge, 2014.

Boler, Megan, et al. “Connective labor and social media Women’s roles in the ‘leaderless’ Occupy movement.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 20.4 (2014): 438-460.

Other:

Boler, Megan. “From Existentialism to Virtuality.” Leaders in Philosophy of Education. SensePublishers, 2014. 31-48.

Reilly, Ian, and Megan Boler. “The Rally to Restore Sanity, prepoliticization, and the future of politics.” Communication, Culture & Critique 7.4 (2014): 435-452.

Boler, Megan and Selena Nemorin. “Dissent, Truthiness, and Skepticism in the Global Media Landscape: twenty-first century propaganda in times of war.”  Oxford University Handbook of Propaganda. Eds. Jonathan Auerbach and Russ Castronovo. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Event Summary: “Hacktivists, Cyberwarriors and International Relations”

In recent weeks, the International Relations Society hosted a conference on Hacktivism at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Given the event’s focus on social action via the Internet, a few members from the Boler Research Team attended. Here is a quick summary of some of the highlights.

How secure are we online?
The keynote address from the Citizen Lab‘s Ron Diebert, emphasized how we must not take technology at face value. Diebert urged that citizens in the digital age need to question where their data goes (when you send an email, who can see it, besides just you and the recipient?) Increasingly, Diebert concluded, this will mean questioning the authorities who control these systems of information and content-sharing platforms.

Along with his talk, he provided URLs to further demonstrate the current status of cyberspace. Some of the URLs presented are as follows:

  • Wired Magazine – Do the Ends Justify The Means?
    Article on Internet Censorship and the Internet Censorship Explorer developed by Deibert’s team to bypass Internet-blocking schemes
  • Yahoo Terms of Service Agreement
    Highlighted that Yahoo service agreement grants foreign countries with permission to collect and use personal  data: “You understand that through your use of the Service you consent to the collection and use (as set forth in the Privacy Policy) of this information, including the transfer of this information to the United States and/or other countries for storage, processing and use by Yahoo! and its affiliates.”
  • Who Has your Back (by the Electronic Frontier Foundation)
    Non-profit that analyzes major provider including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Skype for their commitment to defending our personal digital rights by evaluating the following 4 criteria: tell users about data demands, be transparent about government requests, fight for user privacy in courts, fights for user privacy in congress
  • The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook
    An info graphic depicting the changes in default profile settings over time
  • It’s 2AM. What Are Your Apps Doing?
    An info graphic depicting the activity of apps behind the scenes; approximately 97% of users do not know the risks associated with their apps
  • Behind Blue Coat: Investigations of Commercial Filtering in Syria and Burma
    Recent report released by the Citizen Lab on the use of commercial filtering products in authoritarian regimes

Hacktivism and Democracy-Building. Good or Bad? 

One of the panels featured Dr. Gabriela Coleman, and Dr. Stefania Milan discussing the pros and cons of  Hacktivism for a democratic society.

Dr. Coleman started things off with a presentation that was more performance art than panel chat, on the “Aphorisms of Anonymous”. Her presentation briefly tracked the history of Anonymous, the now-infamous loosely-associated hacker network. She then drew on aphorisms by Nietzche, like “Nothing succeeds if prankishness has no part in it,” to describe different elements of Anonymous as a movement (a massive movement of tricksters, when looking at it in this context).  Her talk really brought to life the different ways in which “trollish” behaviour might also be powerful, important for democratic aims, but also the paradox in that Anonymous seeks to expose state secrecy, but is a highly secretive movement in itself.

Next, Dr. Milan took the podium, explaning how hacktivism is not only “good for” democracy, but might be seen as a form of democracy in itself, as it could be conceived of as a method of “protest”. She spoke about the way in which hacktivism was challenging prior assumptions about political activism, especially by decoupling the notion of “resistance” with physical presence. According to Dr. Milan, there is much to be learned from such groups as Anonymous, as they point the broader public to a new model of cyber activism.

**The real takeaway for our purposes from this panel, was, as Dr. Milan put it “we cannot afford to raise our kids without the knowledge of these systems”. Here, she was referring to a more intimate knowledge of how the Internet functions and also what benefits and risks are associated with using it for activist purposes. Dr. Coleman emphasized that computing knowledge is power and this led to a discussion around the importance of teaching coding especially, so that the next generations stay connected to the languages that make up the internet.**

Written by Averie MacDonald (@averiemac) & Jennie Phillips (@drchangelove)

Celebrating Armchair Activism

It was recent email from Avaaz.org that inspired today’s post.

For those you unfamiliar with Avaaz, they are an internet advocacy organization. Tackling issues from climate change to human rights, Avaaz targets some of the world’s biggest problems with a creative and democratic approach to advocacy. Following the speculation that factory farming may have been linked with the H1N1 virus, Avaaz brought a herd of 225 cardboard pigs to the World Health Organization to represent the 225, 000 signatures on a petition encouraging this research (Avaaz, 2011). They have created a three-mile long human chain of handshakes from the Dalai Lama to the front doors of the Chinese embassy requesting talks between the two parties (Bentley, 2011). During the 2008 Canadian elections, they contributed to preventing a conservative majority with the “You Have a Choice” campaign using a music video, uniting Canadian artists.

It was following their email sent out this week, that I was particularly struck by the magnitude of their impact. As per the Avaaz member update email titled “Look at this crazy, beautiful thing we’ve created together” (2012) see the following:

  • 17.2 million of us are getting this email today, and that number is skyrocketing — almost doubling in the last several months!
  • We’ve come together from all 194 nations, 1.7 million of us in Brazil, 1.6M in France, 773,000 in India.
  • We’ve taken more than 100 million actions, online and offline, and told over 250 million friends about important campaigns
  • Our voices have brought awareness to critical issues, with coverage in at least 15,000 news reports this year alone
  • 400,000 of us have donated, giving almost $7 million through Avaaz to other humanitarian and democracy organisations
  • 20,000 of us have already started, and started winning, campaigns using our new community petition tool

To truly visualize the scale of participation, take a look at their MAP showing all countries involved and member concentration.

The numbers are interesting too. Canada, current at 34.4 million has half a million members compared to the US, with a population of 311 million, with close to one million members; approximately 2% of Canadians support Avaaz versus less than half a percentage point of Americans. Well done Canada! What’s even more interesting is looking at other countries. Brazil, for example, has more members than Canada and the US combined at 1.7 million. With a population of close to 200 million however, this places engagement at approximately 1 percent of the population.

Avaaz is changing the world with a click and growing stronger. So how do they do it? Through member suggestion to member polls, Avaaz selects their initiatives on their user base. Regarding funding, according to Avaaz.org (2012)

“Our member funded model keeps us independent and accountable.”
(Avaaz, 2012)

Avaaz is wholly member-funded which grants them the freedom to stay true to the deeper underlying morals of humanitarianism and pursue their own objectives instead of those of others. When it comes to action, Avaaz takes action mainly through “signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing “offline” protests and events” (Avaaz, 2012).

As we approach the new year, and change is at the forefront of our minds, it is time to reflect on organizations that make change possible. Like the many occupations we support around the world, Avaaz is yet another organization that is doing great things and deserves promotion. If you’re looking for yet another avenue to feed your appetite to create change, or perhaps you’re a member already, Avaaz serves as an excellent outlet for doing so. Sometimes… change, can start with a signature.

To learn more about Avaaz, the issues they’re currently addressing, or to get involved – visit their website: http://www.avaaz.org/

Written by Jennie Phillips | @drchangelove