A Criticism of “A DigiActive Introduction to Facebook Activism”

March 10, 2009

” A DigiActive Introduction to Facebook Activism” gives a concise overview of how to best use Facebook to achieve a successful campaign. While I believe the advice given in the guide is fairly helpful, I believe it grossly overestimates the power of digital tools for grassroots movements looking to achieve substantial reform. There are three criticisms of the guide that I have which concern accountability, sustainability, and results.

1) Accountability – One of the chief problems with digital activism that the guide recognizes is that the barrier of entry towards activists movements are so low that the commitment of these individuals are most often inconsistent at best. However, I believe that one of the most important aspects of activism and organizing is the ability for members to be accountable to both one another and the group’s mission. Often accountability in activist groups are reached by developing strong relationships with other members. Although developing relationships with other individuals in the digital world is not impossible, it is much harder to establish and maintain these relationships if contact between members remain digital. In addition, if you follow the advice of the guide, the goal of a Facebook group is to invite as many people as possible, it is even harder to develop robust relationships if you are trying to manage so many members.

2) Sustainability – One of the primary challenges for activists on any campaign is to maintain a sustainable campaign in order to accomplish their mission. While the guide acknowledges this necessity with their eighth step “Keep it Going”, it states that “if you can attract media attention your group will probably flourish…” While media attention will certainly assist your group in building members and getting recognized by the powers to be, it is far from a guarantee or even a higher probability that your organization will flourish. In fact, media attention can be worthless or even hurt activists if the group does not respond or use the attention in an effective manner.

3) Results – This guide looks at media and raising awareness as an end in itself. The success stories illustrated in the guide represent three missions that garnered as much as 140,000 members in Facebook, while an example of organizational success as having tens of thousands of individuals marching to show solidarity to their cause, in this case it was to support the monks in Burma. While this is important and illustrates the power of the organization, little has changed in Burma since the protests. Although the group is now sustainable, it has yet to achieve a similar action to the protests in 2007.

Ultimately, these criticisms point towards the overall strategy that the guide suggests which I believe are flawed. The guide recommends that the most important aspect of an activist’s movement is to recruit as many members as possible, while raising as much awareness in the general public as possible. Although both aspects of a campaign are incredibly important, I believe that neither represents the sufficient or even necessary features of a grassroots organization. Ultimately, organizations will achieve sustainability with committed members that are held accountable by each other. Achieving lasting results will come out of painstaking strategic planning, detailed but specific communication amongst members, and controlled actions based on manipulating the powers to be to commit to your mission.

– Aaron


One Response to “A Criticism of “A DigiActive Introduction to Facebook Activism””

  1. […] “Digital Democracy in the 21st century” an der Tuft-University in Massachusetts wurden drei Kritikpunkte an dieser Art von Kampagnenführung […]

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