November 12, 2007

Social Justice Activism and Technology

Prompted by an email from Karen Medina, I have been thinking about ways that people younger than I (today I turned 55) use mobile technology for social justice organizing. One activist older than I noted that young people don’t seem to come to monthly meetings anymore. Probably older people don’t either.) I know I am reluctant to head out the door to evening meetings unless it is really compelling as a topic or a group of folks.

I started a Facebook profile, just to dip my big toe into that universe. Then I discovered that Facebook is mostly white. And that there are other social networking sites that I was only vaguely aware of! An article called “Whose Space? Differences among Users and Non-users of Social Network Sites” notes that Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster are used or avoided depending on a person’s gender, racial identification, parental educational background, etc. The full citation, for those of you who care, is: Hargittai, E. (2007). Whose space? Differences among users and non-users of social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 14.

Our local paper had a nice profile of my friend Bill Taylor and his Primary Communications Project, a long-term commitment on his part to help construct radio communication in a hilly area of southern Honduras. This reminded me of the Congolese organization, Interactive Radio for Justice
The regions where people have adopted mobile phones are using them in dynamic and powerful ways, as noted by Ethan Zuckerman. Zuckeman notes that “the anonymity of mobile phones is one of the key reasons they’ve been so useful to activists.” This allows people to send messages inquiring about an issue or reporting an abuse without fear of retribution (unless they have to register their phone, which apparently is not usually the case.)

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