Activism & the Smart Phone

Nine in ten Millennials have a smartphone in the US, UK and Canada and they spend much more time on it that a desktop computer. Their connectivity enables “digital activism,” which Erhardt Graeff breaks into specific actions. Decentralized social movements like those in the Arab Spring used Facebook and Twitter; Western journalists passed on their posts to a global audience. An example of a social movement for a single issue, which young people favor, was the red equal sign organized by the Human Rights Campaign during the Supreme Court consideration of marriage equality for homosexuals in 2012. Changing cultural attitudes, such as about who can get married, is called “participatory culture” whereby nonprofessionals influence public attitudes. Fan group activism such as the Harry Potter Alliance engage in this kind of cultural change with its chapters in 25 countries and so do terrorist organizations like ISIS to recruit members. Activists use humorous slogans. “Civic hackers” also push for open data to be released by governments, while hackers outside the system engage in projects like WikiLeaks or Anonymous that does culture jamming vandalism such as replacing web pages or taking down web servers.

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