Is digital activism truly democratic? While encouraged by great examples of digital activism in action, I remained uneasy with universalizing narratives about an equal, liberating and benevolent digital frontier.
Is the social change potential of digital realizable in the same way for everyone, everywhere? Can local communities, especially ones that have been historically marginalized, use digital tools to solve chronic problems such as poverty, political persecution, and racism, offline? Or do we just leave this important business to the big names in the social change market (i.e. large NGOs and the digital experts hired by those organizations)?
Sure, anybody with a camera-equipped phone can be a citizen journalist and an “information activist” these days. And ostensibly, we have seen the rise of a “digital democracy”, offering opportunities for radical social change, especially via the sharing of information and calls to action on the Internet.
A 2011 study argues that the social Web is in fact, dominated by elite viewpoints rather than being the democracy it is commonly perceived to be. It concludes that the working class, for example, is underrepresented on the Internet and without their voices, their issues are ignored.
Not completely convinced by an academic study, I went looking for more examples, this time of tools which safely and securely make digital activism accessible to anyone and enable everyday people, especially marginalized communities, to effectively use information and technology to create positive social change.
That’s when I came across The Tactical Technology Collective (Tactical Tech). They have a three-pronged approach to enhance activism via information and technology that I really liked:
Act - Turning information into action
Reveal - Visualizing data and information for advocacy
Protect - Securing advocates from the risks of digital activism