Social Movement

#HereToStay Campaign - Image Source: UnitedWeDream

Morozov’s article expands the assumptions about modern technology in public discourses and democracy by referring to the historical experiences of earlier inventions, such as the telegraph, the radio, and television.   There is a noticeable pattern of technological view throughout history, that is a tendency to switch attention towards a new form of technology when the old one fails to produce the desired expectation.  For instance, during the 1920s, the radio was considered a splendid communication medium to educate people about politics and restore peace to the world.  By 1930s, the public quickly turned their backs away from radio due to its declining potential in democracy, in which resulted in the rise of “teledemocracy” era.  In today modern age of technology, the Internet and social media are expected to deliver potential influence on raising the level of public debate and encouraging politic transparency.  However, Morozov claims that policymakers and the public should further analyze the history of technology to recognize its overpromised effects on democracy and public life.  By resisting the concepts of technological and cultural “determinism” – the belief that technology or culture is the primary influence of social and political condition, the author concludes that any new technology should be scrutinized by historical thinking and moral critique.

According to Jackson & Welles, social media, especially Twitter, opens up a new door for counterpublics and activism where every citizen has a voice in national conversations (Jackson & Welles, 2016).  The study’s findings proved that minority population, such as African-Americans, was able to participate in political debates on the networked public sphere.  An example was illustrated in the viral tweets of ‘Mike’ Brown, who was shot by an Officer in the city Ferguson, Missouri.  The online tweets by citizens and activists brought up public debates about racism, police brutality, and criminal justice in America.  Cohesively, social media and networked counterpublics empower ordinary individuals to involve in existing social movements.  In contrast, a close examination at the Iran’s Twitter or the Egypt’s Facebook Revolution clarifies that technology is not the only factor that involves in shaping the society’s direction.  In addition to the technological point of view, policymakers and citizens need to analyze the social forces around technologies - the moral and political standards - in the decision-making process of the community.

Some well-known examples of how social movements operate on social media to influence political or cultural process are the hashtags of #MeToo, #TimesUp, #BlackLivesMatter, #HereToStay, and #NoBanNoWall - just to name a few.  In this blog post, Time’s Up movement will be closely analyzed under the lens of social media.  Although Time’s Up is inspired by the women’s empowerment of #MeToo movement, it has different goals that are action-oriented in the workplace issues of sexism and gender parity.  Started in January 2018, #TimesUp movement hopes to go beyond conversations about sexual harassment, intensify gender equality in the workplace, and create advocacy for all working-class women, especially for those who experience sexist impediments such as sexual assaults and discrimination.  Early initiators of this networked counterpublic are female CAA agents, including Maha Dakhil, Michelle Kydd Lee, Hylda Queally and Christy Haubegger.  However, it was not until Shonda Rhimes, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and many other Hollywood actresses involved in #TimesUp across social media platforms that the movement became viral.  These celebrities and influencers, who create the most influential impact on the public followers, are the crowdsourced elites of the #TimesUp social media campaign.  Figure #1 demonstrates how crowdsourced elites retweet messages and include hashtags to amplify the campaign.  In addition to hashtags and retweeting, Hollywood celebrities also dressed up in all black outfits at the Golden Globes to spread awareness about #Timesup movement (Figure #2).

Figure #1 - Image Source: Twitter

Figure #2 - Image Source: GettyImages

As of January 2018, the campaign was able to raise a legal defense fund over $13.8 million dollars through Go Fund Me site.  According to Time’s Up website, the defense fund will be administered by the National Women’s Law Center to establish legal laws regarding workplace harassment, abuse, and equality.  The campaign’s mission is also to strive for gender parity among Hollywood studios and agencies.  Undeniably, #TimesUp reflects the role of social media in transforming counterpublic into a networked space that invites more public participation in the political and cultural process.  Collectively, it is more critical for public audiences and policymakers to avoid technological determinism and act on the actual issues during the time of protests.  Misconception from previous historical events such as the Iran’s Twitter Revolution should be fully examined.

Instead of looking for the limitations of technology, people should direct the investigation on the limitations of political, cultural, and regulatory discourses.  As Morozov stated in his article, a serious regulatory framework looks at both positive potentiality and harmful consequences of technology.  The future of modern technologies is complex, multidimensional, and unstable.  As a result, policymakers should evaluate the connection between technology and its environment.  Lastly, it is important to notice that technologies are neither neutral nor free in the notions of political, financial, moral, and environmental.

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