E-Activism Development and Growth

E-Activism Development and Growth

John G. McNutt (University of Delaware, USA) and Lauri Goldkind (Fordham University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7661-7.ch017
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The use of sophisticated technology to promote social change has developed over the past three decades from tentative beginnings to an expected part of the arsenal of movement organizations and advocacy groups. The development of practical politics throughout the world has made greater use of ever more sophisticated technologies. This chapter will discuss the nature of e-activism, the development of electronic social change activities, the organizational and practice issues, the research base, and the potential future developments in the field.
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For the purpose of this review E-activism is defined as the use of technology tools by activists for addressing policy issues and social problems. E-activism is also called Cyberactivism (McCaughey & Ayers, 2003), Cyberadvocacy (Bennett & Fielding, 1999), Electronic Advocacy (West & Francis, 1996; McNutt & Boland, 1999), Cyberprotest (Van De Donk, Loader, Nixon & Rucht, 2004), Liberation Technology (Diamond, 2010) and Digitally Enhanced Social Change (Earl & Kimport, 2011). The important components of the practice are that it is technology enhanced, issue oriented and used by activists for policy change. E-activism as a strategy itself is issue neutral, rather it is a constellation of tools which may be applied to any social issue and similarly, it is also value and morality neutral, meaning champions on either side of an issue might employ the same strategy or tool to achieve radically different ends.

E-activism is strongly related to other concepts such a Cyber campaigning and Electronic Democracy, but there are important differences. Partisan political campaigning refers to efforts to change office holders, while E-activism looks at changing issues or problems. E-democracy (also e-participation and civic technology) often refers to the part of e-government that encourages citizen participation and involvement. The dividing line between these activities is often indistinct. The growth of civic technology has further complicated these already faint distinctions.

The techniques that e-activism uses to address issues or problems are often combined with more traditional methods used by advocacy groups and interest organizations. These traditional methods include community organizing, lobbying, administrative advocacy, petition campaigns, lawsuits and so forth. While less visible than these intervention tools, social change efforts have always been dependent on research and information gathering activities. Within the traditional advocacy arena, there is a well-established toolset for these activities that can be enhanced or replaced by technology tools.

Activists can combine community organizing, demonstrations, lobbying and electoral strategies with e-mail campaigns, mobile notifications using push technologies or short message services (SMS), social media efforts and sophisticated data analysis. Campaigns can also be waged completely online. This creates a situation where one may have online only efforts (pure e-activism), hybrid efforts using a mix of technology tools and traditional social change tools and finally, efforts which are nearly completely traditional with small amounts of embedded technology.

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