E-Activism

E-Activism

John G. McNutt (School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware, USA) and Lauri Goldkind (Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch629
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Background

For the purpose of this review E-activism is defined as the use of high technology by activists for addressing 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 are that it is technology enhanced, issue oriented and used by activists for policy change. E-activism might deal with issues such as immigration, poverty, civil rights and shortages of health care. It might be considered a brand of interest group politics although it has a role in other

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 techniques that e-activism uses to address issues or problems are often combined with the more traditional methods historically 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 the intervention tools, social change efforts have always dependent on research and information gathering activities. There is a well-established toolset for these activities that can supplement or replaced by technology tools.

Activists can combine community organizing, demonstrations, lobbying and electoral strategies with e-mail campaigns, social media efforts and sophisticated data analysis. Campaigns can also be waged completely online. This creates a situation where you 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.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Change: an alteration in the social order or fabric of society in the US indicating a change in social policy at the city, state or federal level. Social change may include changes in organizations, social institutions, the governance process or social relations.

Web 2.0: a set of technology tools that emerged in the first decade of the 21 st century and are characterized by interactivity, pooling of collective intelligence, the Internet as platform and the promotion of user generated content. Web 2.0 is also referred to a Social Media.

Civic Engagement or Civic Participation: the individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concerns. It is the rights of the people, citizens, to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good.

Astroturf: Deceptive efforts to simulate popular support or involvement in the interest of a policy goal or effort.

Activism: An effort to promote social change through a variety of traditional and electronic techniques.

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