For me, that is. I’ll be on vacation until August 18th. Happy summer!
Archive for July, 2008
Posted by Allison Fine on July 28, 2008
If you’re a Treckie, you’ll remember those words from the best episodes of the best version of Trek: The Borg on TNG. The folks at NTEN are doing a terrific job with a great new wiki called We Are Media , a hub of discussion on ways to use social media for social change. Last week the topic was how to overcome organizational resistance to using social media, a dilemma often faced by tech-savvy younger staff swimming upstream in organizations led by older folks who are wary of new tech.
Elliot on the NTEN blog has a great summary of the discussion that ensued about ways to overcome organizational resistance to using social media. Here’s a great nugget from Erin:
Some boards and EDs only understand numbers; they want to see something that is effective and has some kind of return on investment. So – educate yourself on the numbers. Look at case studies, and talk to other nonprofits who are using social media effectively to find out how it worked for them. When you can show examples and facts with numbers attached, it ups your game quite a bit. Also, remember that social marketing is not about having a good MySpace page (argh). Get away from saying things like “we should be on MySpace” to start a conversation, and instead approach it strategically, with something like, “Social media is a powerful tool, and if we think strategically about it, we can leverage that tool to build relationships with people who will give more money and take more action on our behalf.”
There’s lots more there to click around on and learn about how other folks are inching their organizations forward.
Posted by Allison Fine on July 24, 2008
Actually, i’ts more like 20 seconds. It takes someone really, really smart like Jay Rosen to explain something complicated in a crystal clear way in 20 seconds. Here ’tis:
Posted by Allison Fine on July 22, 2008
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Juana Ponce de Leon last week. Juana runs the New York Community Media Alliance. The Alliance is a consortium of ethnic newspapers in the New York area. It provides assistance to individual newspapers as well as translates articles for its website from dozens of native languages into English. It’ is a one-of-a-kind organization dedicated to supporting the 1.7 million New York City residents who are non native English speakers or readers. During our discussion, Juana introduced me to a report from Universal McCann, an arm of the ad agency McCann Erickson, on the growth of social media worldwide. You can find the report as a slideshow on Slideshare where there are also really cool presentations on social media, digital identify, the future of social networks, etc. The report, Wave.3, chronicles the growth of various social media worldwide. My few of my favorite tidbits:
* 83% of people are watching online video, an increase from 62% at the time of the last study in June 2007
* 78% of people are reading blogs, an increase from 66% in the previous study
* 57% of internet users are members of social networks
* RSS consumption has increased to 39% from 15%
* 48% of the people surveyed listen to podcasts.
Posted by Allison Fine on July 18, 2008
Every once in a while my irrational exuberance for the web proves not to be so irrational after all. I got an email from my friend Tod the other day with a link to a new blog he started last month called Cooking In The Bathroom. His blog is not only an entertaining take-off on a great Seinfeld episode when Kramer wants to multitask and ends up cooking in his shower (and installing a garbage dispoaal in the drain — ouch!) but also a reflection of Tod’s passion for cooking in a very small San Francisco apartment that doesn’t have a kitchen — but does have a bathroom!! It’s a fun and entertaining read, complete with real recipes (although I”m holding out for a tutorial on how to make homemade tortillas.)
But Tod’s blog is more than an amusing diversion, it’s a celebration of the anti-professional bent of the Web. So much of the 20th century business culture was focused on the “professionalization” of services and organizations. We saw this acutely in the nonprofit sector where more and more organizations became stuffed full of professional staff who had graduate degrees in managing those organizations (myself included!) The web allows people to practice and express their passions without needing a degree or publishing contract to share it with the world. The most exciting developments in social change efforts over the last several years were catalyzed by individuals using social media to self-organize for change – individual amateur bloggers, photographers, and passionate activists who also have day jobs.
But please note that I am using the word “amateur”, particularly as it relates to social change, with great admiration. Amateurs created Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Greenpeace. I spoke to a beautiful amateur yesterday who spearheaded the fundraising effort for the Fanconia Anemia Foundation’s winning effort as part of America’s Giving Challenge last January. Oh, and by the way, Julia Child never actually worked as a chef for pay. Vive Amateurs!
Posted by Allison Fine on July 16, 2008
I had no idea until I read Matt Stoller’s essay in Rebooting America that Congresspeople couldn’t use social media tools in their official capacity. As Matt writes, stupidity like this makes his “Obviousmeter” go off. The bottom line for Matt is if a 16 year old can use a widget or a gadget, Congress ought to be allowed to use it too. But, it if doesn’t have a .gov on the end, then YouTube and blogs doesn’t exist to Congress. Until last week.
Last week a brouhaha erupted in the House over the use of Twitter — or more specifically over the ban on the use of Twitter because it’s not a government approved something. Rep. John Culberson of Texas accused Dems of trying to shut down his personal Tweets. J’Accuse!!
The indefatigable Sunlight Foundation quickly jumped into fray launching their “Let Our Congress Tweet” campaign. I say let ‘em Tweet, ping, poke, post, upload, download because maybe, just maybe, a 21st Century Congress could do better than a 20th Century Congress — maybe.
Posted by Allison Fine on July 11, 2008
It’s official, I have moved the word “Movement” into the same category I have for overused words like “Gate” that is now tiredly hrown around for every two-bit scandal as if they are worthy of the designation used to describe the Constitutional crisis that led to Nixon’s resignation.
(A friend last week shared with me the word Idiolect which is a person’s own individual language which is my new favorite word. Please note that it is not related to idiotic. I plan to use it broadly even risking the assumption by others that I am calling myself an idiot which they may be readying to call me as well! Back to our story . . .)
As I wrote in the “>Social Citizens paper we are a society that is marinating in causes. Everywhere you turn, in stores, airports, schools, congregations, walking down sidewalks, there are worthy causes that we are pinging, poking, friending, and fundraising for. The advent of online social networking has led to the ability of individual causes to create a vast network of supporters instantly at almost no cost. The gold standard case of this is Moveon.org with its three million members, small staff size and outsized impact on elections and politicians.
So, what’s my complaint? (today as my kids would say!) It’s that the power of the Connected Age is the friction-free creation of large numbers of people to support a campaign and act in concert to impact an issue, legislation or public awareness of an issue — and the power to let them go not to create the behemoth nonprofit institutions associated with last century. This is what the “>Obama/FISAprotesters did in the last few weeks. That’s good. What’s bad is the tendency of organizers of these efforts to assume that these participants are now “theirs” and that a movement has begun. Ari Melber writes eloquently on the Nation’s “>blogabout the FISA protest as a budding net movement. However, I disagree with this assertion that all of these kinds of activities amount fo social movements. Social movements are fundamental shifts in what the citizenry believes and how a government changes laws to respond to these new beliefs. Again in the gold standard category for a social movement is the civil rights movement which changed our fundamental societal belief system about race in America, and when we use them too lightly we lose sight of the fact of how hard fundamental change is to achieve.
I am not disparaging the efforts of net activists (unlike Sally Kohn in her recent <a href=”“>op-ed.) On the contrary, I think they are fundamentally changing the civic dialogue and allow for the participation of millions of voices like never before. I am suggesting, though, that these smaller campaigns need to ignite, grow, be successful, or in the FISA case not, and go away. These smaller campaigns are part of a larger shift of what I would call accordion style activism wherein people and campaigns are created and dissolve quickly. The tendency of organizers to want to own their participants beyond the initial campaigns is symptomatic of old-style hierarchical organizations and organizing.
I don’t know for sure what 21st century social movements will look like that will truly overcome inequities in society. I do know, however, that they will look and feel fundamentally different from the movements of the last century and that attempts to control participants is the antithesis of real social change.
Posted by Allison Fine on July 10, 2008
As I noted in a recent post a few days ago, Sally Kohn wrote an editorial that was published in the Christian Science Monitor arguing that online activism is limited in its potential for impacting large-scale social change. I among others disagreed with her assessment. Sally responded yesterday in a thorough and thoughtful post on Daily Kos.
II am glad to see her articulate that social change encompasses both on line and on land activism. I have always believed this and most folks I know who are passionate about social change believe it as well. However, the key sentence that led me to push back against her argument is exacerbated in hers old style thinking about social change. From the editorial:
“By contrast, Internet activism is individualistic. It’s great for a sense of interconnectedness, but the Internet does not bind individuals in shared struggle the same as the face-to-face activism of the 1960s and ’70s did. It allows us to channel our individual power for good, but it stops there.”
From the new post:
“But inequality and racial injustice and corporate imperialism and other hallmarks of our modern society require dramatic, structural reforms — and while the puppet-master powers of the universe might give in to increased financial monitoring in the wake of Enron or increased carbon caps in the wake of Al Gore, let’s be honest: the fundamental built-in inequalities of capitalism and democracy as currently practiced in our country will not be resolved easily.”
Sally thinks big thoughts, that’s what makes her such an interesting person. She is passionate about trying to catalyze large scale reform, but the crux of my problem with this line of thinking; both the individualistic argument is that her entire frame for “radical change” is through a 1960s Civil Rights lens. Sally is a young person who is fluent with new technology, but limiting herself in her vision of radical change to the old organizing models that happened largely in the streets. As I mentioned, I heartily agree that change will happen online and on land. Sally only sees the on land component as mirroring what has happened before. I would challenge her to think about a new model of change; one that is being practiced and refined every day by millions of people around the country and around the world.
At the Personal Democracy Forum two weeks ago, Mark Pesce gave a brilliant keynote address on what happens when we’re all hyperconnected. Mark’s main point is that hyperconnectedness is not a continuation of the old. It is an entirely new model of how we engage with one another — and we don’t know yet what those new models will look like for systemic political change. Social change isn’t about taking old forms of protest and layering some blogs and emails atop. It’s a new way of people connecting with another, of creating scalable networks of activities with enormous capacity to share information, organize and mobilize, raise money and influence the debate in the media. By the very nature of network theory and social media, the way we connect, the way issues arise and are dealt with, will be fundamentally different in this new century. It’s time to leave the 1960s where they belong, in the history books.
Posted by Allison Fine on July 2, 2008
Sally Kohn, a writer and moving force behind the Movement Vision Lab for the Center for Community Change, wrote an editorial published in the Chronicle Science Monitor on what she sees as the limitations of Millennial activism; individual action over collective action.
She writes that Millennials are idealistic and passionate about causes, however, their tendency towards what she calls “hyperindividualism” that is magnified by social media will impede social change movements. She writes about social media:
“This is great for signing a petition to Congress or donating to a cause. But the real challenges in our society – the growing gap between rich and poor, the intransigence of racism and discrimination, the abuses from Iraq to Burma (Myanmar) – won’t politely go away with a few clicks of a mouse. Or even a million.”
I understand the point, and have certainly always believed that online and on land activism are symbiotic and necessary for social change efforts to be successful. However, I think Sally is underestimating the power of social media to lead to social change. She mentions that social change movements have always required collective action going back to the American Revolution, and this is absolutely true, but I don’t see that social media and collective action are mutually exclusive. Millennials can work individually online, but they don’t have to – they have conversations on Facebook and blogs, they organize get togethers using Meetup.com, they mobilize for protest marches using Twitter.
Sally dismisses too easily Millennial activism as individual data points of clicks and pings while missing a broad tapestry of engagement, exploration and action that is changing the world.