Changing the face of activism

As with many facets of everyday life, social media is continuing to change the face of activism and influence the way people connect with causes.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has adopted a new tool to engage supporters through their Twitter account. The ‘Twignature’ is a Twitter-based application that converts re-tweets into virtual signatures on a digital petition. The Amnesty International petition, which is calling on US President Barack Obama to sign a United Nations arms trade treaty, has so far received over 2,300 ‘twignatures’.

Many of these developments have sparked debate as to whether this is a positive shift in activism, or if it is instead leading to superficial involvement in issues rather than committed support and action. Sarah O’Meara of the Huffington Post blog writes that “charities look for approval, rather than lasting impact — measuring the success of their ‘engagement’ campaigns with numbers of Facebook LIKES — and the result is that their messages live and die in a virtual world, creating a vast amount of online noise, but affecting no one”.

However, there are those that feel social media is the future of activism; offering an unrivalled forum for discussion, debate and the sharing of information globally. The international, independently-run ‘Shorty Awards’ aim to acknowledge the best and brightest of social media in various categories, including an award for activism. Organisations such as Australian gender equality activists ‘Destroy the Joint’ are nominated by fans via Twitter, with the votes culminating in an awards ceremony in New York City. All the categories and nominees can be viewed on the Shorty Awards website.

For better or worse, the way people engage with causes and take action in relation to important issues has been altered significantly, and the future of activism will be a fascinating space to watch.

Sources: The Age, Banksy