Week 5 – Karpf and Glaisyer

In “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns,” Dave Karpf argues, “anyone with an Internet connection has a platform for getting the word out” (p. 151). Yet, he puts forth the question of whether this new form of connecting enhances the success of political activism. Karpf examines this inquiry by examining tactical and strategic measurements – the former refers to the number of actions that individuals have taken in relation to a campaign, while the latter refers directly to success. He makes an important note, wherein the effectiveness of digital activism is highly dependent on the type of tools employed and the locations in which they are applied. For instance, Karpf points out that the successfulness of the tactics utilized by those in the United Kingdom cannot be compared to the successfulness of the tactics utilized by those in Saudi Arabia.

Karpf’s arguments are highly applicable to those made by Tom Glaisyer in “Political Factors: Digital Activism in Closed and Open Societies.” Glaisyer explains that Chinese officials capitalize on activists’ tools and, simultaneously, train counter-activists to defend Chinese state interests. In contrast, in the United States and the United Kingdom, there seems to be more of an emphasis on transparency. This enables citizens in the US and the UK to hold their governments accountable via sites, such as Data Masher and TheyWorkForYou.com. As Glaisyer expounds, there are stark differences between how the Internet is used in open and closed governments. In open governments, the Internet has enabled citizens to wield greater power, while in closed governments, the Internet has enabled governments to censure its citizens with greater ease.

Question: Can citizens living in closed government societies utilize the Internet “successfully”? If so, how would this be possible?

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5 Responses to Week 5 – Karpf and Glaisyer

  1. bhkadin says:

    Although censored, I believe that citizens in closed government societies can utilize the Internet “successfully.” Citizens in countries like China do not know what it is like to have uncensored Internet, so they are able to use it in terms of their own interpretation of “success.” They think their version of the Internet is the norm, so they do not know what they are missing out on. Authoritarian societies have proven the power of the Internet, specifically through Twitter and other social networking sites. The fact that regimes have been overthrown due to gatherings on social media is a powerful tool. It is a sign that if enough people want something, it can happen no matter what the challenge.

  2. rebyi says:

    I have mixed opinions about whether citizens living in closed governments societies are able to utilize the Internet “successfully”. I believe that just like the comment above mine, many citizens in closed governments are just so used to living with a system of government where complete freedom of speech isn’t available to them so Internet surveillance and censorship is nothing new to them. Also, unless it is made obvious by the government that censorship of the Internet is going on (which it isn’t) many people are probably unaware that this is happening to them anyway. Also, for people living in China, I know that social networking sites are banned but I also know that for people living in China who may study abroad or are used to the freedoms of being able to use things like Facebook and Twitter, there are ways around it. For example, the program that University of Michigan students can utilize to use the school’s desktop programs on their personal computers can also be utilized in China, so international students going home for breaks use this so they can go on whatever website they want even in a place where their government bans this, meaning they can utilizing the Internet “successfully”. So even if citizens living in closed government societies can’t utilize the Internet “successfully” for digital activism and other things, it is only apparent to those who want to use it for this reason and for those specific people, they can probably find ways around the situation.

  3. breahm says:

    I think there are definitely greater barriers to the effective use of social media in closed governments. Several of our readings have shown us that not only are these governments capable of counteracting dissenting strategies, they’re also effective in preventing them through methods of distraction and a false sense of cooperation between it and its citizens, as the China example in Morozov illustrates. Egypt is a great example of what collective action in a closed government can achieve, but as you mentioned, no two governments, and therefore movements, are a like. In open-governments, however, where it is essentially the function of government to listen to and take into account the voice and thoughts of its citizens, social media is just an additional platform for this. In autocratic governments, however, social media may not be appropriate for initiating a movement since government has found a way to ‘join’ the movement.

  4. christinab3 says:

    I think you bring up a very interesting question, and while there may be no correct answer, I believe it is logical to conclude that citizens in closed government societies will not be able to utilize the Internet “successfully”. From the readings and class discussions, we have learned many ways these kinds of governments prevent this success. While the Internet may make censorship harder, governments have found ways around this type of intervention including distraction and surveillance. As breahm notes above, “the government has found a way to ‘join’ the movement” and give a false appearance of cooperation. In that way, the Internet becomes the opposite of a successful tool, it instead becomes a tool for the government to further oppress its people.

  5. pcomameh says:

    In my opinion, through what observations I have had, I believe that government policy can attempt to censor human beings as much as they want, but human forms of expression always seem to find a way. For instance, many thought that the landmark decision in the Napster case in 2000 had settled the issue of pirated music. However, this decision could not completely silence those who consider themselves to belong to hacker-subculture. Though controversial in motivations, hacker ethic calls for, among other things, free and open access to all software by all users. Napster may no longer be operating but the phenomenon of pirated music has hardly slowed. Along these same lines, I feel that even in societies with closed governments, people who feel slighted enough and are persistent enough, will find some way around the road blocks that have been imposed by their governments. Furthermore, others will very likely follow suit.

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