Online Political Activism: Effective or Not?

In the article, “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns” Karpf discusses the tactical and strategic measurements of success with political activism online. Karpf argues that strategic measurements, or qualitative measurements, are better indicators, because they measure the overall quality of the activism. Karpf says, “The essence of strategy lies in answering the Ganz question: How does an activist group intend to turn ‘what they have’ into ‘what they need’ to get ‘what they want’?” (p. 164). As noted in the Ganz question, Karpf feels that it is not always about tactical measurements, or quantitative measurements, but rather about how someone, or a group of people, use their online resources to create strategic and impactful results.

Karpf uses the example of a group of online progressive activists that used mainstream media exposure and moneybombing to destroy the chances of reelection for a republican candidate as an example of good online. Although the efforts of the activists did not cause her to lose her reelection, they were able to generate enough media coverage and raise enough funds that the election results were close. Another author, Shirky, provides another example with how one man used social media to gain enough support and help to get his friend’s stolen phone back and the thief arrested.

However, as Glaisyer mentions in another article, “Political factors: Digital Activism in Closed and Open Societies” there are other factors that play into how effective digital movements will be such as how governments and policy makers outside of the government will affect these digital movements. Glaisyer shows how in some repressive countries, like China or Iran, digital movements can be used against themselves or interfered with so that they cannot reach their full potential.

Another interesting argument against the Internet and social media platforms as political activism hotbeds would be Morozov’s argument that the Internet also works against political activism, because it placates the masses by providing an escape for the oppression they receive from their governments.

With some much conflicting evidence on whether the Internet promotes, helps, hurts, decreases, or doesn’t affect political activism, I find Karpf’s argument is the best explanation since it shows how the success of political activism online depends largely on an effective strategy using your resources. Do you think that strategy is the recipe for success with online political activism or that there is something to be said by just having the support of large numbers of people?

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About brittanyverner

I am a young, enthusiastic writer and HCLF vegan cook that is new to the blogging world. I enjoy volunteering at my church, singing, traveling to Spanish speaking countries, eating healthy, doing any form of exercise, riding horses, reading fantasy/sci-fi novels, and playing Final Fantasy on my PS3.
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2 Responses to Online Political Activism: Effective or Not?

  1. jesslinton says:

    I agree with you that Karpf’s “middle ground” in terms of what the internet does for social change is the most agreeable. It’s safe to say that a lot of people don’t use social networking sites to educate themselves and interact with their peers, because SNSs are inherently that: social and entertaining. It all depends on how the users choose to use the resources available, or as Karpf would say, if they are using the sites strategically. It’s easy to be a part of a social networking site, but it’s a whole different type of interaction if the user uses certain tactics effectively to form a strategic plan.

  2. goblu says:

    I agree with Karpf in that it takes a successful strategy, not just the large numbers. I do think that high numbers helps, but isn’t one just the effect of the other? At the end of your summary you ask if high numbers are better or worse than strategy when it comes to online campaigning. My answer to that question is strategy because it takes some kind of strategy to get high numbers in the first place within a media platform. Even politicians that inflate their twitter followers had a strategy first before their numbers became high. Because of this, I agree with Karpf, everything needs some kind of strategy before it can be put into action.

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