I relate the conversation about “slacktivism” to the philosophical question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? As it pertains to the Internet, the spatial limitations up against contributors trying to make noise are far more expansive than the acreage of Earth’s biggest forest. While I think the Internet gives us a major advantage in communication—we can shout out to virtually anyone in the world as quickly as we want—I remain skeptical about its ability to create recognizable civic improvement.
I think Evgeny Morozov nails the description of Internet campaigning’s main dilemma. The question, really, is how to create an environment where “one’s participation in digital activism doesn’t subtract from—and instead enhances—one’s eagerness to participate in real-life campaigns”. The best example I’ve seen so far of digital media’s impact on real, consequential events is the research that has surfaced on the Presidential election in 2012. Other than that, the lack of concrete evidence of screen-to-community impact prevents me from totally buying into its effectiveness.
What we need is a strategy, described well by Dave Karpf’s chapter about ‘Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns’. In short, the problem is that we rely too heavily on “tactical data” as a measure of the Internet campaigning. Instead we should find a “way of acting, not an alternative to acting. Strategy is a way of acting with intentionality and mindfulness of one’s goals, as opposed to acting out of habit or impulse.”
The Internet gives us a voice, even somewhat of a megaphone. However, measuring the impact of our own shouting has proven a difficult task. Until we figure out how to properly operationalize our goals in Internet outreach, our message will forever be as much a mystery as a fallen tree in the woods.
What do you think is the best way to measure the impact of Internet campaigns? Is tactical (e.g. counting the number of followers) data enough?