A portion of the debate with respect to “slacktivism” in our module’s mandatory readings is centred around whether or not it is possible to achieve political goals through social media campaigning. However, other readings have hinted at something even more fundamental, which is the importance of first identifying what these goals are and then strategically coordinating activities to support these goals. In other words, successful online advocacy is dependent on a campaigner or activist setting clear goals and objectives that will bring together influential stakeholders (Juris 2012; Kreiss, 2012).
Drawing on Schwartz (2010), Daniel Kreiss points out that “social movements and party allies at times collaborate and coordinate their activities toward shared goals. At others, movements engage in the boundary work that protects their ideological purity, fashioning the party into a target of contentious politics” (Kreiss, 2012, p. 199). During the Obama campaign, the strategic team’s “primary objective was to leverage sites in the netroots and new media journalistic outlets such as Politico to shape the election narratives of the general interest press;” elite and influential bloggers and professional journalists were “third-party arbiters” who were “coveted” and “cultivated;” and the “shaping” and “driving” of the narrative was done incrementally and reactively (p. 206-212). Kreiss remarked that a key factor the campaigners needed to take into account was that knowledge is power: “The campaign had to account for the goals, information needs, and norms of the netroots movement, members of which were both autonomous and engaging in electoral politics according to their own political strategy and goals” (p. 217). The difficulty, one could assume, is whether or not the goals coming from a wide range of stakeholders (lobbyists, social justice advocates, pressure groups, etc.) were always clear.
In his theoretically dense reflections on the use of social media by the #Occupy Everywhere movements, Jeffrey S. Juris argued that a “major challenge confronting #Occupy Everywhere more generally involves the contentious issue of goals. Many observers appear perplexed that occupiers can not seem to come up with a clear and concise list of demands, and ongoing debates rage within various #Occupy sites, including #Occupy Boston, about whether and how this should be done” (Juris, 2012, p. 272). Articulating a shared vision and goals and bringing together diverse individuals is difficult in both the online and offline worlds, but as Juris points out: “Global justice movement listservs brought together individuals committed to a common goal, project, or set of interests, not only helping to build discursive communities or publics but also constituting a communicative infrastructure for the rise of network-based organizational forms that allowed groups of actors to communicate and coordinate at a distance” (p. 266).
The Advocates for Human Rights last year released a practical advocacy guide in which they establish a very strong connection between successful advocacy, coalition building and solidarity among leaders. They define coalition building as follows:
Coalition building is the ongoing process of cultivating and maintaining relationships with a diverse network of individuals and organizations who share a common set of principles and values. In addition to sharing a common set of values, a coalition will often work together towards a common goal or to execute a specific campaign. Coalition building can happen at the local, national, regional and global levels. Because organizations bring different strengths and constituencies, working in coalition can be extremely effective and important, especially when there are broad goals such as legislative or policy changes. A crucial aspect of coalition building is choosing a unifying issue or issues and working together to define clear goals. (Human Rights Tools for aChanging World: A step-by-step guide to human rights fact-finding,documentation, and advocacy, 2015, p. 101)
The Advocates for Human Rights pulled this definition in part from the findings of a consulting group specializing in change management called Coalitions Work, who poetically define goals as “Dreams with Deadlines”. My main takeaway from this week’s readings is that successful online advocacy relies heavily on the clarity of vision and ideological cohesion within advocacy groups and explicitness regarding the results they desire. After that comes the question of commitment, which is amply debated in the hacktivism literature.
Coalition Vision, Mission & Goals (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/COALITION-VISION-MISSION-GOALS.pdf
Human Rights Tools for a Changing World: A step-by-step guide to human rights fact-finding, documentation, and advocacy (2015), The Advocates for Human Rights, Retrieved from: http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/change
Juris, S. J. (2012). Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation. American Ethnologist, 39 (2), 259-279. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01362.x
Kreiss, D. (2012). Acting in the Public Sphere: The 2008 Obama Campaign’s Strategic Use of New Media to Shape Narratives of the Presidential Race. In J .Earl & D. A. Rohlinger (Eds.), Media, Movements, and Political Change (pp. 195-223), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Volume 33, Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Retrieved from: http://danielkreiss.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/kreiss_actinginpublic1.pdf