In the US and other Western countries, social networking tools have already changed the ways that most of us live our lives.
So why haven’t they driven the same kind of social protests they’re credited for spurring in the Middle East? After all, the US and the EU are more wired than Egypt and Tunisia, and many Western democracies have high levels of unemployment. The US and UK are also facing dramatic cuts in social services. Is it just a matter of time before “clicktivism” moves to the streets of London or D.C. as it did in Tunis and Cairo?
A group of digital activists calling themselves “UK Uncut” have been using Twitter and Facebook to organize protesters for sit-in demonstrations at UK banks and financial institutions that received bail-out money during the 2008 financial crisis. These “bail-ins” have been called in protest of dramatic social service cuts to public institutions like libraries, health care and higher education subsidies. UK Uncut can claim more than 18,000 followers on Twitter and nearly as many “likes” of its Facebook page.
An American spinoff, “US Uncut” is planning similar protests at banks and corporate headquarters on February 26th, including the Amazon.com headquarters in Seattle.
These activists seem to be very conscious of the wired nature of these events, but they also seem to understand that the tools don’t necessarily get people out into the streets. Commenting on UK Uncut’s efforts, one sympathetic blogger writes:
This is where we as digital activists need to work, bridging the gap between online activity and the real world, between the politically committed and the undecided many. We need to spend time offline talking to people who would never have considered marching before. (http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/beyond-clicktivism-a-call-to-arms)
Flip the Media readers have been vocal about issues of digital activism recently–the Wikileaks events and the Egyptian revolution have drawn a lot of comments. Many of you have professional expertise with the tools in question like Twitter, Facebook, Google APIs etc.
Do you think these tools have the potential to drive or inspire boots-on-the-street protest movements? Do they really deserve credit for toppling the Mubarak government in Egypt? What do you think? Please answer the short survey below and then weigh in with your comments. We will update the survey results in a post soon.