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JOUR 304- Collective Action Online

Sep 19, 2023

Assignment: What would be some of the advantages and disadvantages of digital activism? Research and discuss case studies to illustrate your point. (700-800-word assignment to be done in class)  

Collective action online


Digital Activism is a concept that has become prominent because of the advent of social media. In this kind of activism, internet tools like email and social media are used in order to inculcate change in society. This changed form of activism has begun to influence every aspect of society, from politics to personal aspects. The new form of activism has come with several advantages and disadvantages. The advantages have removed the inadequacy of the previous system in place, but its glaring disadvantages lie in its lack of infrastructure which made the previously placed systems successful. This essay analyses the various advantages and disadvantages and their implications through Case Studies.  

The advent of technology has changed the way the world functions; it has also had an impact on the way activism works in present-day society. Activism has become expanded because of the amenities produced by technology. There are no physical barriers, and social movement can garner support from anywhere in the world. In traditional activism, actions like mass gatherings, protests, and social gatherings are essential. In situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, these actions are dangerous; hence Digital Activism is a more suitable option as it removes the potential of severe harm in such cases but at the same time keeps the activism related to social causes functional.           

The case study titled ‘Spill-Over Effects Between Facebook and On/Offline Political Participation? Evidence from a Two-Wave Panel Study showcases the manner in which the political opinions and actions of people all over the world are changed through articles on Facebook (Vissers & Stolle, 2014, p.259). Through the usage of a social media tool like Facebook, individuals did not need to physically mobilize or socially interact with each other, and activists were able to influence other people with the aid of Digital media. The findings of the case study clearly showcase that the action of posting and reading on Facebook walls inspires future political activities.           

Digital Activism provided the opportunity to connect with a large community. This action causes the message to become globalized in nature. The global nature of the message through platforms like Facebook and Twitter makes it easier to mobilize action related to activism in an efficient manner. Digital Activism enables every individual to have a voice with the aid of social media platforms.           

The article titled “The Political Power of Social Media” provides an analysis of the political impact produced by Social Media (Shirky, 2022, p.1). In this article, various events are addressed in which Digital media was used in order to bring about quick actions associated with activism. The article details the events of the Impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, where with the aid of text messages, individuals were able to stage protests against the decision taken by the Philippine Congress. The protest was arranged in a short span through the help of text messages, which eventually aided in influencing the decision.           

The influence of Digital Media aids in raising awareness about the issue and making people take quick steps, but it does not ensure the longevity of the measure. Digital Activism might get an issue to trend with multiple people all across the globe, but it does not have the infrastructure to inculcate longevity to the issue in hand and garner support from authorities for the issue. The article titled “Research Chat: David Karpf, a scholar of Internet Organizing and activism” showcases the difficulty faced by Digital Media in producing an outcome in the long run (Wihbey, 2020, p.1). In the article, Karpf puts forward his opinion that Digital Activism was successful in highlighting the urgent need to capture Kony but ultimately failed to garner the infrastructure that was needed to influence the right people in the position of authority to make the decision that would have brought the aim to fruition. This clearly shows that the proper infrastructure is not in place, which would help the various organizations primarily working through Digital Activism to further their agenda. This infrastructure is related to actions like funding which helps to get the message across to the authoritative bodies.           

The phenomenon of “clicktivism” or “slacktivism” is also a drawback in the case of Digital Activism. This phenomenon makes people think that by sharing a message or post on social media, they have made a real impact, but in reality, they have contributed nothing to the overall movement. This also leads to opportunism as organizations jump onto the bandwagon, thinking of an issue as a popular cause, but after the fame associated with it wanes, they are no longer associated with the cause.           

“White Noise: Hearing the Disaster” explores the commodification that is associated with the social causes because of Digital Activism (Waldorf, 2012, p.469). The study focuses on the ‘Kony 2012’ phenomenon, where the humanitarian identity became a product for various organizations to garner profit from, but in the long run, they were not invested in the cause. Hence, a solid decision was never formulated. Various companies, for their own purposes, joined in the campaign to have Kony arrested, but once the popularity associated with the movement and the video died, their support for the movement also disappeared.


Digital Activism has a lot of potential as it has the tools to make the impact of a social cause be felt on a global level. This aids in garnering support from all across the world, which strengthens its impact. Digital Activism also comes with its share of disadvantages, which include the lack of infrastructure. Digital Activism also promotes the lack of seriousness that commodifies the entire issue and hampers its ultimate success. It is essential that proper development occurs in this form of activism so that society is able to reap the benefits of Digital Activism.

Reference List

Shirky, C. (2022, November 16). The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change. Foreign Affairs.

Vissers, S., & Stolle, D. (2014). Spill-over effects between Facebook and on/offline political participation? Evidence from a two-wave panel study. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 11(3), 259-275.

Waldorf, L. (2012). White noise: Hearing the disaster. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 4(3), 469-474.

Wihbey, J. (2020, December 8). Research chat: David Karpf, scholar of Internet organizing and activism – The Journalist’s Resource. The Journalist’s Resource.

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