VOF Week 1: Cautious Excitement for Web 2.0
I am cautious about saying that Web 2.0 revolutionizes the way we do feminist work around the globe. But it certainly adds an exciting element. Like all global media, it presents the opportunity of a useful tool, but it also adds yet another battle front in our struggle against patriarchy and oppression. Those working to promote sexism, fundamentalism, capitalism, and homophobia are using it too.
The obvious benefits of Web 2.0 are that it is easy to use, relatively cheap, and global. All it takes is a few clicks to post an inspirational story, create a professional-looking website, launch a petition, or send the word out to thousands of people. Different online tools can bring together activists from remote parts of the world to share their strategies and projects. Women can feel the solidarity of thousands like them everywhere around the globe. We can all think out loud together and support each other.
Yet, on the other hand, because the sharing of information is becoming increasingly easier, we have become bombarded with too much information that it’s hard to keep up or to filter out what’s useful from what’s useless. There is no doubt that the world is moving steadily towards the internet replacing our traditional media – which is great news for feminist activists. Televisions, radio stations, newspapers, billboards and magazines are very hard to fight. They require huge sums of money and people’s attention is divided across the different media. But as more people shift to the internet as their source of information and communication, that’s where our opportunity as social activists grows. We know that every day, thousands more people are joining Facebook and we can focus on using Facebook as a tool to get our messages across. We know that every day, thousands more people are looking to blogs for information and news, and we can focus on blogging for social change.
I never have any time to turn on TV or read a magazine, but I am online almost 18 hours a day. Although it’s taken a longer time for Lebanon to provide cheap and nationwide internet access for everyone, internet usage is increasing exponentially by the day. Web 2.0 tools have been instrumental in organizing marginalized communities who are perhaps too frightened about meeting in person or revealing their real identities to strangers. Web forums and mailing lists allow them to do that in a safe, anonymous environment. We also built a mechanism for quick and instant response to different sorts of human rights violations in the form of direct actions or protests, and it would be impossible to mobilize hundreds of people in one day if we didn’t have them all organized on different social exchange websites or chatting programs. With open-source software like Drupal and Joomla, we are also able to build fantastic websites in a few days and at zero cost.
I guess what Web 2.0 has mainly done for feminist activism around the globe is that is has evened out the media playing field slightly to our advantage.