SXSW: How to Create Activist Technology

Notes from How to Create Activist Technology panel. Good shit, read on.

How to Create Activist Technology

Shabbir Safdar, Mindshare Interactive Campaigns
– kept the internet free back in the 90’s. ran turn webpage to black for 48 hours campaign.
– a prominient large progressive non-profit (MoveOn?) made the mistake of registering domains as creation of a campaign
– clients that get mired in details of tech or db details generally are disfunctional in some way and are overlooking audience & message
– great webstore resource for tshirts, mugs and other crap. just upload a pdf and choose your price.
– constant contact: ways of getting emails out without being tagged as spam, $15/month
– TypedPad: hosted blog, $15/month

Erin Rogers, Union of Concerned Scientists
– outreach coodinator, grassroots organizer
– most effective is “action alert” system: have members respond to issues via email blasts
– framing issues is important and key. Lakoff etc.

Henri Poole, CivicActions
– Hilton campaign to seem like they care about the environment. using simple messages to convey they care. “a towl on the rack means i’ll use it again. on the floor means it’s used, please clean”
– discover needs: what do i need, …
– imagine what success looks like a year from now. what needs to happen becomes obvious then.
– David Reed: Reed’s Law’s_law

Amalia Anderson, Legal of Rural Voters
– community organizer/cultural activist
– technology deepens level of oppression that people feel everyday
– if not native to western culutre or english speaking, tech can be confusing, marginalizing
– challenge to uncover power dynamics that are not obvious
– need to invite people of color and non-native speakers into the process determing what tech strategy should look like

Ren Bucholz, EFF
– EFF representing Morpheus, file-sharing tech
– Opposition to Induce Act:
1. notify Congress that this is not a non-controversial issue
2 . action alerts: send 20,000 letters to Congress saying this bill sucks
3. empower members to do something positive, not just “click monkeys”, 30,000 people wrote to say they support this other bill.
– Downhill Battle: way of staggering phone calls to congressman and reporting back
– all bad copyright bills were defeated last year

Q: Are there open source alternatives to the big behemoth commercial products?

A: Ren Bucholz: the big behemoths do some things well
Kathy Mitchell: I need support and behemoths tend to do that better.
Henri Poole: CivicSpace Labs will do a lot of this. 19 language. former DeanSpace stuff. will include Clark event finder (from Clarke campaign) to organize house parties and events.
– AdvoKit: GOTV voter file mgmt system
– CivicCRM
– CivicMAPS:

Q: I’m a geek and I want to help solve a specific problem you have, but the non-profit doesn’t take me up. Is it a communicaton issue or what?

A: Safdar: orgs tend to need long-term help and many times it’s hard to organize volunteers for any length of time. that particular org may have been thinking of you as a volunteer who may not be around to support the work you’d contribute.

Q: For Amalia, what do you consider a succesful cooperative relationship between marginalized people and technology?

A: Amalia: For Pine Ridge Reservation where there was no tech, we had to find what was useful to community. we needed to capture oral histories. we had to shift focus to digital storytelling project. we brought in video camera and iMacs to edit interviews to capture/archive oral history.

Emily: asmatha problems in central valley. ppl don’t speak English or read. we engaed in PROCESS of dialouging w/community groups for solutions. we use email to get info out to trainers who go out into community.


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