International Activism in the 21st Century: Cyberactivism!

April 7, 2014 in Research by Liz McKenna

Whereas the 20th Century had people on the ground, going into different countries, and making attempts at creating peace, the 21st Century has thus far been very innovative in its technological efforts internationally. Some countries are taking part in Internet protests where it may not be safe to physically protest, and others are joining in social forms so that people from many different countries can get together over the web to collaborate on ideas for peace, human rights, and other issues. 

Another popular way of taking part in activism internationally is using the Internet. For example, in China, it is difficult for NGOs to survive because of political constraints, so newer organizations are starting to utilize the Internet to raise awareness for important issues, which then raises membership for their organizations. Activists in China started using the Chinese Internet as a window to share ideas and bonds of justice and fairness. 

However, authors such as Diebert argue that the Internet can be a positive tool for activists, but it has also caused damaged. There are essentially Internet groups buzzing on international forums where nothing really gets accomplished. He also argues that the Internet has allowed (in a positive way) existing nationally based organizations to link together with each other as well as multinational organizations. Older forms of technology would not have been able to adequately do this because of the lack of interactivity. 

 September 11, 2001 was a moment that struck the nation in horror, and some deemed it as the beginning of the Age of Terror. However, there were people from all around the world that felt differently, and felt it was an era of hope. These people joined the World Social Forum, where people came from different countries to Porto Alegre, Brazil and exchanged ideas about peace, human rights, fair trade, environmental sustainability, and other goals. These forums included discussions, which were open to the public, on issues regarding the war in Iraq to national legislation such as No Child Left Behind. Professors were a prominent group of people at these forums. We’ve seen networks as an international growing trend. Therefore, many of the people involved in the WSF discussed making activism count as a part of the new International Network of Scholar Activists. The goal would then be to forge “more effective links among activist-educators around the globe to promote emancipator ideas and knowledge.” Those involved were people from various backgrounds around the world with a passion for promoting social and economic justice.

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Brantlinger, Patrick (2005). “Utopian Universities and International Activism.”

Academe: 91(5)

Brantlinger discusses his time attending the World Social Forum and the importance of scholars reaching out to each other through linking up around the world. He argues that there will be a sense of political hope and renewal by becoming part of these networks.

Deibert, Ronald. (2003). “International Plug ‘n Play? Citizen Activism, the Internet,

and Global Public Policy. ” International Studies Perspectives: 1(3)

Diebert discusses the rise of the internet in the 21st century and how that contributed to the rise of citizen networks through new communication technologies and the World-Wide Web. Some people are mixed about citizen networks, however.. Some people applaud them, while other see them as undemocratic and largely destructive.

Yang, Guobin (2013). The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online. Columbia

University Press

Yang discusses how the Internet revolutionized popular expression in China by enabling users to organize, protest, and influence public opinion in many ways. This study discusses the forms and practices the Chinese used in cyberspace protesting and other online activism methods.