The Awakening Voice

The Giugni and Pastor articles both seem to address the question long/short-term effects on movements and activists. The comments and observations are based on the emergence of social movement’s social media channel. Yet, social movements before the internet have always flourished because of or in spite of funding, not commitment. The difference seems to be the nature of personal intensity and commitment. Before the internet, the “true believer”. Those of us with some personal perspective remember the civil rights and women’s movements as social movements without the internet. They were motivated or propelled by the “true believer”. Indeed, Marco Giugni comments on the personal consequences of social movement activism.

When I lived in Washington, DC (20 years), I became involved in the women’s movement as a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights. It was comprised almost entirely of “true believers” as was the Commission. In one case, I was providing Federal support to the litigation team undertaking the UniRoyal case. I eventually met the chief complainants, the aggrieved parties. While all were very much, “true believers” each commented on the arduous nature of the journey. Thus, at least in my experience, I can understand and accept Marco Giugni’s insight.

Recently, however, one senior Middle Eastern Ambassador, commenting on Syria, provided a somewhat troubling insight. He thought that the effectiveness of the internet in the Middle East was largely due to its rapid development and deployment. As authoritarian regimes learn how to control public speech, it’s “cutting edge” character might become less attractive. Indeed, this may already be happening in many places, including China and Russia. Even the UK has arrested those who used the internet to promote social protest!

Pastor’s article brings to mind the importance of group affiliation. He considers the many elements of organizing: transaction meetings, Individual shifts (transformations), civic engagements, etc. As you all know it is possible to map some of those affiliations in order to develop an understanding of the power of organizing and/or engagement. Thus, the ability to develop alliances — other groups and fund sources — becomes key to organizational success. Pastor covers a number of the data metrics which we have already discussed and seem so very relevant to his call for data metrics.

While Pastor’s call for organizing metrics is important, so too is evaluation: “Build the Movement Metric Toolbox.” Finding meaning in the data has been tried in many venues and can help understand the broader context of the data metrics. His reference to Frame Analysis is familiar territory and an example of movement analysis. I would look forward to a discussion of the merits of analytic/statistical tools. Indeed, there are many tools from which to choose.

One area of organizing that I have personally experienced is union organizing. Every union has a professional cadre of organizers who are super managers of union actions. At the request of the Communication Workers of America, I designed and installed their first Web host for organizing. It was so provocative that I assumed that it would always be subject to destructive hacking. Hence, I established it as a free-standing, non-connected host. It was comprised of a large Olivetti Mini Computer and a Cisco PIX — NAT firewall. In fact, there were three systems that were operating in parallel. When one went down — frequently — the second or third would be its replacement. Of course, we were always able to track the hacker(s). At the time, the prime hacker was AT&T since CWA was AT&T’s primary labor supplier. Since CWA members were deployed throughout AT&T, world-wide, it was very easy to identify the source — like “sleeping” with the enemy. Eventually, it became a playful game of hide and seek.

Based on what we had learned about AT&T’s very effective and somewhat invisible hacking, CWA developed an apprenticeship program on cyber security and incorporated its findings as yet another module in its apprenticeship training network — which I installed. Of course, AT&T staff were barred from attending. These two systems were and continue to be the primary organizing tools used by CWA. It is the only union that achieved “EDU” domain (TLD) status for its site. I remember when I visited Network Solutions offices in Virginia. No RL customer had ever visited, rather submitted domain requests via eMail. Network Solutions was the only DNS registry in the early 1980s. Office staff were shocked to see someone in their customer waiting room. When they indicated that NSF policy dictated that EDU domains were restricted to 4 year, degree-granting, accredited bodies, I asked them to read the bright yellow lettering on the 20 network engineers working in their offices: CWA surrounded by the crest of the American Federation of Labor (AFofL).

In summary, I think that we can look to union organizing to better understand a long-term organization that uses much the same methods for a smaller and well focused population of union members. The point is that each union has a very professional organizing department that is usually the largest component of the union.

Until the 1980s when CWA moved organizing to the digital domain of the internet, its tactics were just as effective without the internet. It now has a presence in most developed and some under developed countries.

Thus, we might want consider expanding Pastor’s observations to include union organizing and consider how the collected data metrics can be evaluated to best advantage from methodological and statistical perspectives

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One thought on “The Awakening Voice

  1. Pingback: Week 11 Megablog: Outcomes | Networked Social Movements

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