Moving beyond the tool paradigm

Author: fjansen

Moving beyond the tool paradigm

from tool to strategy

Tags: Worldwide
Additional tags: Tool; , Online , Strategy

All the website, campaign and tools that are developed in search of changing the world prove that this concept is a utopia. What I have realized in working in the field of digital activism is that when talking about digital technology and change, we always want to develop a new website, build a new tool or insert a fancy gadget. There are many examples that show that fancy tools do not work. Therefore I propose that we move beyond our tool obsession and focus on strategy, what is it that we want to change, why should people be interested in participating in this change and how can obtain our goal?

Ethan Zuckerman’s cute cat theory says that most people use the web to enjoy themselves and they do this by looking at cute cats. If you want to reach a large audience you need to open a website with cute cats. His main point is not to start a site with cute cats but that developing a tool will not attract an audience, to reach people you need to go to the ‘online’ platforms that they inhabit.

In the “Conectémonos Centroamérica: Jóvenes usando las TIC para generar cambios” in Guatemala Juan Manuel Cascante gave an interesting presentation about campaign strategy, where he emphasized that we need to move beyond the tool and start with strategy.  In his presentation he pointed out that there are a number of question one needs to answer before one starts an online campaign: What is your cause? Why is it your cause? And what do you want to achieve? Then you need to look at how can you achieve this? Who do you need to collaborate with? Once you have defined your objectives one needs to understand what we want to communicate and to whom we want to communicate this to.

In these steps it is very important to know your audience(s): Who are they? What are their characteristics? What is important too this person? Why should they be interested in your cause? And how can you interact with this person? Each audience is unique, with their own interest, problems and desires. One needs to know these things before you can really communicate or reach out to your audience and convey a message. Then you can design your action and look at which medium is suitable for your action

When you look at successful online campaign ’s or activities like the Pink Panty Campaign in India, M-Novels in South Africa and Adopt a Parliamentarian in Peru it becomes clear that they all started with something that is important to them, a good idea and combined this with a communication strategy. Following these best practices will not ensure success but these factors are ingredients for a success.

In addition if we want to understand digital native activity, engage them in a certain causes or support them with amplification of their activities it is important to realize that new forms of civic action cannot necessarily be explained by the traditional concepts of activism or social movement and neither can be understood through a sole tech perspective. For our strategies we need to move beyond these concepts. Maesy Angelina in her Beyond the Digital posts argues that scholars need to re-frame these notions in order to deal with how youth today are engaging in different forms of engagement and movements. This does not mean that we need to throw the old concepts out, but instead make them plural. Instead of “Activism” there should be “activisms” in various forms.

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