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S O C I A L C O N S C I E N C E
A DISCOURSE ON DIGITAL PHILANTHROPY
AND CLIMATE ACTIVISM
BY ERIN KOWALSKI
PART OF
EVERY DAY
LIFE
In the digital age, online
activism has become
mainstream.
While many celebratedigital
philanthropy as part of the solution
to inaction, there are cynics who
critiqueit as ineffectual.
N E W A R R I V A L
A CLOSER
LOOK
Despite the stigmathat surrounds
the effectiveness of online activism, a
review of digital climate change action
reveals that social engagement has the
power to effect connective
action.
KEY
TERM
Much debate on the topic of online
activism focuses on the concept of
clicktivism, which is defined as
facilitating social change and activism
via the use of digital media.1
Critics view online activism as slacktivism,
going so far as to stipulate that it has a placebo
effect due to the minimal amount of effort
required on the part of participants. The simple
act of supporting a cause behind the veil of a
screen does little to encourage people to leave
their comfort zone.2
Yet, despite the cynics—those who do nothing
more than foster a world that runs rampant with
cynicism—there are individuals that tune in,
fight for what they believe in, and change
the world.3
WHEN WE
FAIL TO ACT
When people stop fighting for the
future that they desire, they create a
dead end. Doing nothing results
in nothing getting done.4
“Cynicism is a protective mechanism when going
out on a limb feels dangerous, but in facing
modern challenges, it is not going to save you.
Every action and inaction matter
and serve as equally powerful catalysts for what
comes next: a positive difference, or enabled lesser
acts by others.”5
- Miranda Wheeler
Incidentally, history
demonstrates that, over
time, an impactful
differencecan be
made by many people
taking small actions.
From civil rights to women’s rights, anti-
war to labour, grassroots movements
have always carried a social element,
using the latest technology
availableto spread their message.6
Botanic
a
“Digital media, such as social
networks, campaign websites and
email, are the twenty first century
town square.”7
- Alexander White
TODAY, THE
MESSAGE BEARER
IS DIGITAL.
When it comes to climate change
activism, social engagement has
proven merit.
GREENPEACE
• In 2011, Greenpeace ran a campaign on
Facebook to petition against Facebook’s
use of coal to power their data servers
• After acquiring more than 700,000
likes over 20 months, the social network
conglomerate announced a new policy
with a focus on using renewable energy8
CLIMATE COUNCIL
• In 2013, the Australian Climate
Commission was defunded
• Climate change action in the form of a
crowdfunded initiative was able to
transfer the Commission into the
Climate Council, a now independent
institution9
WWF INTERNATIONAL
• The World Wildlife Fund has a strong and
successful track record of using global
social media initiatives to ignite brand
awareness and public emotion
• When 1.6 million people signed the
petition for the Virunga campaign, it
became backed by law and business
ethics, resulting in future protection of
the World Heritage site and habitat10
N E W A R R I V A L
INSPIRING
ACTION
The success of these initiatives, and of all
digital climate change campaigns, lies in their
ability to increase awareness, which
results in encouraging motivated people to
discover ways to get involved.
However, to ensure that they are being
effective at inciting lucrative social change,
online activists must take care to also
impart real-world activism, as
clicking on its own risks having insufficient
impact.11
To further ensure success, online activists
and creators of digital activism campaigns
would benefit from drawing inspiration from
the dragonfly, which symbolizes that small
movements are capable of bringing about
tremendous aftereffects.12
THE DRAGONFLY
EFFECT
As scholars Aaker and Smith have
shown, social impactcan best
be achieved through the four wings
of the metaphorical dragonfly to
make sure that the message:
1. Is clear in focus
2. Grabs the attentionof the
target demographic
3. Creates engagement
4. Inspires people to take
action13
Finally, individuals who are serious about devoting
themselves to evoking real climate change action
should take care not to spread themselves too wide
and thin by simultaneously supporting multiple
causes rather than only one, for as playwright
Richard Foreman warns, having access to a vast
network of information at our fingertips runs the
risk of turning us into ‘pancake people.’14
PANCAKE PEOPLE
At the end of the day, there will
always be negative attitudes when it
comes to clicktivism. Whether it be
the result of anti-activism
propaganda or a gross underestimate
of the power of collective unity,
digital social engagement has proven
to be a successful advocate
of climate change activism.
THERE IS POWER
IN DIGITAL UNITY
Together, we have the collective power to move mountains and make
an enormous imprintin the fight against climate change. The
greatest peril is in joining the pessimists and taking no action at all.
SOURCES
1. Ritu Sharma, “Stop Pouring Ice on Clicktivism,” The Huffington Post, August 20, 2014, accessed May 25, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ritusharma/stop-pouring-ice-on-click_b_5692555.html.
2. Sidneyeve Matrix, “Social Good,” Lecture, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, May 29, 2017.
3.Miranda Wheeler, “What 5 Great Minds Can Teach Us About on Cynicism and Activism,” The Odyssey Online, March 28, 2017, accessed May 29, 2017, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-great-minds-teach-cynicism-
activism.
4.Ibid.
5.Ibid.
6.Alexander White, “Can online environmental activism deliver change offline?,” The Guardian, June 7, 2013, accessed May 23, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2013/jun/07/online-
environmental-activism-offline-change-clicktivism.
7. Ibid.
8.Ibid.
9.Jessica Emma McLean and Sara Fuller, “Action with(out) activism: understanding digital climate change action,” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 Issue: 9/0, pp.578-595, doi: 10.1108/
IJSSP-12-2015-0136, http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-12-2015-0136.
10.“How the WWF inspires global action with social media,” Hootsuite, accessed May 29, 2017, https://hootsuite.com/resources/case-study/how-the-wwf-inspires-global-action-with-social-media.
11. Marc and Craig Kielburger, “Global Voices: ‘Liking’ must be followed up with real-world action,” Times Colonist, April 12, 2015, accessed May 25, 2017, http://www.timescolonist.com/life/global-voices-liking-must-be-
followed-up-with-real-world-action-1.1820728
12. Jan Van Der Kaaij, “The Dragonfly Effect: How to strategically use social media in sustainability,” Finch & Beak, January 31, 2011, accessed May 27, 2017, https://www.finchandbeak.com/551/the-dragonfly-effect.htm.
13. Sabrina Bresciani and Andreas Schmeil, “Social media platforms for social good,” Digital Ecosystems Technologies (DEST), 2012 6th IEEE International Conference, July 2, 2012, doi: 10.1109/DEST.2012.6227944, p.2.
14. Sidneyeve Matrix, “Digital Literacies,” Lecture, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, May 2, 2017.
SOCIAL CONSCIENCE
© ERIN KOWALSKI, 2017
FILM 260 | QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY
A DISCOURSE ON
DIGITAL PHILANTHROPY
AND CLIMATE ACTIVISM
ALL PHOTOS LICENSED UNDER
CREATIVE COMMONS ZERO

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Social Conscience

  • 1. S O C I A L C O N S C I E N C E A DISCOURSE ON DIGITAL PHILANTHROPY AND CLIMATE ACTIVISM BY ERIN KOWALSKI
  • 2. PART OF EVERY DAY LIFE In the digital age, online activism has become mainstream.
  • 3. While many celebratedigital philanthropy as part of the solution to inaction, there are cynics who critiqueit as ineffectual.
  • 4. N E W A R R I V A L A CLOSER LOOK Despite the stigmathat surrounds the effectiveness of online activism, a review of digital climate change action reveals that social engagement has the power to effect connective action.
  • 5. KEY TERM Much debate on the topic of online activism focuses on the concept of clicktivism, which is defined as facilitating social change and activism via the use of digital media.1
  • 6. Critics view online activism as slacktivism, going so far as to stipulate that it has a placebo effect due to the minimal amount of effort required on the part of participants. The simple act of supporting a cause behind the veil of a screen does little to encourage people to leave their comfort zone.2
  • 7. Yet, despite the cynics—those who do nothing more than foster a world that runs rampant with cynicism—there are individuals that tune in, fight for what they believe in, and change the world.3
  • 8. WHEN WE FAIL TO ACT When people stop fighting for the future that they desire, they create a dead end. Doing nothing results in nothing getting done.4
  • 9. “Cynicism is a protective mechanism when going out on a limb feels dangerous, but in facing modern challenges, it is not going to save you. Every action and inaction matter and serve as equally powerful catalysts for what comes next: a positive difference, or enabled lesser acts by others.”5 - Miranda Wheeler
  • 10. Incidentally, history demonstrates that, over time, an impactful differencecan be made by many people taking small actions.
  • 11. From civil rights to women’s rights, anti- war to labour, grassroots movements have always carried a social element, using the latest technology availableto spread their message.6
  • 12. Botanic a “Digital media, such as social networks, campaign websites and email, are the twenty first century town square.”7 - Alexander White TODAY, THE MESSAGE BEARER IS DIGITAL.
  • 13. When it comes to climate change activism, social engagement has proven merit.
  • 14. GREENPEACE • In 2011, Greenpeace ran a campaign on Facebook to petition against Facebook’s use of coal to power their data servers • After acquiring more than 700,000 likes over 20 months, the social network conglomerate announced a new policy with a focus on using renewable energy8
  • 15. CLIMATE COUNCIL • In 2013, the Australian Climate Commission was defunded • Climate change action in the form of a crowdfunded initiative was able to transfer the Commission into the Climate Council, a now independent institution9
  • 16. WWF INTERNATIONAL • The World Wildlife Fund has a strong and successful track record of using global social media initiatives to ignite brand awareness and public emotion • When 1.6 million people signed the petition for the Virunga campaign, it became backed by law and business ethics, resulting in future protection of the World Heritage site and habitat10
  • 17. N E W A R R I V A L INSPIRING ACTION The success of these initiatives, and of all digital climate change campaigns, lies in their ability to increase awareness, which results in encouraging motivated people to discover ways to get involved.
  • 18. However, to ensure that they are being effective at inciting lucrative social change, online activists must take care to also impart real-world activism, as clicking on its own risks having insufficient impact.11
  • 19. To further ensure success, online activists and creators of digital activism campaigns would benefit from drawing inspiration from the dragonfly, which symbolizes that small movements are capable of bringing about tremendous aftereffects.12 THE DRAGONFLY EFFECT
  • 20. As scholars Aaker and Smith have shown, social impactcan best be achieved through the four wings of the metaphorical dragonfly to make sure that the message: 1. Is clear in focus 2. Grabs the attentionof the target demographic 3. Creates engagement 4. Inspires people to take action13
  • 21. Finally, individuals who are serious about devoting themselves to evoking real climate change action should take care not to spread themselves too wide and thin by simultaneously supporting multiple causes rather than only one, for as playwright Richard Foreman warns, having access to a vast network of information at our fingertips runs the risk of turning us into ‘pancake people.’14 PANCAKE PEOPLE
  • 22. At the end of the day, there will always be negative attitudes when it comes to clicktivism. Whether it be the result of anti-activism propaganda or a gross underestimate of the power of collective unity, digital social engagement has proven to be a successful advocate of climate change activism.
  • 23. THERE IS POWER IN DIGITAL UNITY Together, we have the collective power to move mountains and make an enormous imprintin the fight against climate change. The greatest peril is in joining the pessimists and taking no action at all.
  • 24. SOURCES 1. Ritu Sharma, “Stop Pouring Ice on Clicktivism,” The Huffington Post, August 20, 2014, accessed May 25, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ritusharma/stop-pouring-ice-on-click_b_5692555.html. 2. Sidneyeve Matrix, “Social Good,” Lecture, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, May 29, 2017. 3.Miranda Wheeler, “What 5 Great Minds Can Teach Us About on Cynicism and Activism,” The Odyssey Online, March 28, 2017, accessed May 29, 2017, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-great-minds-teach-cynicism- activism. 4.Ibid. 5.Ibid. 6.Alexander White, “Can online environmental activism deliver change offline?,” The Guardian, June 7, 2013, accessed May 23, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2013/jun/07/online- environmental-activism-offline-change-clicktivism. 7. Ibid. 8.Ibid. 9.Jessica Emma McLean and Sara Fuller, “Action with(out) activism: understanding digital climate change action,” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 36 Issue: 9/0, pp.578-595, doi: 10.1108/ IJSSP-12-2015-0136, http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-12-2015-0136. 10.“How the WWF inspires global action with social media,” Hootsuite, accessed May 29, 2017, https://hootsuite.com/resources/case-study/how-the-wwf-inspires-global-action-with-social-media. 11. Marc and Craig Kielburger, “Global Voices: ‘Liking’ must be followed up with real-world action,” Times Colonist, April 12, 2015, accessed May 25, 2017, http://www.timescolonist.com/life/global-voices-liking-must-be- followed-up-with-real-world-action-1.1820728 12. Jan Van Der Kaaij, “The Dragonfly Effect: How to strategically use social media in sustainability,” Finch & Beak, January 31, 2011, accessed May 27, 2017, https://www.finchandbeak.com/551/the-dragonfly-effect.htm. 13. Sabrina Bresciani and Andreas Schmeil, “Social media platforms for social good,” Digital Ecosystems Technologies (DEST), 2012 6th IEEE International Conference, July 2, 2012, doi: 10.1109/DEST.2012.6227944, p.2. 14. Sidneyeve Matrix, “Digital Literacies,” Lecture, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, May 2, 2017.
  • 25. SOCIAL CONSCIENCE © ERIN KOWALSKI, 2017 FILM 260 | QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY A DISCOURSE ON DIGITAL PHILANTHROPY AND CLIMATE ACTIVISM ALL PHOTOS LICENSED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS ZERO