Yeah, this is an interesting observation but I guess it begs a larger question: what is the role and what is the tactics that the ‘hard’ left should pursue in cyberspace?
Most important, I think, cyberspace organizing needs to grow out an existing organization. Then it has roots, a base, volunteers, maybe even paid staff, plus perspective and experience. The cyberspace presence needs to accurately portray who the group really is, and can be a powerful recruitment tool as well as a way to quickly spread news, points-of-view, and propaganda.
It’s the recruiting though, where the web can shine, especially for the hard left. Someone discovers you through Google, starts reading your articles. There should be multiple ways for them to get involved; like listservs, petitions, and, if they’re in the area, local events of interest. This draws them in, and if you nurture them, some will end up becoming volunteers and organizers.
I’ve been in the ANSWER Coalition for several years and it was their listserv that initially got my interest. However, and this is an perfect example of why a cyberspace presence needs to emerge from an on-the-ground group, I joined the listserv because someone handed me an ANSWER flyer at an event, and I read it. Face-to-face is still the best way to organize.
Coming from a format resting on Lenin’s perspective of an ‘all Russia newspaper’ and leafleting, forums and the like,the socialist groups have made a jump to cyberspace but then I think a lot of opportunities are squandered there.
That may be because cyberspace currently requires highly specialized and technical skills, way more so than a newspaper. An organization might not have anyone who can, say, tweak a blog template, put a database online, or design an attractive website. No easy answers here, although blog software, especially WordPress, continually gets more powerful and easier to use.
Small groups might consider getting a free WordPress blog at WordPress.com. This is a stripped-down version of the full product, you get free hosting forever, and it’s an ideal way for a small group with little in the way of technical chops to get a web presence.
Green Left Weekly here is the most popular political web site in the country with significant international rankings but I reckon a lot of this Web 2.0 stuff offers a platform to do more, to experiment a bit and consolidate some highly potent ways to deliver content.
I can only be in awe of a country where something like Green Left Weekly is the most popular political website… Web 2.0 is powerful indeed, however content will always be what keeps them coming back. Keep the content fresh, relevant, and changing.
The problem partly is that a newspaper per se is a group project ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â it’s a collective exercise ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â while a lot of the web interfaces can be simply individual activities. Blogging is a prime example ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â although group blogs exist.
My problem is that I’m trying to get some sort of perspective in my head to pilot by. Because political activism is so much focused at running hard in the real world it’s difficult for these same activists to muse about the passive universe of the web. And it is passive despite any amount of interactivity.
Excellent points. Activists who can successfully table an event for three hours aren’t usually same people who can spend hours debugging code on the website. And the web is passive, no getting around that. The web surfer doesn’t ever have to do anything. That’s why the website needs to draw them in and get them involved.
But I kinda think there’s a lot on offer that can greatly enhance the collective activism and democracy of what we do ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“or try to do.
The Net is always changing and morphing, however blogs and podcasts (both audio and video) are currently highly effective ways to reach and recruit, along with, of course, the organization’s website.
These are tools, powerful tools, but still tools. Cyberspace can augment and build the activism, but can never substitute for it.