From our How to Make Videos readings, the most recurring and valuable information I got was to 1) include only the necessary so as to make use of every second of attention from your audience and 2) to actually know who the audience is. In making a public service announcement of any sort, it’s important to do this because of how short the PSAs have to be. They are trying to catch the attention of someone who doesn’t know how this is relevant to him/her. These people revert to an inactive type of attention and so only the crucial information has to be included. When the PSA is trying to reach a target audience but that target audience doesn’t know to look for it, it makes it extremely important to have the right rhetoric and communication.
Recently, I’ve been scouring my Twitter for recent posts about women in tech, especially the current events with James Damore, a male Google employee who wrote a manifesto criticizing diversity initiatives with getting more women in tech because they simply aren’t biologically capable of coding. It’s simply ridiculous, and certain Twitter accounts have taken off with this topic. Twitter’s audience is definitely more widespread; it’s not targeted to any one group. People can scroll and come across a post that they have no context for. It’s interesting to see how different speakers on Twitter choose to approach the Google Manifesto. Most post articles to supplement their text because 140 characters is not enough to summarize the fiasco while expressing some sort of opinion on it. The consistent pattern seems to be some vague angry comment for those who don’t know much about the facts have no choice but to click on the article to understand the remark on it. It’s a pretty good way to get more people to be aware of the things that they might otherwise be ignorant about. I think Twitter accurately captures the essentials of the advice we’ve been reading about in making good PSAs. In a similar way, Twitter is also like a form of public service announcements in the way that they have to be short (140 characters to be exact) and have to be speak in a way that accommodates for the broad audience that Twitter hosts.
For today’s blog post, I’d like to respond to a particularly interesting podcast called “Digitical Activism: What Happens when Activists Take Their Work Online”. It’s an entertaining debate between Mary Joyce, an activism consultant, and Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT center on Civic Media, on how activism has increasingly taken a place in the digital world and how ethical and effective this is. Zuckerman and Joyce explain how digital activism is whenever someone uses the power they do have instead of the power they’re supposed to have. What does that mean exactly? People on social media are expressing themselves in a way that is unfiltered by the media and they are grabbing the tools themselves in looking to change the world. It’s hard to avoid because there’s a blurring effect: no distinct boundaries between activism and social media’s purpose, which is to keep people up to date with their family and friends.
As I have observed the people and organizations I follow regarding my issue of the gender gap in computer science, there’s a similar trend going on. I follow @NCWIT, which is the National Center for Women & Information Technology: “revolutionizing the face of technology by increasing the participation of girls and women” and @KaporCenter, which pursues creative strategies to leverage tech for progressive change. In Kapor’s case, the account posts a lot of articles surrounding how our current tech companies are fostering unfair work environments and how in the current state of things, employees are underrepresented. There’s a lot factual info being tweeted here. On NCWIT, the attitude is more towards a hopeful future, such as retweeting events that empower women in tech or tips and advice to becoming successful as a female in CS. So both of these accounts are promoting awareness and advocating for change, but it always has me questioning: is this really enough? According to Zuckerman’s response, it isn’t. People should be tweeting and having discussions on social media, but that has to be in addition to whatever actions are happening as well. At the end of the day, change comes with passing laws and exerting influence, not by retweeting 40 characters. For example, it’s something that the NAACP has been successful with, alongside the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I think that the activism we see on Twitter may not have social change that we can physically see, but it’s a catalyst in what’s to come. The beauty of social media is that it reaches people who aren’t expecting to be persuaded by this particular activism. It creates a splash effect, which is not attempting to change the behavior of solely the target audience, like tech companies themselves, but rather the perspective of each individual who is viewing the post or tweet or what have you. My point is that digital activism is truly powerful, but it’s only just a start.
Twitter is a new form of social media for me. After using it for a couple weeks now, I’m slowly starting to understand the ease of how information gets spread so quickly through retweets: it’s as simple as a button! I think on other social media platforms, where connectivity and networking is still the main point, nothing is as purposed towards spreading info as Twitter is.
I chose to look at feeds that supported the hashtag #womenintech and decided to follow some popular women figures in tech, such as Vanessa Hurst (co-founder of Girl Develop It and Write Speak Code) and Rebecca Garcia (co-founder of CoderDojo and working at Microsoft). These tweets generally fall into the categories of: articles that promote social change in attitude towards women in tech, events or opportunities for coding females, and photos that try to establish the fact that women are indeed participating more in the tech field. What it all comes down to is awareness and encouragement. Those two words describe the tone for these posts when I scroll through my news feed on my chosen topic.
From what I’m seeing, it’s best described in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, in our reading “Small Change – Why the revolution will not be tweeted.” Twitter is a powerful but limited tool. These posts that get propelled into the vast space of Twitter, I would not call vigorous activism. Rather, to paraphrase Gladwell, when there is no organizational or systematic hierarchy, profound decisions simply can’t be made in the effort of a cause/issue. On the other hand, social network activism is great for starting ripples (The Dragonfly Effect). In the age of the Internet, there’s low risk involved with this and easy participation because of low commitment. It’s definitely a place to start, if not the place to start. More than anything, these posts educate the Twitter audience on the matter and make aware that a problem like this exists (and that efforts are being made). Populating the feed with this information also loosens the stereotype of men being the sole population in tech.