Hashtag Activism, book review: A sign of the times

Hashtag Activism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice • by Sarah J. Jackson, Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles • MIT Press • 296 webpages • ISBN: 978–262-04337-3 • $19.95 / £15.99

Final year, an inveterate world-wide-web observer termed 2010 “peak cyber utopia”. That was the year Western social media end users basked smugly in the perception that their technologies experienced liberated numerous Arab countries from oppressive governments. Considering the fact that then, we have uncovered that social media was only one of a lot of instruments, not a cause, viewed Western democracies undermine their individual democratic institutions, and appear to realise that truly the world-wide-web won’t be able to do everything.

And yet. It can be one of the peculiarities of Twitter (in specific) and other social media that new movements can take form in full public look at when completely escaping the observe of individuals whose bubbles will not intersect them. In Hashtag Activism, Sarah J. Jackson, an affiliate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Faculty, feminist scholar and ‘misogynoir’ coiner Moya Bailey, and Northeastern University affiliate professor Brooke Foucault Welles, notify the tales of a number of these movements, beginning in 2009.

Theirs is a unusual approach these times these are the very first authors in a lengthy time who usually are not concentrating on system abuse. Their index has no entries for trolls, abuse, or bots.  

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On Twitter, hashtags — virtually, the # signal in entrance of a phrase — were being the brainchild of user Chris Messina, not a element crafted in by the site’s creators. Hashtags supply a combination of search time period and filter coming into one into Twitter’s crafted-in search motor generates a dwell feed of everything anyone’s posting employing that hashtag. People use it to share comments about conferences they are attending, update breaking information, focus on current tendencies, or, as in the cases these authors focus on, create proof and a social motion, as they did through Occupy and substantially much more considering the fact that. While the authors primarily speak about Twitter, they acknowledge that other social media — chiefly Facebook — are equally crucial.

Accessibility all areas

They commence by observing that social media affords racial minorities, girls, transgender people, and “others aligned with justice and feminist results in” new entry that was not obtainable by way of standard media. They then go into detail in six chapters featuring the next hashtags: #YesAllWomen, #MeToo, #FastTailedGirls, #YouOKSis, #SayHerName, #GirlsLikeUs, #OscarGrant, #TrayvonMartin, #Ferguson, #FalconHeights, #AllMenCan, and #WhiteWhileCriming. 

At least some of these should to be familiar to any individual who follows the information in mainstream media. Some others may be unfamiliar, specifically to a British audience. I experienced not, for example, encountered #FastTailedGirls or #YouOKSis, which were being utilized to create awareness of black feminism. Nor experienced I seen #GirlsLikeUs, which the authors use as an example of community building and advocacy, in this situation for transgender girls. 

Eventually, #AllMenCan and #WhiteWhileCriming analyze the way offers of allyship can convert into appropriation. In their example, what started as white guys presenting to join in opposing discriminatory policing by giving illustrations of situations when they were being let off lightly for infractions for which their non-white counterparts would have been much more seriously punished, turned into a performance of privilege. 

The authors do not propose that on-line organising is plenty of by alone to outcome actual social change. But, they conclude, on-line matters. “Peak cyber utopia” may have to wait around.

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