As you may have already gathered from my other blog posts on this website, my primary academic interests lie in the origins of democratic civil society and eighteenth-century worlds of print. What you may not know is that outside of the classroom, I’ve spent most of my life championing for equal rights as a social and political activist. Interestingly, as the internet continues to grow and change, it seems as though my academic and personal interests are beginning to overlap with one another in the form of what is referred to as Cyber-Activism.
In a 2015 podcast for PhilosophyTalk.org, John Perry defined Cyber-Activism as “political activism that is made possible by the use of cyber tools like email, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites.” Essentially, the internet has now made it possible for activists to spread their messages to a wider audience than ever before by using digital platforms as their soapboxes. As you can imagine, this has certainly changed the face of activism; for proof, one need only recall the Egyptian Uprising of 2011, in which social media played a crucial part in letting the rest of the world know what was going on in that country when all other vehicles for communication were locked down. During the Egyptian Uprising, people around the world changed their IP addresses – or the digital string of numbers that tells other people and the internet the location from which you’re accessing the internet – to Egyptian IP addresses. They did this to protect Cyber-Activists in Egypt from having their identities exposed, which would have led to them incurring the wrath of their government for spreading this information. Or think about the fact that with the internet, we are now plugged into a global 24-hour news cycle, capable for the first time of watching events unfold in other parts of the world in real-time.
To me, Cyber-Activism is a stellar example of how the invention of the internet represents a new era in the way humans communicate with each other and advocate for those in need. With more access to information and to each other than we’ve ever had before, this shift is as historically significant – if not more so – than the one that occurred after Gutenberg invented the Printing Press. I, for one, am certainly looking forward to witnessing the myriad other ways that the internet will help propel us into a brighter future…a future in which it is virtually impossible to plead ignorance about the injustices that are committed every day around the world.