9.14 Cute Cats and Civic Society

9.14 Cute Cats and Civic Society

Ethan Zuckerman’s Cute Cat theory of digital activism

Pros and cons of Facebook activism

Clay Sharky Political Power of Social Media


Zuckerman’s article aims to prove that is is harder to shutdown websites that people use to share pictures of their cute cats then just proxy servers because  those websites are representative of large social networks like facebook, tumblr, and twitter which are open to everyone regardless of political or social persuasion. When a government shuts down these huge networks, it is a very authoritarian act and seems much worse than shutting down just one blog. For instance, when Egypt blocks twitter, they shutting down everyone’s voice not just one voice.

“The Political Power of Social Media” discussed how the opinions that are transmitted through media help form social opinions. The article briefly touched on the history of spreading social opinion within social media. For instance, it discussed smuggling xerox machines behind the iron curtain to aid in underground press or “samizdat”;  in Belarus, Lukasenko’s 2006 attempt to control social media,  in Iran 2009, the Green movement protests against Mr. Hussein Mousavi’s revolution; the Red Shirt uprising in Thailand; and in Phillippines, 2001, the 7 million text messages that forced people to gather in support against their government.

Do digital tools enhance democracy, yes?

Yes, but here are some of the arguments for facebook not being those most democratic tool for social activists.

  1. Administrators get limited control
  2. Messages get lost
  3. Key arguments can be lost
  4. Serial activists on Facebook weaken the cause by moving onto whatever cause is next.
  5. Facebok doesn’t really incorporate the ladder of engagement that say something like people’s mike at occupy wall street does.
  6. Repressive governments are using Facebook to squash dissent.
  7. Governments are gaining increasingly sophisticated means of monitoring, interdicting, and coopting tools
  8. its a passive way of getting involved

My rambling:

I believe that an efficient system is one that accepts diverse opinions but is also driven by common purposes and values. I think that most efficient systems have a mediator. In other words, I do not think its efficient for everyone to talk about all of their problems all at once otherwise it turns into a situation where everyones talking at the dinner table and all that is heard is noise not discussion. I know enough about everyone talking at once at the dinner table to know that it is incredibly frustrating and that its difficult to make sense of the conversations.

The author mentioned in the article that  “disciplined and coordinated groups have always had the advantage over undisciplined” . I vehemently agree with this idea.

This is my opinion of the face book environment for debate:

Sometimes its makes me really uncomfortable when people start debates about very private issues on Facebook. Earlier in the year, there was a court case of a young women raped by New York City police officers that many friends commented on which lead to massive threads on their walls. It just made me cringe a little when I saw people debating such a sensitive, sexual assault crime. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable debating about it on Facebook.

– I went to a rally for Planned Parenthood last year and posted controversial pictures of vaginas signs promoting women’s sexual rights to Facebook. I got a lot of likes from people who supported the issue but I never really got a taste of those didn’t support the issue. I’m trying to point out that it is easy to see  those who support the issue, which is a biased perspective.

– Sometimes it becomes a tiring exercise to debate about topics on facebook and debates on Facebook come off as more threatening than productive.

For example, I have a friend who was was lashing out at someone who was complaining about occupy-wall street movement. The person removed her comments which were somewhat pushy. This turned into a passive aggressive, katty fight.


– Also its sometimes nice when people open up issues to discuss on facebook.

But I think people go out of their way to say things that they wouldn’t say in real life because they can, and plus they have a computer to hide behind, this can open a lot of ground for anger and resentment.

– Finally, this is my opinion but I think that in the Facebook  platform, its harder to admit to someone “ yeah, I was wrong, I’m open to hearing your points”  because you’re put on public display. The psychology is sort of like you don’t want to show weakness or indecision or admit defeat.