[iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory

Gabriella Coleman biella at nyu.edu
Sun Jun 14 12:00:40 UTC 2009

Just affirming what folks say below, with a slightly different focus. 
When it comes to activism, there is real power in online organizing but 
without face-to-face time, the ties remain weak, though it does not 
necessarily have to be constant face-to-face either. Put the two 
together, especially through the medium of the conference (which I treat 
in my work as ritual underside of publics) and you you get some gas on 
fire (this is also explored in Ned Rossiter's work as well).

One reason that most of the larger FOSS projects scaled so well is 
because of the developer conferences the hold, which are not simply 
pragmatic affairs, but a celebratory ones, often intoxicating 
(emotionally and due to lots of alcohol). Though draining, far more than 
academic ones, which are already pretty tiring, they revitalize 
commitments and keep people attuned and participating. One of the early 
failure, imho, of Indymedia, was not holding a yearly (or every other 
year) conference as it would have helped to sustain the network.

Of course, there are huge environmental factors to consider for this 
modern day pilgrimage (requiring more regional and less international 
events) but nonetheless one that is crucial for making online activism 
sustainable though time.


Gabriella Coleman, Assistant Professor
Department of Media, Culture, & Communication
New York University
239 Greene St, 7th floor
NY NY 10003

I agree with you, actually.  (Which is why I am on this list.  I do
not know any of the people face to face, but I do feel a strong sense
of affection and solidarity, especially when exchanges get personal
and force us to be present, responsible, and accountable to each

I think, however, that the prerequisite for strong online organization
is successful experience to some physical experience.  I am skeptical
about the idea online activism could precede "live" activism.  A
large, diverse, and successful political action is a very hard thing
to pull off....  and the rewards are often realized in subtle ways...
especially if you "lose."  The sense of danger, the feelings of
dependence, the way in which individual limitations are transcended
through solidarity, and how disappointments lead to other positives.

But through all this you learn how to be an activist.  It changes who
you are, becomes a part of your being.  (And in a small community,
especially, it marks you as a particular kind of person, which has its
downsides, but also ups the ante in a good way.)  And, then you kind
of have to seek other people out and connect with them....  which is
where, I think, social media comes in.


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