Hashtag politics: 4 key ways digital activism is inegalitarian | Jen Schradie

A key claim that’s made around digital activism
is that it is this more egalitarian space and also enables a wider variety of people
to participate because of the lowered costs of participation. And this argument is made because of how expensive
it is in terms of time and energy, for example, to print out flyers or go to a meeting to
plan an event. Someone may need to pay bus fare or gas or
pay for child care. And so many have argued that digital activism
really lowers the costs for political participation. However, I found that this argument really
doesn’t consider the costs that people who may not already have a computer or a smartphone
or high-speed internet access or a data plan that allows you to be on social media constantly,
which uses up a lot of data, that these are very high costs for people who are struggling
at the margins. And yes, certainly we hear reports of viral
videos of working-class folks posting something, some injustice, and that’s very real, but
those are outliers compared to people who do have more resources who are able to engage
on a regular basis. And what I found is that the middle- to upper-class
groups were much more likely to have higher levels of online engagement than poor and
working-class groups. And the reason is, first of all, organizationally. So groups who have more middle- to upper-class
members tended to just simply have more computers and skills and general resources, but I also
found individual reasons. The individual members, they really lacked
what I call ASETs. So they tended to lack access — A for access. Some people had to drive, for example, 10
or 20 miles to their aunt’s house who happened to have a computer, or they had to go to the
library, or maybe they had a computer but it’s not working so well. So basic access was important. So the next part of ASETs is S, skills. So really understanding the nuance of how
Twitter works was really intimidating for people — how the Facebook algorithm works. People talked about learning how — maybe
even going to a training to learn about how to build a website but not really being able
to sustain those skills. But most people didn’t even have those basic
skills at all. The other issue that I think is really key
and part of this ASETs — so A-S-E — is empowerment. So many people I talked to said, well, I’m
not a computer person or I don’t get up there in talking about Twitter, this very hierarchical
sense of that’s up there, I’m down here. That’s not for me. One woman told me Twitter is too fast. I just can’t keep up. And this idea of feeling entitled and empowered
to engage in these tools that for middle- to upper-class folks just feel normalized
or part of their everyday routines, but for a lot of people, it’s much more challenging. But the other key point of ASETs is the last
letter, T for time. One worker I spoke with, young guy who’s 25
years old. He was a nursing assistant at a mental hospital. And he had to drive into work. It took him a while. Lived in a very rural area. When he got to work, he had to hand over his
cell phone, and he wasn’t able to use it for his entire shift, sometimes up for 12 hours. And so if you think about then the time that
it took for him to drive back home, he had very little time to be engaged online. And often digital politics happens very quickly. So for people who don’t have consistent online
access like many of us do who have a smartphone and a laptop and perhaps a tablet or other
gadgets that can be substituted in if one isn’t working, for example — that’s not always
the case for a lot of people, and it’s really important to remember that when we see a hashtag
trending that that hashtag may not really be representative of people overall, especially
the poor. And in the issue that I studied, I found over
60,000 tweets, and only one tweet was from a poor, working-class group, which is statistically

Maurice Vega

22 Responses

  1. Yet another problem caused by the staggering level of wealth disparity in the US.
    The number of issues you could solve simply by raising the minimum wage is just mind-boggling. How is America still so far behind the developed world?

  2. chosing one out of two isnt really a choice.
    politics failed a long time ago….
    putting it on a computer aint gonna change shit.

  3. It's interesting to me that she categorizes people into middle and upper class…I think it's much more about age and life experiences ~ and definitely not an advantage for any particular political agenda ~

  4. I find her assessment laughable. Here in NYC I have seen many "poor"/people on welfare walking around with smartphones and yakking/texting/web-surfing/video conferencing all of the time. The vast library system has plenty of internet connected computers that go unused. It is the lower working class who have to cancel their subscriptions to cellular/cable TV/internet just to pay their rent that you don't see on social media.

  5. SHE completely SIDESTEPPED the fact that the ILLEGITIMATELY RICH and CRIMINAL class employs ARMIES of online trolls to vouch for their criminal enterprises. They can spend 1,000,000,000s to twist the algorithms in their favor and spread their lies much more effectively than non-rich criminals or just plain ordinary folks.

  6. Interesting. I get irritated when the rich live their lives with no understanding of or interaction with how poor people live and how hard it is. It's possible to get out of it, but it could be years.

  7. Is she talking about just her country (the US)? Cos I haven't been to a place where what she's saying applies. Many of the poor people I've met have facebook accounts and smartphones. This includes people in countries that are often seen as extremely poor.
    Even in Niger, the poorest country of 2015(according to Al Jazeera and the UN) I saw poor people with smartphones (and they aren't starving btw). Many of them do struggle to make ends meet but for the most part, they have access to food, clothes and shelter.

  8. This is plain social justice propaganda. Hashtag politics simply don’t represent moderate and/or less opinionated people. I would like to vote for ‘radical reasonablism’!! Something without the inherent flaws of both left and right wing, or of progressive and conservative or any other ‘dichotomy’…

  9. On point but it leaves out so much… For starters most people with actual struggles have, well- different priorities. Its not just a matter of time or access. Worries, what values are set on what and so on also count- it may be too abstract for everyday statistics but ones reality affect their outlook and how they think. Much like philosophy in greece, 'digital activism' only exists as a luxury. True time and empowerment are all part of it but the whole outlook a person has is born from it.The more 'enlighted' (not just the more privileged- theres outliners in every class, i for one come from a family without any study and did so against the odds) have a different set of perspectives, understanding, expectations (including some wrong ones too, detached from reality).

    In short one part cares for it, and have expectations it works- the other doesn't understand or get it (not saying dumb- just another reality), and the ones that do… they don't care. They don't share the same expectations- their view on reality is one, probably more grounded, where this is… well… far less impactful and meaningful then proper action for example, or changing the system or whatever. What i get from my pov (i come from poverty, heck im still poor and in a third country) is a cynical view from the lower classes.
    And frankly… they(me included) might be more on point. Sadly.

    Theres also the debatle effectiveness of digital activism. I don't question theres some good impact from it, but frankly it probably is causing as much damage. Not only its less efective then taking some actual action it keeps it all in a superficial low-investment, low-stakes level that have only convenience going for it- all the while helping feed the bad side of it, how it aligns with 'social justice' and heated arguments that are divisive above all. For every person it touches the right way it triggers 1 or more who won't just 'not get it' but may as well get more inspired to go against it.
    And well, those who have to deal with very real problems of putting food on the table and such are smarter in very quickly seeing it for what it is.

  10. I think this is a good message, ignore the trending hashtags, they don't accurately reflect society's views.

    Often times I find myself horrified by what I see trending, and this is a comforting reminder that the crazy you see on Twitter is a relatively rare occurence in the real world.

  11. I think it's funny how retards can't tell the difference between "social justice" from sociology and how much access of time and technology classes have

  12. Well it's definitely inaccurate to say that one in 60,000 tweets is an appropriate ratio of lower class to middle/upper-class representation on Twitter. So I don't get it what is an effective low-cost meaningful way of participating social activism? For truly poor people in the lower class which I am representative of.

  13. waaaahhhhh waaaahhhhh… BS – some wanna be opinionist "talking down" to everyone …just because we have little in the way of resources doesn't mean we're too stupid to know where to access such – just a looser trying to create a perception of generalized victimhood – you wouldn't survive in the real world lady – we have phones, pads, maybe an older version of a computer …I don't know anyone who doesn't have something (well, the old lady two doors down, but she also watches a box TV)… you can go to the library, or school, and internet service is provided at just about any fast food restaurant these days – and oh gee, we don't have skills (we're growing up with better skills than you!) – your the one who sounds like she not so bright (you need training? lol) … sounds like your talking to boomers, not activists (and still talking down to them) – and oh gee, we're suppose to feel sorry for someone who probably gets overtime at their job? bet he can afford a descent computer, lol …and gee, he doesn't have to live his entire life through social media (sounds better good) – I think you need a life… and the way you move your head around, is someone constantly stepping on your toes?

  14. And you fail to consider that the cost of a computer is on a high speed downward dash course.
    A used High end smartphone can at this point obtained for ~200$ if it's just 2 years old.
    A used low end phone can sometimes just be found in the trash. If you really want one right now you have to spend about 50$ for a good one in near mint condition.
    We already passed the point where you are already misspending your money when you drive to a computer because the price of the ride is already a significant chunk of a working computer.

    So the real problem lie somewhere else, see "people having to work 12 hour shifts without human dignity." for example. The problem is obviously not tech, it's politics. This sounds like severe mental gymnastics to shift the blame to technology and away from politics. But i guess that's the american way, slavery is a human right after all. If someone has the money to buy another person it's obviously their right to own that person. It's not just americans who disguise it that way. The "american way" is just a figure of speech way to fitting here.
    There are also lots of people in europe who go very silent if you phrase it like this. Germany has a similiar problem. It's not that untrue to say that the "welfare" system just barely keeps alive inactive work drones so that they can apply pressure to minimum wage workers. As in: Oh, you don't wan't to do unpaid overtime? I got 20 people who will do it! The human auction house Arbeitsamt just offered 20 yesterday. Sometimes you even hear sentences exactly like that. And even if no one says it it is the obvious implied threat of the system. It's in fact a very common criticism on how it is handled and it's real life effects.

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