Social media for social justice campaigns

I delivered today, in Sinhala, a lecture on how to use social media for social justice campaigns for a group of volunteers from the STITCH Movement, aged between 16 – 30, from across Sri Lanka. The weekend retreat for these volunteers was held in Chilaw, and my submissions were also translated into Tamil.

I looked at how social media could aid social justice, volunteering and rights-based campaigns in Sri Lanka, whether they were youth, individual, community or institutionally driven. I noted that three factors contributed to the growth of social media use in general, and its use in rights campaigns in particular – the ubiquity of broadband for affordable tariffs, unlimited storage on the web for free or very low cost, and the rise of smartphones and tablets.

Slide 9 captured what social media had resulted in, which I said was fundamentally different to the world I grew up and indeed, first started to work as an activist in. Starting with Crowd Voice, I then flagged various apps, tools, platforms and websites that were commonly used by those in Sri Lanka to produce, disseminate and archive content, as well as highlight and debate various issues.

On Instagram for example, I noted @dronestagram, @everydaysrilanka and @srilankabaton as three key examples of accounts that were not run of the mill photos, but either in subject selection or curation, were designed to give insights or perspectives not easily obtained or observed.

I noted how this wasn’t some fringe group activity or marginal content – Kottu, the Sinhala Bloggers Union, Maatram, Vikalpa, Boondi were flagged as loci on the web to engage with content one couldn’t easily access through other mainstream media.

Covering the many ways social media could augment and enhance social justice movements and campaigns, I ended by warning against slacktivism, noting that just downloading these tools, or registering to use them on the web, didn’t automatically bring about the change desired. That architects of that change, I noted, were those I was speaking to. I didn’t have time to go deeply into issues of online safety and security, but I did flag content put out by UNICEF Sri Lanka on Facebook in this regard, which I am told will soon be available in Sinhala and Tamil as well.

For a short video, recorded by STITCH, around what I talked about today, click here.

Some relevant tweets from the sessions today follow.

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