Aboriginal Advocacy Via Web 2.0 and Social Media

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TWITTER – A social media platform for aboriginal activism – #AMINEXT

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Web 2.0 and social media provides Aboriginal groups and individuals alike an opportunity to challenge the non-Aboriginal Canadian citizenship, the state, its institutions and humanity at large thus creating an opportunity for all to join forces and push for social change. For example, the very recent, (September, 2014), Aboriginal movement ‘#AMINEXT’ was spearheaded by a single individual, Holly Jarrett, who is urging people to “demand a public inquiry from Prime Minister Stephen Harper into the 1,181 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women nationwide.” Today, Jarrett’s virtual news report has 237 shares; shares are Aboriginal young women posts that support Jarrett’s cause and who have displayed their photo with a hand-drawn statement billboard; additionally the site also boasts 272 comments. This demonstrates the impact of ‘one’ on Web 2.0 versus the traditional face to face protests.

A group of us got together today to take a picture to contribute to the #AmINext? Campaign. We care…  http://instagram.com/p/s0vnc4DDwQ


A group of us got together today to take a picture to contribute to the #AmINext? Campaign.
We care… http://instagram.com/p/s0vnc4DDwQ

Through the use of the eight virtual affordances: “visibility, persistence, editability, association, commenting, accessibility, viewability and validation”(Obar,2012,p.212), advocacy groups see Web 2.0 and social media as the democratizing vehicle needed to strengthen their virtual advocacy campaigns.

The first, visibility; enhances the Aboriginal advocates’ ability to make their “behaviours, knowledge, preferences and communication network connections visibility” (Obar, 2014, P. 215) to both private and public sectors of the Aboriginal and non-aboriginal global Web 2.0 communities.

Persistence, the second attribute, enables consistency.  The viewers/users see a consistent product and are able to revisit the site and see the same message over and over.

The third, editability; “suggests that Web 2.0 interfaces often allow individuals to write and rewrite material before publishing online” (Obar, 2014, p.215).  Web 2.0 provides users with the abilities to “search, browse, annotate, repackage, mashups,” (Obar, 2014, p. 215) create wikis, provide comments, build webpages and blogs, and create memes et certa.

Association, the fourth, refers to the various digital relationships the Aboriginal Activists’ create and build online, such as: the establishment of “person-to-person, person-to-content, content-to-content,” (Obar, 2014, p. 215)  activist-to-state, and activist-to-humanity.

The fifth, commenting; allows for the advancement of dialogue between the creator-to-user and between user-to-user thus developing the communication network which helps to advance the knowledge and understanding of all parties participating in the digital dialogue(s).

The sixth, accessibility; allows for a “structured interaction through limited and directed forms of access to [the] content and services.” (Obar, 2104, p.215)  For example, although anyone may be able to view the content and comments on the majority of Aboriginal web sites one must ‘sign-in’ with an email address and/or password to physically access the site.  This may deter a significant amount of hate speech and should someone utilize the site for the use of spreading hate speech or make threatening comments the individual’s IP address would identify them.  Although this is not a full-proof method, it is a deterrent.  Another interesting Web 2.0 phenomenon that supports activism occurs when other users ‘shut down haters’ in support of the advocacy group therefore stifling the voice of the ‘hater’ and reinforcing the voice of the creator.

The seventh claim, viewability; touched on previously “allows users to view aspects of content that would otherwise be restricted.” (Obar, 2014, p. 215)

Finally, validation; “an enhanced ability to work toward content accuracy” (Obar, 2014, p. 215).  Accuracy comes in the form of users viewing the content and using their accessability to ensure the data being shared is accurate and if it is not the user is able to ‘comment’ and inform the creator of the discrepancy.  Clay Shirky (2008, p.20) suggests that “we are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organization.”

Web 2.0 and social media provides advocacy groups and individuals alike an opportunity to have a voice and to have that voice heard by Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals alike. As the use of Web 2.0 and its social media platforms as advocacy tools continues to evolve and as media types multiply, it is important that new empirical research continues to assess the effectiveness and extent that virtual technologies facilitate social change against hate crimes and hate speech and thus eliminate the Canadian crisis of Aboriginal missing and murdered women.

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