Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a Master’s project I did on soap operas, online activism, and their juncture in the Save Our Soaps (SOS) movement. Here, I list the reasons Manuel Castells, a scholar on online/activism, says it is distinct–and powerful! Use this info to think about starting your own SOS group (I did for this this Master’s project at thistimeitsforever.org)! If you want more info, also, it will probably be posted here in future Monday Original Blogs. Or you could email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Online activist movements:
- “They are networked in multiple forms.” Online activism involves both online and face-to-face networking. For TTIF this meant, again, that the website thistimeitsforever.org is crucial, but using it to initiate face-to-face interaction is as well.
- “They become a movements by occupying the urban space.” TTIF hasn’t as yet but will gather people together in face-to-face activist instances, such as a protest or a rally. These spaces will likely be urban, as most network headquarters or advertising companies’ headquarters, are in urban spaces.
- “The space of autonomy is the new spatial form of networked social movements.” Castells essentially reiterates Gerbaudo’s belief that online activist initiatives involve “soft” rather than “hard” leadership, recognizing the sovereignty of each activist that joins a movement. In TTIF’s case this meant requesting individuals to like its Facebook page and follow it on Twitter, but not to demand anything of them anything for membership—no fees, information cards, set of beliefs, etc. TTIF may in the future ask for donations and fundraise if need be, but I do not see these as violating Castells identification of what constitutes contemporary online activism. TTIF fundraising would never be coercive or requisite. It might take the form of crowdsourcing, wherein TTIF would establish a fundraising goal for a specific reason and use a website like kickstarter.com to provide a space for people to donate money to reach the goal.
- “Movements are local and global at the same time.” While online activist movements often commence in response to particular events in particular spaces, because of the reach and electronically networked nature of the Internet they involve activists from around the world. They also teach and learn from activists and activist initiatives in global contexts. For TTIF this meant two things. First, saving soaps has no central location that it takes place in. This physical dispersal makes it particularly important to keep members united through building an online community that meets in public as well, which TTIF has not yet but will do. Second, it was a reminder to involve the international audience of fans of U.S. soaps, which is large and vociferous. It will eventually mean, as I continue to develop TTIF as an activist movement, linking to international SOS and general soap fan websites to harness the power of global community.
- “In terms of their genesis, they are spontaneous in their origin, usually triggered by a spark of indignation.” Here again Castells agrees with Gerbaudo that, as Gerbaudo writes, online activism must “trigger and harness emotion” through the use of online spaces and tools. Hence I use TTIF’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and the blog attached to and linked from it to continually remind soap fans why and how they must act or risk losing their soaps and the soap genre as a whole. And TTIF certainly grew out of a “spark of indignation,” the cancelation of Loving in 1995, the cancelation in 2009 of Another World, As the World Turns, and Guiding Light, and the more recent cancelation of both the broadcast and online iterations of All My Children and One Life to Live. Certainly I took a while (until 2014) to decide to act based on my “spark,” but these cancelations eventually made me indignant enough to decide to create my own soap opera advocacy group.
- “Movements are viral.” This simple statement reminded me as I created TTIF and will serve as an ongoing reminder that getting TTIF’s identity and requested activist actions out on as many online space by liking and posting to other SOS groups’ Facebok pages, tagging other SOS groups and soap fans in Tweets, following other SOS groups on Instagram, blogging consistently ever Wednesday (the day I chose to write an original post on the blog connected to TTIF) are vital to spreading its activist message about saving soaps and the soap genre.
- “The transition from outrage to hope is accomplished by deliberation in the space of autonomy.” I see TTIF as part of a broader, leaderless movement in which agreement on goals and the means to accomplishing them comes from interacting in online spaces with other SOS groups and individual soap fans. TTIF does not seek to be the chairperson of the SOS movement, but to work within it to see its goals come to fruition.
- “The horizontality of networks supports cooperation and solidarity, while undermining the need for formal leadership.” Again, Castells echoes Gerbaudo in seeing online activism as resistant to a “head” of a movement. Rather, TTIF as an online activist campaign works in conjunction with other SOS group initiators and soap fans to realize the goal of resurrecting and preserving individual soap operas and protecting the soap genre.
- “They are highly self-reflective movements.” For TTIF, in following this Castellian dictum, I will continually reevaluate why and how TTIF functions. I have and will deliberate with other SOS leaders and individual soap fans in deciding what courses of action to take and not take in preserving soaps and the soap genre.
- 10. “These movements are rarely programmatic movements.” Here Castells means that contemporary activist movement usually have “multiple demands.” The SOS movements and TTIF are no different. We want multiple soaps back on the air, for example.
By Akbi Khan
Edited by Akbi Khan
© Copyright Akbi Khan 2015