iO9 just published my essay on what the future of civil disobedience in the online space could look like. Check it out!
In the offline United States, civil disobedience is widely respected as a valid form of political activism. It also has a widely recognized form. Indelible images of Rosa Parks, lunch counter sit-ins, and street marches from the 1950s and 60s civil rights era established what civil disobedience looked like. Civil disobedience looked like an embattled minority bravely standing up in face of clear injustice. It looked like people taking a stand with their bodies and their identities, and often getting arrested.
This pattern of public, performative defiance of injustice, followed by arrest, has become part of the recognized script for political activism in the United States. It’s how we expect activism to happen: on the streets, in public, where everyone can see your face. Adhering to a recognized script is essential to political activism that is reliant on the attention of the media to be effective.
But today, civil disobedience often looks very different. Networked technologies mean our opportunities for effective political activism have increased exponentially. Where activists once put their physical bodies on the line to fight for their causes, online activists can engage in digitally-based acts of civl disobedience from their keyboards. There are three major lines along which digitally-based civil disobedience is developing: disruption, information distribution, and infrastructure. Each has its own particular challenges and benefits.