Editing wikipedia- my final practicum post!

I chose to update the Wikipedia page for “online activism”. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to contribute to Wikipedia. I know its open to contribution by its users by design, but I was worried that what I could add may not be seen as coming from credible enough of a source to be worth including. My practicum research consisted of my own observation, and not necessarily facts that I read from scholarly research. In short, I treaded somewhat lightly, adding information and elaborating on concepts where I could. I’ve included photos of the page before I edited it, along with “after” photos so you can see exactly what I wrote:

-First, under the “criticism” section of Internet activism, I elaborated on the concept of digital divides and how it relates to activism, particularly which groups may be left out of activism online (those w/ less access to technology, or lacking technology literacy).






-Second, I expanded upon the idea of “slacktivisim” which was mentioned briefly under the ‘criticism’ section. The idea was introduced without detail, so I expanded upon it by explaining how Internet activism in itself cannot lead to tangible change and that many people fail to be activists beyond their computer.





-Third, I added additional information not touched upon in the ‘criticism’ section by summarizing arguments for and against the belief that the Internet is good for activism.




It ended up being pretty cool to see things that I wrote on a major website like Wikipedia…who knows how long it will stay up, but satisfying none the less. I believe my contributions to the site provide useful and important insight into issues associated with online activism.

Tracking my computerized use…

So I tracked my use of “computerized” devices last night, and I’ve concluded that I stay extremely wired/ connected most the time….no surprise there.

I was (unfortunately) at the library for several hours last night. As I was writing a paper, I had my laptop out. I was simultaneously researching for my paper, writing for my paper, and probably all too often checking Facebook, Twitter, email and my guilty pleasure, Perezhilton.com. My iPhone was also never far. I was using this mostly to text.

After I left the library, I continued to use the internet on my laptop to check my social networking sites, email, and to read lots of awesome stories about the awesome Badgers and the Rose Bowl! If my laptop is not out, I tended to still check these things every now and then up until I go to bed. I watched Netflix through the Wii, so thats hooked up to the internet.

Even as I laid down to bed, I was still “computerized”. I fell asleep to an episode of The League on my laptop. Staying connected through these devices is informative and generally entertaining. However, I wasted a ton of time at the library (as I often do) when I should have been strictly working on my paper. I will be paying dearly for that tonight. I also wish that at night, when I’m off the clock and ready to relax, it was easier to “unplug” and avoid things like email, but its such a habit to check these things regularly. I believe my use of computerized devices is probably pretty reflective of the usual college student, and probably a broader demographic.

A closer look at my Rock the Vote interview

If you all think far back, you may remember that during my presentation on social/ political advocacy I mentioned that I’d been lucky enough to score a phone interview with an employee at one of my organizations of interest, Rock the Vote. I was pretty excited to get the interview. My initial efforts to reach out to my organizations came up short and I didn’t receive feedback after attempts through email, Facebook and Twitter. However, Caitlin got back to me in what seemed like minutes of my sending an inquiry to gather more information for a school project. Given the relatively brief time of the in-class presentation, I was only able to tie in a couple of important points from the interview. I thought the blog post would be a great opportunity to share more, because I felt like the interview was really informative and interesting. Below I’ve attached the questions I asked during the interview. Caitlin’s responses are not precise or in complete sentences, but my aggressive typing during the interview, I believe, was sufficient accurately capture what she said in note-form.

  • What is your job at Rock the Vote?
  • Support marketing team, focus on supporting superiors on the marketing team, managing social media and rock the vote blog
  • How does Rock the Vote use the internet to communicate its message?
  • In a lot of different ways
  • Online voter registration tool accessible through website
  • Way to register most voters in organization
  • 1.6 million voters in 2008
  • widget
  • print and mail to correct count board of elections
  • can install to other websites
  • fully functioning website w/ volunteer hub to sign up to volunteer, join events, create own events
  • list concerts, ticket giveaways, asking for volunteers registering voters at the concert
  • merchandise store online
  • social media
  • twitter: election reminders: local election days, voter registration deadlines, breaking news, updates, ticket giveaways
  • same type of updates on Facebook
  • blog: in-house or out-house writers, write about issues pertinent to young people
  •               ex. college grad wrote on Obama’s plans for student debt
  •                out of the box, opinions
  • press clips
  • interns compile important daily news clips
  •             news in technology, entertainment, breaking
  •             google list serve and on blog
  • What are the most beneficial aspects of the internet for your organization? Do you see any cons?
  • Online voter registration tool is most beneficial
  • Easy, big #s
  • Young people are so into the internet, make process simple, do it in a way that they know
  • Ease of process
  • No downsides to rock the vote’s use of internet
  • Press enter, actually process registration online
  •            What they are encouraging
  •             Encouraging modernization of voter registration
  • Rock the Vote was founded in 1990, prior to the surge of the Internet. How has Rock the Vote adapted to changes in technology over the years, particularly the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?
  • Signed on and used Facebook and Twitter to their advantage
  • Used to make a lot more cold calls, more utilization of phone-athons and going door to door
  • Reaching more people
  •             Now emails
  • There are concerns that the internet makes activism more passive. For example, someone might “like” a group on Facebook but fail to take action beyond that. Do you think this is valid? How does Rock the Vote avoid passive involvement?
  • People who participate in the Internet are probably people who wouldn’t have involved in the first place.
  • This is their way to do it
  • People that would actually do it: internet or not because they have the motivation, reasons, passionate people
  • How do you think that your demographic of young people effects the way that your organization uses the internet, or the overall importance of using the internet to connect with members?
  • Great tool
  • Voter registration tool
  • Modernize to fit them and what they are used to
  •             Doing things online

YouTube vs. Hulu

Well, I watch videos pretty regularly on both YouTube and Hulu, so the first thing that came to mind when I knew we would be comparing the video watching experience between the two, was the difference in…How do I say it? Professionalism, Commercialism, Uniformity? Essentially, Hulu is highly regulated in the content that it appears, in how they let you watch videos, how advertisments are experienced. The video quality is excellent. Youtube is a lot more variable in terms of all these things; particiuarly how and if the content is regulated, and the extent to which Youtube controls what is posted and what isn’t.

I watched an episode of Modern Family on Hulu and a video of Florence + The Machine performing “Shake it Out” on X-Factor UK on YouTube. My expectations were met. When I began my episode of Modern Family I was given the option to watch one long extended-form commercial and then watch the episode straight through without interruption, or to proceed with regular “commercial breaks”. I obviously selected the former, muted my hulu for 3 minutes and un-paused my itunes. Had I chosen the latter option, watching Modern Family would have been very much like watching it on a TV, with commercial breaks from big name sponsors. As an interesting note, Hulu also has a bar at the top of the screen asking if the ad is relevant to you. A great example of how the internet hones in on our interests to market more specifically to us. On YouTube, I actually experienced zero advertising before, after, at the bottom of the screen…while watching the performance. I watched my video in peace. After the video, and along the sides, I was simply provided with links to similar videos.

The different video viewing experiences between the two sites I think captures that they are run quite differently; by a large network with lots of regulations, versus more user-based.


I must be honest when I say that copyright doesn’t cross my mind all that often when I’m online. It’s probably a combination of the fact that 1. I don’t do that many things online that are in violation of copyright (I don’t think…), 2. I’m probably not well-informed enough about copyright rules online, or 3. I’m not worried about the consequences of my behaviors that violate copyright. Whether that’s the smartest thing is a different matter.

I’m not a huge producer of online content so I don’t have to worry too much about violating copyright or other regulations in this realm. If I quote or reference an article, song etc. online I always include the link or “cite” the source, and not claim the content as my own. Where I should be paying attention to copyrights or regulation is when I’m acting as a consumer of online content. Things that I consume online that are likely in violation of some rules would be when I download music or watch TV shows online. I used to download music a lot more than I do now, with little regard for copyright or the artists. Now I make an effort to actually purchase the music of artists I respect and admire because I don’t want to steal there work. Even if they are probably loaded, its there product and they, and others that worked on it, deserve to be compensated. Unfortunately my college student budget can’t keep up with my desire for new music. Admittedly, I use Vuze, which is great (probably not according to copyright regulations…) because it allows you to download entire albums and discographies with one click, verses song by song (like on Limewire). I don’t worry too much about getting in trouble for my music downloading habits because in reality, there aren’t the resources to go after every person that illegally downloads music. If enforcement is going to follow-up with a downloader I assume it would be someone who downloads much more music than me because I know they are out there.

I also use the internet to watch TV shows that I’ve missed or go on marathons of multiple past seasons. I know this isn’t strictly legal also. When I do think about regulations most is when I try endless links and they’ve all been removed due to “copyright infringement” and my favorite sites (RIP surfthechannel) get discovered and basically become useless because of all the broken links. It seems to me as a user that the owners of this material are doing a decent job locating infringements and taking it down. I’m sure after learning more in lecture about copyright I will be more conscience about it online. Whether I’ll actually change my behavior is another thing.

Googlin’ Around

So, as you may know by now we are googling ourselves this week. And that’s what I did…

I am pleased to say not too much about me is out there, or at least surfacing on Google…The first thing that came up for me was two identical links to my Twitter account, just in case you didn’t see the first one or something. This is okay with me. I’m pretty careful not to say or post anything I wouldn’t want employers and what not seeing- I’m not perfect and swear words may work their way into my tweets occasionally. Next you find a link to my Facebook page, where you can see my profile picture and interests, but not my networks.Next were links to mylife.com, under my name. Someone named Katherine Thibeau, married to an Edward Thibeau comes up on ancestry.com.Don’t believe there is any relation. A few of my profile pictures came up under Google images.

The most interesting thing I found was a couple stories on my Aunt Mary Katherine, who passed away in 2004, and now has a scholarship in her name. It was always nice to remember her. I did find an electronic copy of her Minnesota Education license, with the dates of application and renewal. I was surprised that this was out there, just one click away.

Overall, googling my myself was entertaining, but not surprising. I’m glad my identity is relatively private through a Google search. I think privacy online is important and I wouldn’t want anything like my address or phone number popping up to threaten my safety.

Practicum Presentation: Social/ political activism Questions

Hey everyone! So tomorrow is the big day…my practicum presentation. I will be discussing the ways that organizations use the Internet to promote activism, as well as the possible pros and cons of activism online. This ties into the recent conversations in lecture and in discussion regarding whether the Internet improves democracy, or leads to more inequality (think the digital divide) and political disengagment (think “slacktivism”). So I’m wondering…

Certain pros and cons can be identified regarding activist activity online. Overall, do you think that that the Internet brings more positive change to activism, by offering new forms for sharing information, communicating etc. or does the Internet do more harm than good by discouraging more active forms of political/ social involvement and excluding groups with limited access online from being engaged?

I hope this gives you something to think about! See you all tomorrow.

The next step in looking at advocacy online: Facebook creeping

So I thought it would a fun and informative to explore a little deeper the type of member that Amnesty International and Rock the Vote attract online. My methods are by no means scientific or truly representative, thought that would be ideal. Sadly, I just don’t have the means to look at all 32,633 members of the Amnesty International Facebook group or all 301,671 followers on Twitter. I did, however, look at around 30 profiles and a few twitter followers, though Twitter profiles aren’t nearly as informative to the demographics and interests of people. The rise of popularity in privacy controls on Facebook limited a lot of what I could see unfortunately. So who are AI members? Here’s what I found:

Age: There is a wide age range. The oldest person I came across was 68…not too old…but old for Facebook 🙂

Religious views: Everything from Christian to Agnostic to “mind your business”.

Political views: Again quite a variety here. A lot of people didn’t share this information with non-friends. But some interesting ones I found were “all are equal” and “socialist capitalist cynic”.

Interests: All over the place, but often included similar organizations or “activist-minded” activities like the outdoors, Green Peace, staying healthy, and “dancing to the beat of my own drum”.

From: Everywhere! Made me want to do some traveling. Here were some good ones:  India, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Germany, France, Japan, Ireland. Amnesty clearly has an international reach.

Rock the Vote also has a diverse group of members, but is more concentrated on what might come to mind when you visualize activists. That is, there seems to be a greater concentration of young, university students. The organization is aimed at motivating our generation to participate in politics so this makes sense. Also, given it is a national organization, the vast majority of members on the Facebook page are from the United States.

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Facebook members were largely from Madison, WI and surrounding areas. There were a few people from neighboring states, like MN and IL, often having some association with Madison, like being a UW alumni. This makes since, as it is a local organization. Another non-surprising trend given the topic of interest is the larger concentration of female members. Males still have a strong presence though.

While lacking in scientific quality, my profiling of these groups members gave me a better idea of the diversity of people involved in the organzations, but also how their membership make-ups differ from each other based on their reach and message.


Update on political/ social advocacy online…

So…I am still finding myself having a hard time engaging actively with my chosen advocacy groups online. I have continued to reply to news posted on twitter or facebook, and “like” things now and then and what not, but like I said before, the community aspect of providing engaged feedback is somewhat missing so my interactions remain largely at the surface. After my attempts to reach out on Rock the Vote and Amnesty International’s Facebook pages (by disclosing that I was working on a project and would love to know how the organization and its’ members used the Internet to organize and connect) were denied, as they both immediately deleted my posts, I was discouraged about my ability to gather information on their internet use directly. Yesterday, I contacted via email both organizations, as well as Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, the smaller local organization I have mentioned. Amnesty International directed me to their international secretariat. I also emailed their U.S. organization. This is what I said to Amesty International:


My name is Katherine Thibeau. I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. For my communications class titled “Critical Internet Studies” I am doing a project on advocacy groups and their use of the Internet. I selected Amnesty International both for its personal appeal and worldwide recognition. I was wondering if you could help me, or help me to get in contact with someone, who could offer some insight into the ways that Amnesty International uses the internet (including social media, twitter, the website, email etc.) to communicate, organize and connect with its’ members. I realize that your organization has higher priorities than this, but I believe that your information would elevate my project/ presentation and potentially motivate eager college students to join AI or reinstate the UW- Madison chapter.

Thank you in advance for your help!”

My other emails were very similar… I am skeptical about the likelihood that I will here back from Amnesty International and Rock the Vote as they are both very large organizations. I am optimistic that Domestic Abuse Intervention Services will get back to me because they are local here in Madison and I pointed out that my presentation would bring more awareness to the group.

I really do hope that I hear back from the organizations, and that my attempts to dig deeper aren’t rebuffed once again. While I can certainly make inferences about how these organizations use the website based on my own observations and knowledge about how organizatoins in general use the internet, their direct input would provide more credibility and specificity to my understanding. I’ll let you know if I hear back! I’ll be posted again soon “profiling” members of Amnesty International, as well as posting prior to my presentation on wednesday.

#2: Social/ political advocacy groups online: Sharing news

I have spent quite a bit more time since my last practiucm post trying to get more involved with my chosen social/ political advocacy groups online. To recap the bulk of my focus is on the large, global advocacy group known as Amnesty International (AI). I started by checking out the website, joining the facebook group, following them on twitter etc. I did the same for Rock the Vote, which encourages youth political involvment; mainly voting. I’ve alway checked out smaller, local advocacy groups…certainly not all groups have the scope or audience as Amnesty International or Rock the Vote. (I intend to discuss these smaller groups, as compared to larger organizations, and their use of the internet in another post- so look for that!)

So far my attempts to socialize and get involved in Amnesty International and Rock the Vote online have been largely unsuccesful, leading me to think that these organizations prefer to use the internet, particularly social media, as a way of sharing information. Engaging directly with their audiences and encouraging their audiences to engage with each other seems somewhat less important. I’ve come to this conclusion for a few reasons. First, the far and away majority of posts/ tweets by Amnesty International and Rock the Vote share information, rather than ask questions. That is, they tend to be news stories which concern their cause. In the case of Amnesty International, their posts bring attention to news articles and events concerning human rights. These news posts/ tweets are highly frequent. Second, my attempts to engage in debate/discussion through Facebook and twitter were largely unsuccessful. I commented on and tweeted in response to several of the news stories posted by AI and didn’t get much back. Sure, I got a few likes on some of my points or comments (PHOTO), but didn’t received any engaged feedback by the organization or other users. It seems like the posts are published and users proceed to voice their own opinions, but there isn’t that much actual building on the prior comments. Communication is somewhat one way…

Also, I tried to put myself out there on AI and Rock the Vote’s Facebook pages by giving a brief rundown of my project. I posted on the wall that I chose these organizations due to my interest in their causes and I asked members/ users to share how they got involved and they used the internet to facilitate in their engagement in the advocacy group. Both AI and Rock the Vote deleted my posts nearly immediately 😦  I was surprised that my questions weren’t accepted by the organizations. I think they should encourage such questions to highlight the positive affect that the internet may have on garnering member invomnlvement. Specifically for AI, I feel like their message may be lost by the constant posting of current events. Their content is updating so quickly that members’ focus (and AI themselves) seems to move too quickly to facilitate effective, satisfactory discussion focused on specific issues they would like to take action on. Advocacy draws its strength from sustained, compelling debate so they should not miss this important opportunity!

Look for my continued attempts to get involved online, as well as a comparative look at large vs. smaller organizations’ use of the internet. Also looking forward to profiling the users/ members of these advocacy groups to better know what types of people are attracted to and get involved in online advocacy.