Response to “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone”

I got sucked into the story that Shirky uses to introduce the idea behind “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” so much that I went to the original website and looked for the 20/20 clip on YouTube (unsuccessfully.) The story is interesting, and I understand what Shirky is saying–the web is a powerful tool, and we need to get students to understand this. I think students do understand this, though, and perhaps feel it is more powerful than it really is.

I don’t think Shirky was thinking about this, perhaps because this article was from a few years ago and I don’t think this was that big of a thing then, but I was reminded of the idea of slacktivism. I know I’m guilty of being a slacktivist about some things; I’ll get sucked into signing a petition on Change.org, then end up signing ten more. I think sometimes this helps, but really, most of them get lost in cyberspace.

I thought of a status Caitlin re-posted on Facebook a couple days ago about slacktivism and how it’s much more beneficial for any cause for someone to actively fight for it, rather than passively signing a petition online. I thought about how I watched the quality show Kathy after class Thursday (come on, I just needed to zone out after all that hard work!) One of the guests was Jane Fonda, and they showed her mugshot from the 70s. While many do not agree with what she was fighting against–and she has actually apologized for it–she was being active about her protest. Kathy commended her for that, and I thought about how there is little that I would actually physically protest against, even though I feel like I’m passionate about a lot of causes.

We talked about a lot of issues in Dr. Ford’s class last semester, and one idea she gave us was to have students write to their congressman about an issue they feel strongly about, and actually send the letters. Physical letters, though it’s pretty easy to correspond with your congressman via the internet these days. Especially in an English classroom, I think this is a great idea. It teaches persuasive writing, gets students writing in general, plus it gets them fired up about something worthwhile. Additionally, we can teach students that there are active alternatives to the slacktivism they are probably used to practicing.

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5 responses to “Response to “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone”

  1. I really like the idea of having students write their representatives. I think by teaching them at a young age how they can exist in a democratic society is so pertinent. A lot of voters feel as if their voices aren’t being heard, I think it is because they aren’t using it in the right forum. Facebook statuses aren’t going to reach Congress (unless they are highly confrontational and threatening), they only serve to rile up folks and cause them to…talk? Use that voice in a forum that will get things done!

    Okay, off my soapbox again.

  2. d cro

    Yes, it’s a lot easier to “contribute” to a cause with a couple clicks than to actually devote a weekend to Habitat for Humanity, write a physical letter, or attend a rally… and like you I question the traction that slacktivism actually gets. Does it help? Maybe a tiny amount… but it’s hardly a substitute for sustained effort, and I would argue, not even categorically similar. You see a lot of this with Facebook status updates–an icon with an arrow along with “This person supports …..” Is this really different from wearing a Save the Whales button in the 80s?

  3. Sam commented on this whole “slacktivism” thing when he commented on my Dumbest Generation post. I’m guilty of this all of the time. Always signing petitions for this, that or the other and of course the “click a sponsor to donate to free mammograms,” that sort of thing. And yeah, man, Greenpeace stickers on the fridge rock the house.

  4. Pingback: Hannah Stone’s response to “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone” « On My Way…

  5. Pingback: Hannah Stone’s response to “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone” by Shirky « On My Way…

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