November 07, 2015

Day of Action: Web App for Decentralized Collective Action - Session at MozFest 2015

tech activism

MozFest is Mozilla’s huge annual participatory festival & conference about the future of the open web. It’s a clusterfuck of creativity, activism and geekiness. This year MozFest is happening on November 6-8, 2015 in London. Below is a quick description of one of two sessions that I’ll be running during the festival. And also please check out my other session: Using Digital Fabrication to Make DIY Activist Gear

When? Saturday November 7, 2015 @ 12:45pm

Where? Taking place in the Digital Citizenship area at MozFest (4th floor)

Session Description:

A “Day of Action” is a common pattern in activism where people & advocacy organizations coordinate large-scale distributed collective actions in different geographic regions. Join this session at MozFest 2015 to learn about an open-source web application that helps people plan a Day of Action. We’ll look at this particular web tool and we’ll discuss patterns in activism. That will then lead into a collaborative design exercise where we’ll sketch out other possible digital tools for activism.

Day of Action example

Campaign webpage for Hands Up Walk Out, a national day of action where high school students across the US walked out of their schools and protested against systemic police violence against black people.

A Recent Example: In December 2014, on the heels police murdering Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, high school students across the US began using #HandsUpWalkOut on social media–they were planning a national student walkout to protest police violence against people of color. This wasn’t organized by any formal organization, just high school kids on social media. There wasn’t a central website or giant email list behind this–just young people who wanted to take action together.

In an effort to support them, I made a quick “Day of Action” web application and put it on HandsUpWalkOut.com. The page showed a map of the upcoming actions and helped people find their local one. In terms of its design, the webpage was nothing special. What was unique about this is that no organizer needed to update the webpage, touch any code or manage any database. The points were automatically added to the map whenever an organizer updated a google spreadsheet. Students across the country submitted their local actions while other students confirmed and approved the actions. Over the next two days, organizers used the web tool to coordinate 100+ walkouts & related actions, garnering over 100k visits and press coverage. This small web tool helped a large number of people who had never met each other to plan a national coordinated action.

How could this tool be improved so that it could be used by other groups or movements? What other tools could we create to support decentralized activism like this? Join this session at MozFest to discuss this.

Who should attend?

People of all different background are welcome. Organizers, designer, coders and all others welcome. No technical background or organizing experience will be assumed.

Hope to see you at this session! You can register for MozFest at: https://2015.mozillafestival.org/. Tickets are £45.

And please check out my other session at MozFest. It’s called “Using Digital Fabrication to Make DIY Activist Gear”. It’s about using laser cutters to make stencils for activism.