Amnesty International* has just launched a new ad campaign here in the UK. Based on the ‘butterfly effect’ it encourages users to ‘pocket protest’ using their mobile phones to sign petitions or donate money. An example poster is “A woman texts from Tottenham Court Road and a torture cell in Bahrain closes forever.” This alongside the much over-discussed Kony 2012 campaign has made me think.

Is sending a text, putting up a poster, or posting a video on your facebook page really action?

One of the arguments for these sorts of campaigns is that they are raising awareness and bringing knowledge to a larger number of people. Should there be a considered difference between information and knowledge? Does this knowledge lead to action? How can it lead to action?

Is this a new form of activism and does it have potential to be used within Sustainment?

*This is not intended to knock Amnesty International, I think they have done a lot of very positive things in the world, I’m just interested to discuss this new type of ‘activism’ that seems to be being used currently.


  1. daniel /

    I believe is more about strategy, the strategy is interconnected, it is a system… there are no separated actions but a whole connection of different actions, the difference between them is that each of them are relational and depends on the others. A single action cannot do… a lot of different separated actions cannot do either… but interconnected actions towards a purpose can become activism.

    Actions cannot bring knowledge, but they can motivate knowledge to happen… actions are full of information, but knowledge cannot be sent or be put in others head. I believe the importance lies in what happens to that information, if it is merely unlinked information or if it can become motivation for the acquisition of knowledge.

    It is actually not a new form of activism; the only thing that has changed is the tool you use for spreading information.

  2. Liam /

    My worry with this form of activism is its mediation of, and the value propositions it places on, suffering. When used to highlight torture or the use children as soldiers does it abstract the horror of these issues to the point of trivia? Yes it may raise awareness (although as with Kony2012, i would always be suspicious of who this awareness really benefits), but does it really help us empathise with those who are suffering – i am not sure. I worry that equating the cruelty and pain that quite literally, unmakes someone on the same to premium rate text message is deeply questionable. It is perhaps the charity sector responding to the evermore abstracted world and its atomised inhabitants.

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