Can technology amplify activist voices?

Photo of masked protesters by Richard (CC BY 2.0)



ETHAN CARDINAL: We’re an age where love seems to be dialled down to a simple motion of swiping right,  and where watches are used as phones – and who could forget the debunked myth of phones listening in on user conversations. It’s safe to say we’ve overindulged in the race to the future. While it’s easy to nitpick every issue that comes with technological advancements everyone seems to agree with the fact that they connect people from all walks of life and allowed citizens to reach a heightened state of awareness when it comes to social issues. And from this, powerful messages from activists are being heard all over the world.

I’m Ethan Cardinal and in this podcast I talk about the substantial impact technology has in aiding protests. I still find it crazy to believe that a decade ago I carried an iPod Nano, a beaten-up Nokia phone that felt like a brick and a wallet in my pocket. Fast-forward to now where all three of these things have been combined on one device. There are kids (yes, I say kids even though I’m only 22) that don’t have a single memory of life without the internet. I remember overhearing this mother at the supermarket explaining to her son about the concept of Blockbuster and renting movies. I was shocked.

The ubiquitous nature of the internet has had a gigantic impact when it comes to aiding protest. Our aptness to pick and choose what type of information we consume reflecting our beliefs may prompt us to form opinions on social causes and join the causes important to us. Yinka Adegoke is the Africa Editor at Quartz and spoke at the Business of Fashion’s Voice 2019 panel about technology’s capability in heightening social awareness.

YINKA ADEGOKE: Inequality being an issue, is there more inequality? Perhaps, but what there is definitely a lot more of is awareness of inequality. I can see what other people have now, I can see democracy, or the rights change in government in the neighbouring countries, I can see it in real time.

ETHAN CARDINAL: I don’t think you can get a much better example than the January 10th Protest. Appropriately named ‘Sack ScoMo-Fund the Firies-Climate Action Now’ it saw more than 30,000 attendees in the rain calling for Scott Morrison’s resignation and aid for firefighters in the wake of devastating bushfires that burnt through Australia earlier this year. Organised by ‘Uni Students for Climate Justice’ the event reached more than 50,000 thousand people with their message being shared all across social media. Janine Gibson is the Assistant Editor of the Financial Times and spoke at the same panel as Yinka. She discussed the effect technology has on spreading information.

JANINE GIBSON: Everybody sees everything, all protest seem immediate, everybody goes to bed tweeting ‘the world is burning’ whether they’re talking about their bus Q or they’re actual neighbourhood. Or the President of the United States. And there’s this sense of increasing panic, which spreads like wildfire.

ETHAN CARDINAL: While the future is uncertain, the advancement of technology has given nearly anybody the chance to have their voice heard. And it’s through a necessary evil such as social media that this guerrilla tactic of protest within the digital scape can tip the scales of justice.