Virtual activism absent content

Ran across this site: Go Petition is petition hosting portal that allows users to create and visitors to sign electronic petitions. What’s fascinating is that the site is not embedded in a larger site that has an agenda. The site owners claim that they have no political affiliations. So anyone can use it. Petitions range from exhortations to the Chinese government to stop the cruel treatment of bears all the way to entreaties to the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants to continue the television series. And there are very local pages as well, like eliminating parole for specific prisoners. This site elevates the means – the petition writing – over the ends – the petition goal.

You would think that absent a connection to a major group (e.g., clicking through the Greenpeace site to their petition), no one would want to sign these petitions or even create them. But maybe that’s the point. The creators of petitions may want the immediacy of action; maybe they’ve been alienated from major organizations. Maybe the users of this site just represent the fragmentation and isolation of the modern world, that is, they eschew the face-to-face connection of organizations in favour of the more anonymous activism of the net. The same can be said for the signers: they want to DO SOMETHING but they just don’t know how or don’t want to physically interact with others to find out.

The site does showcase several success stories but one wonders whether or not these kinds of efforts can be effective. Perhaps what they really provide is a vent in a passive agressive society or in a society where people feel relatively powerless.

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