Race and the Digital: Racial Formation and 21st Century Technologies


Some of the Kony 2012 movement has used many methods to get their message across. One of the methods is transmedia organizing. The term “transmedia” was mentioned by Sasha Constanza-Chock. Sasha defines transmedia as a term “used to describe the work of professional producers who create cross-platform stories with participatory media components (Constanza-Chock 48). An example of Constanza-Chock uses an example of an organization using transmedia organization is when Gael Garcia Bernal and Marc Silver started Resist Now (Constanza-Chock 49). The Kony 2012 uses transmedia organizing as a method to get their message across. Looking at their website, they are links to other social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Their main video, which was published on YouTube also has ways to share that video along different social media platforms. So, people could access Kony 2012 media wherever and whenever. That connects with a different term and that is “media bridging.”
            Media bridging is defined as taking information from one channel, reformatting it for another and pushing it out into broader circulation across new networks (Constanza-Chock 63). The Kony 2012 movement used media bridging to make their viral video. They took all the written information found on their website and created a new media to expose their rhetoric and get to more people. The platform they used was of course YouTube, which is a popular video sharing network where everybody and anybody can upload their videos, if they follow YouTube’s rules. Of course with any campaign, social activists want their message heard all over the place, in new media and old media locations.
            Old media is newspapers, radios, and television, basically inventions before the dawn of the 21st century. New media is what people usually use today to get their information. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are examples of new media sources. Even “alternative” new sources such as The Young Turks could be consider new media because they use YouTube to share the news with the public. New media also has the characteristic of being a source of “participatory web.” Coming out of Web 2.0, which allowed Internet users to make an impact on the World Wide Web, “participatory web” allowed people to contribute content such as make, create, and distribute certain types of digital media content such as memes, mash-ups, and video does (Nakamura 4). The combination of old and new media is known as “convergence culture.” Henry Jenkins, a faculty of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism coined the term “convergence culture” in his book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Jenkins defines convergence culture as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about” (Jenkins). An example of convergence culture happened during the 2008 presidential campaign. In the CNN Democratic presidential debate, Anderson Cooper told the audience at the venue and at home that they were going to try something new. Cooper was going to show YouTube videos of average citizens asking questions to the presidential candidates (Jenkins 271). This is a clear example of convergence culture because we have an old media source (CNN) and a new media source (YouTube) coming together to make people feel important and make them part of the political process by having their questions answered by presidential candidates.
            The Kony 2012 campaign has used old media and new media in a combination. Jacob Russell appeared on the Nine News Media being interviewed by two journalists where Russell talks about the power of social media and how people are participating to try and change the atrocities being committed in Uganda. Russell in the interview also promotes his website and the technology that his organization is using to try and create change in Uganda. The British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) did a story looking at the Kony 2012 movement and the criticism that the movement is taking. It seems that the old media, such as news channels took the Kony 2012 campaign and expose it to people who perhaps are not connected to the Internet. It made people aware and some of them wanted to participate in this activism.
            Participation is important when it comes to social activist movements. Charles Tilley and Lesley J. Woods co-authored a book titled, Social Movements 1768-2012. In the first chapter they coined a term, “WUNC.” WUNC is an acronym for “worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment” (Tilley). Worthiness signifies that people dress nicely and to have self-respect for themselves. Unity is when people are on the same page, such as marching in ranks and wearing the same colors. Then there is numbers. This aspect of WUNC means how many people are part of the social movement. How many signatures can petitions get and how many people go to the marches and/or rallies? Then there is commitment. Are people committed with the movement? Are people willing to march when it is raining (Tilley)? These aspects of WUNC can be applied to the Kony 2012 campaign. I am going to focus on unity and commitment.
As I mentioned before, unity in a social movement shows that people that are part of that movement are on the same page. The example that Tilley and Woods uses is people wearing the same clothes when they are marching or having events. The Kony 2012 movement does have merchandise that shows off their symbol. Their symbol illustrates a elephant, the symbol of the Republican Party and a donkey, the symbol of the Democratic Party having their heads together in solidarity with the colors of the United States coloring the two figures. What the movement is trying to do here is to say that the issue of Joseph Kony is not a partisan issue. It is a bi-partisan issue that transcends party lines and if they want to get Kony, they have to end political gridlock and cooperate with each other. The unity aspect is also shown in the main video that was release to promote the movement (“Kony 2012”) also shows members wearing shirts with the symbol on them and also carrying posters with the symbol on them. This leads us to the numbers aspect of Tilley and Wood’s concept of WUNC.
Numbers is the amount of people shows their support of the movement. The “Kony 2012” video shows multiple people in rallies, posting posters on public property, etc. Numbers are needed to make a stronger impact to policymakers or leaders of an industry. What would authorities pay attention too? Five people with pickets in front of the Capitol Building, or tens of thousands of people who are marching and rallying with picket signs and a megaphone? Obviously, the tens of thousands of people marching are going to get the most attention. Russell’s main goal to make the Kony 2012 campaign successful is to bring attention to the existence of Joseph Kony. He proposes that on a specific date, people should cover buildings and walls with images of Joseph Kony so people can know who he is and make him a household name. Russell also encourages people to call their representatives and tell them to make the capture of Joseph Kony one of the priorities. This movement had potential, but succumbed to obscurity.
In the blog presentations, Ana V.H. and Arturo Sotelo used a video titled, “Why hashtag activism isn’t enough to change the world.” The video talks about the trend of viral videos and how they are forgotten rather quickly. The example he used was the “Kony 2012” video. The crux of the video’s argument is that social media campaigns usually fail is because they rely too much on appeal to emotion. These viral videos tend to invoke strong emotions which are only temporary and when people go out to the real world and they deal with their own problems, these viral videos are forgotten. In this case, that what happened to the Kony 2012 campaign. People were passionate about this movement. Even my stepmother bought a kit from their website to support the movement. But when it was time to act, people had other preoccupations and they forget the movement. Now in 2016, Kony 2012 is known as a failure because it did not lead to the capture of Joseph Kony who at this time is still at large.
In the end of the course, we learned how marginalized communities used social media to bring awareness to their oppression. Sasha Constanza-Chock focused on undocumented immigrant movement. The center of the undocumented movement was in California. Back in 2001, a California Assembly Bill (A.B. 540) allowed undocumented youth to have access to in-state tuition fees (Constanza-Chock 132). Another legislation that passed in California was known as S.B. 65, also known as the California Dream Act. This allows A.B. 540 students to access financial aid to attend a higher education institution (Constanza-Chock 132). Currently, there is a federal equivalent trying to pass through the legislation. These legislation passing was due to undocumented youth organizing through transmedia organizing. In Kony 2012, privileged people started a social media campaign to help a marginalized population in Uganda facing atrocities from a warlord. There was good intention people trying to making a change in Uganda, but unfortunately, they did fail. Not all social movements are important. If all social movements were successful, we would be living in a different place, but sadly, that is not the case. 

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