• Jonathan E-W

    An interesting analysis, but an unhelpful one. You write:

    [I]There were no Loraxes spearheading the January fight against the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) and its sibling in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). No single man or woman emerged to pave the way toward defeating the measures or to speak for the crowd. The crowd spoke for itself.
    I can give you the name and organizations of the people who started the PIPA protests. Folks at BoingBoing.net. FreePress. Niche media. Various others had a strategy to build resources (WordPress plugins, etc), partnerships (Wikipedia, etc) and calls to action. I mean, fightforthefuture.org exists specifically because of this. Someone did this. There are interesting things happening, but the “crowd spoke for itself” is disempowering and unhelpful.

    Komen was the same story: it wasn’t leaderless, it was a smart engagement team (Planned Parenthood) doing battle with a stupid one (Komen). It started with a Planned Parenthood mass email. Not mysterious.

    This is not spooky Internet magic. It’s organizing, an old game played with new tools. If the SOPA Strike seems mystical, perhaps it’s because the people involved tend to be really, really good at the new tools. But the game stays the same: build awareness, gather support, demonstrate power, aim at strategic targets. This is not new.

    Perhaps what we’re really seeing is how atrophied and corporate the non-profit sector has become in the last 50 years? Mass mobilization without a grant proposal and a senior staff visioning retreat? So strange!

  • Jeff W

    I respectfully disagree with the statement that this article isn’t helpful, though I do agree that the concept of “leaderless movements” is bit of an overstatement. The protests that have gone viral seem to exhibit a combination of factors – a cause that resonates with the masses being just one. Getting the attention of “connectors,” people or organizations with a wide distribution network or celebrity status, is another. I’d like to see a deeper dive to discover the “tipping point” at which protests like this took off on a widespread basis.

    There is a great [LINK=http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_allocca_why_videos_go_viral.html]Ted Lecture by You Tube Trend Manager Kevin Allocca[/LINK] analyzing how videos go viral which highlights the three main ingredients:
    1. Tastemakers, 2. Communities of Participation, and 3. Unexpectedness. Worth exploring the phenomenon of social activism in the same context.

  • Sarah Paynter

    This was very well written. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing!