Rethinking Online Activism

In an article for Al Jazeera, I wrote about the closure of a long-running and popular Uzbek web forum, Arbuz, which proved an unlikely breeding ground for political expression:

Many have said that we live in an era of journalism without journalists, in which content, and not the credentials of those who create it, is what matters. Rebecca Rosen of the Atlantic has argued that media protection should be less about defining whether someone is a journalist than protecting those who practice journalism – meaning those who share valuable information.

One could also argue that the digital era breeds activism without activists, in which the content of a forum populated by “ordinary” people can have as crucial an effect as that created by self-identified political advocates. Much like bloggers who are “only bloggers”, the inadvertent activists that frequent venues like Arbuz often have little recourse when things go wrong.

When Arbuz shut down, few noticed, in contrast to the widespread outcry that greeted the censure of more overtly political Uzbek websites like Ferghana.ru. Yet it is in these haphazard, amorphous forums that some of the most revealing and relevant discussion of politics in authoritarian states takes place.

Read the full article here.

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