Monday night is my yoga night. I’m not really very good it, I don’t really have the bendy, but I made a New Years resolution. This Monday however, I decided to put the yoga on hold and attend a gig at Auckland Museum.
As part of a series of talks called LATE the last one of the season was The Age of Slacktivism and the lineup was interesting. Hosted by Russell Brown the guests were Marianne Elliot (from Action -Station, a digital community building initiative), Nicky Hager (no explanation necessary), Laura O’Connell – Rapira ( the person behind the RockEnrol campaign that aimed to increase youth voter participation) and …wtf? Mathew Hooton?
I purchased tickets and advertised on Facebook for friends to accompany me. Perhaps it was a reflection of the line up but I attracted an eclectic group of buddies. There were two student buddies from Uni, a senior lecturer from the school of english and a left wing blogger, rumoured to be the most opinionated man in the land and all were keen to attend. Things were shaping up nicely.
It was to be my first gig at the museum and I was excited thinking that if the panel wasn’t riveting I could sneak off and get a selfie with the elephant. Not that I was expecting that. But maybe after?
Admittedly I arrived already with a pretty set view, but I was interested on a discussion pertaining to the topic. Because I am a thinking grown up and I do not believe the Facebook post claiming it can help cure ebola. I have been vocal in my slamming of many a social media campaign, including #bringbackourgirls, the no make-up selfie, the ice-bucket challenge and the endless plethora of petitions. I am also struggling to see a result from any of these actions. Passports still expire every five years, the dolphins are still dying and the girls are still missing.
However, I am keen to see if Slacktivism can be encouraged into greater political engagement and action. I am also keen on being part of a discourse around supporting each-others campaigns and a more cohesive response on issues of shared interest. I am especially keen to pursue this on the left and particularly when we have common ground and similar goals. Okay, I’ll be honest. I was looking to network. (Don’t be a hatin’!)
The first thing that struck me when we arrived was the fact that it was a sell out. I wasn’t expecting that. The other thing was that I was a tad under-dressed. Crikey. They’re quite a well heeled group these ‘friends of the museum.’ There were even people wearing suits! Good grief. You don’t see that at most of the political events I attend!
The housekeeping included instruction on which hashtag to use & to turn our phones to silent but by all means tweet away. Approximately 70% of the audience looked puzzled. It is fair to say that Grey Power represented. Then we were welcomed by Moana Maniapoto and Paddy Free, with a mixture of words and waiata that together told Moana’s story of Maori activism. It was great. Things were looking up! I wasn’t going to need the elephant after all.
Russell Brown, who was tired from work, (me too) kicked off by giving us a definition. Ah oh. Then the introductions and straight into a guided discussion on Slacktivism. All of the panelists were interesting. I think they may have been particularly interesting to people who engage in Slacktivism. What became apparent especially with Elliot, Hooton, and Hager were the limitations of Slacktivism. This was nicely reinforced by Hager repeatedly referring to internet activism as a tool. Mathew Hooten, who looked just like he did on the telly, was wearing a suit that even to this untrained eye looked like a very good suit with fully grown up shoes, and was also charming and amusing. (No really. Don’t be like that!) In fact, without him it would have been really quite dry.
The discussion fell well short of where I wanted it to go, which is motivating the Slacktivists to Activists, but that is a different conversation for a different crowd. To be fair the discussion was perfectly pitched for that audience. The take-home from my position is that the Slacktivists present, might put a little more thought into which online petitions they sign.
What I would like to eventuate from the discussion is another. The next step. Perhaps not at the museum, and when Russell Brown is not tired and more on the ball like he was at the Fabian Election Autopsy. The same line up, but a few more activists and a focus on how to progress the passion of social media into action. Something more informal yet also more informed. I am curious to see what right wing liberals wear when relaxed? I am also keen to see if all the voices I hear on The Twitter, on Facebook and on the blogs will turn up and talk? In real time. How many of you reading this are Slacktivists just waiting for an invite to become an Activist?
It’s nearly New Years again. A perfect time for turning pixels into resolution.