Ecstasy and Despair: How Powerful Emotions Trigger Digital Activism

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Ecstasy and Despair: How Powerful Emotions Trigger Digital Activism
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What does my friend Nicole's bum have to do with breast cancer, murdered young black men, and the future of the Internet? In the last year, we've seen unprecendented social uprising happening online -- it seems like every day, there's a new movement for justice. But what makes a movement catch fire, and how are social technologies shifting our understanding of how power makes the world go 'round? In this talk, Deanna Zandt will connect the dots between amorphous global movements -- #aufschrei, Planned Parenthood Saved Me, Trayvon Martin, Bell Bajao/Ring the Bell, and more -- and reveal the intoxicating combination of power and emotional resonance that make revolutions happen.
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and the and and
that but I'd like to introduce to now on next
speaker Janez DNA is media
technologies and cofounder partner of looks digital she has published a book called shadow based on how social media will change the world for how the change the world a social networking the talk is going to help connecting different dots between different social movements in the Takeda different social movements the women's rights so from the protest that was taking place in India right back to Germany and Al shine so the topic of the talk is how powerful emotions to get digital activism please give a warm welcome to
Deanna and and it to home mn
and where is this will you guys it is so good to be back in Berlin the and people ask me why I come here so much income here few times a year and I tell them it's like New York where I live except without the steadiness you guys are awesome for that so things out would almost assigning to this and that this is gonna be in English but was so as not by exciting others the item for toxic even made and symbolic about by my was excessive barge 9 the problem and alright
then pay days doing no really this is interactive how are you doing the yeah a but great you know
I like italian so have a little bit of a confession to make I of I get a little fed up with my job sometimes I In considering I have clients to depend on me not to do that it's probably a bad thing but I can't help it it happens
and in the thing the big confession that I have to make is that it's the buzz words it's the co-opting of language it's the seamless leveraging of synergistic or
value systems and maintaining mind share brand integrity in the value system of the new economy the word you activist these social change and NGO nonprofit types you're not exempt from this there you're all out there in your crowd platforming we're with social entrepreneurship ventures for who and fund-raising and analytics and impact measurement you make me wanna pull face off the but this it's OK today OK I didn't come
here to talk about this stuff
what I came here to talk about with this this you took away a little bit of
my shame the those are words written by a young woman named Stephanie Stephanie watched the show on MTV were 3 young women told the stories of when they had had abortions after the show aired Stephanie went online and she found the website that my agencies set up for a client exhale who's a nonprofit that's working to change the conversation around abortion and a website was
called 16 and love and there we ask people to submit stories of love and shown love for the women
that went on the show and by all extension all women who have had abortions the Stephanie submitted her own story to the website and she told us that in the 2 years that had been since
she had had an abortion she had not been able to tell a single person in her life but when she saw the
show and then found the website she said you took away a little bit of my shame I could go on and on about
numbers and metrics in why indeed I and sometimes I do I love data I'm a giant nerd how can I not loved data right and I love
teaching people how to use the data to make their work have more impact in meeting but data can
be for data say colonial we have to use these right side of our
monkey brains that we have to tease out the story is that data trying to tell us so let's go here if I tell you that 87 per cent of all women have been harassed on the street or word that 40 to 60 per cent of all women have been harassing
campus or at work that probably makes you angry right it does make you angry the
with me yes there is that yes awesome
OK good angry but within a few minutes you're likely to have forgotten the statistics that I just showed you so but what is in your Twitter stream 1 day you
saw this tweet and for those about speak German that says the doctor who patted me on the bomb after I lay in the hospital from a suicide attempt and then a little while later use of this tree go by the boss of the
vacation club the who as I was packing to go to Spain and to work there sent me an SMS
that asks me to also packet broader belt and then within a day thoroughly thousand stories had been shared the view that also try hashtag on Twitter and they were going 1 right after the other through your Twitter stream how do you feel about harassment now what would you do differently stories are the
spark the emotional resonance that we create with 1 another when we share our stories is what makes any kind of change happen in this world and it turns out
that stories are not just something that we do because we're Boer because we're very creative people it turns out that stories are required by our brains to make
sense of the world stories and narrative functions are the
glue that holds data together in our brains and you see this with little kids when they're starting to develop this story telling function to make sense of the world if you ever done
that when you pass a little kid like something very simple straightforward you know like where did that richer come from and then a little kid looks a hero and you're expecting them to say from the draw or the closet and they go well right there was something and he had a non no inventing went across the world and perhaps that story telling function just
starting to develop flexing its muscles so that she can make sense of the world when we make sense of the world
around us we can make sense of ourselves and as it turns out
there's a neuro science behind us which by the way when I was googling narrow science humor this was the image that came up I guess you had to be there I don't know but the neuro science as it turns out we're hard wired for empathy and you know we get kind part up in this whole evolution thing we talk about Darwin a lot we love Darwin and his John t hat his amazing we talk about survival of
the fittest terrain and survival of the fittest time has gotten kind of culturally twisted around we think that it means survival of the most aggressive are the most vicious but it doesn't it means survival of the best able to reproduce
so 1st humans a lot of other primates that means that empathy and cooperation are hugely important and we've evolved over time to have this neurological wiring for empathy who here has ever heard of mirror neurons a couple of people OK this is awesome you guys check this out we have these neurons in our brains called mirror neurons that fire whenever we see something happening to another person that that's happening all the time what's happening is our brains are trying to reproduce the
experience that others are having around us so that we can understand it and that we can learn from it had some some it means that are
default state is not apathy apathy is the opposite of empathy and it's learned behavior so this is where digital tools and storytelling come back in right when we share our stories with 1 another we have through that emotional resonance the capability to activate that neurological wiring but storytelling is what we think it is sometimes and this is something
that many activists brother and god bless of low-level might do but they get this wrong storytelling is not co-opting it's not appropriating
stories and fitting them into this nearly predefined messaging
frame it's allowing people who have the authority and tools to share their stories with 1 another the so this also is where we can start to reconceive how we think about power in the world through this lateral shearing stories with 1 another is 1 of the things that I think happens when we think about power and activism is that we have a very linear kind of way of
thinking we think 1st I have power and then if we all get together we will have power together and then if we organize and do all the right things and all that
stuff then we will be in power at the end thank you Cleveland couldn't you know I I that's a very linear way of thinking about things and what technology does for us and thinking about more
technologies just the internet and thinking about mesh networks Mobile Networks different kinds of ways that people can connect to 1 another when we give ourselves permission to think about things differently there's this huge potential that we have to reconceive of how power happens and what happens when we resonate with 1 another so let's talk about 3 systems of power with me casket OK I love it when people not to the so 1st system of power is hierarchical power now this is a common very traditional
way of thinking about power and how most of us actually think of power we have the people up at the top have all the resources and all of the power and is a go down the hierarchy gets kind a less and less bond for most people but this way of thinking about power and Howard's organized is so in the use and how we think about activism in organizing it's in all of the language that we use we talk about grassroots and bottom up organizing and top down organizing and all of this is structured around the idea that our entire lives politically are going to be spent scrambling up and down the whole hierarchy thing not that interesting
but you here in this room you're very smart you're very
clever and good looking we have
you know about network power that's why we're here this is why were digital people we know about the power that people
have when they connect to 1 another laterally and have a shared relationship with 1 another this is where gets exciting because that shared component it is is really important to network power shared experience shared value system that's what can keeps those connections alive and the nodes in the network glued together and they're
certainly weaken and strong ties in the network but overall that shared experience keeps people together the and there's a 3rd 1 the exciting 1 I call this ad hoc power so this is a likely Shirky's is ridiculously easy group formation and wait do you guys have nothing to read everybody drinks when somebody says his name at a conference dt that yes no you should it and drink if you're if you play the game anyway when we're talking about ad hoc power the group comes together quickly and easily because of the tools that
then dissipates justice quickly after the moment is over and this terrifies most organizes this is not what organizers want to happen spend an immense amount of energy and time trying to convert all of those ad hoc people internetworked power making that relationship strong sharing that experience and I don't think that always has to happen because what happens with ad hoc power and work it so interesting is this is where culture change really starts to happen because the ad hoc power through emotional residents and the discovery of
new nodes in the network through sharing of stories with 1 another has the ability to reach people
who had been previously unreachable by the other kinds of organizing an activism that have happened in the past when we like these nodes up we have the ability to go out and find new people the so let me show you how this works going to tell you a little story from last year about planned
parenthood and Susan G. Komen in the US so a little bit of background information played here in the US to familiar millions public people OK so you know pull familiar in on the people
OK so huge network of people of our clinics that provide reproductive health services mostly for women
but men can visit them to and in the US this is really important because have you may have heard me how we have that about good at the whole health care thing and it's especially hard for
women to get care for the lady parts so a lot of people and they're going to planned parenthood for affordable care and 1 of the other services that planned Parenthood
provides is abortions this makes a lot of conservative people upset and for the last probably decade or so they've come under very severe political pressure in the US and last year we had Susan G. Komen Foundation which is the US is the largest funder of breast cancer initiatives they decided that they would in no longer find Planned Parenthood's breast cancer initiatives and breast cancer work and this is largely believed to be political the the Internet would come breezy everyone but started talking about the money that they were gonna raise for Planned Parenthood and the
money they were gonna take away from Susan G. Komen account varied heated very fast and I was sitting there
thinking you know this can't just be about the money there is such an emotional connection that people have to planned parenthood and open the work that they've done that it can't just be about
raising money and and I thought you know and this is how were the women were going to lose access to breast cancer services were going to be most affected by a decision like this how do they get to participate in this our age so I created a
tumbler blog it was called Planned Parenthood saved me and I ask people to submit stories of how planned parenthood had changed their lives it was
incredible is the some of the submissions that you're seeing here on the screen now really incredibly deeply powerful stories being shared and it went wild we collected a few hundred stories within 3 days attracted loans of media attention we're on cable news shows the New York Times Washington Post political media likes along and slay all covered this effort and
that was great but what was the more interesting with the data that that sat behind the so this is where data does become interesting to show us what emotional resonance means so let's
look at some numbers so in the 1st 4 days of the campaign we had 29 thousand unique visits and I was nothing to sneeze at I was super happy about that the more than half of those visits came before any major media mention and they came from Facebook tumbler into winter from people sharing their stories with 1 another that trend continued over time and even though we were mentioned all of these amazing places
most of our referring traffic still came from social media and news and blogs only said about 20 % of the
traffic that's 1 level of the story there's another cool data level
to this check this out so I
expected that the most popular pieces of content on the site to be 1st the front page and then individual posts that it really resonated with people after that would be the most I have popular post being shared that was not entirely true dig this front
page was definitely the most popular page but then after that
pages 2 and 3 were the most popular pages so what that means is that people came to the
site red down through the 1st 10 posts then collect older to get more posts
twice they were so engrossed in the stories they were being shared their that they wanted more they wanted to participate more it was resonating deeply with them and they kept going for more 3 days
after Susan G. Komen made that announcement they backed down they issued a retraction apologizing saying that they would continue to honor but
their existing commitments to planned parenthood and planned parenthood
obviously came out ahead big time with this you have the ad hoc effect of all of these people sharing stories
with 1 another doing the culture change work to change that conservative perception of what the work is about and you have a network effect where the gained 6 million new people on their
e-mail lists last year 6 million so this is why I
say that social media are not communications tools they are relationship management
tools when we share our stories with 1 another we have this potential to we make that hierarchical power stuff can running just run away be running scared from the ad hoc and network effects that we create when we share stories
with 1 another and we see this happening all around us we
see so many different campaigns are out there right now that have really taken the soccer the I'm really interested in watching what's
happening with the ring the bell campaign they've just launched the 1 Million Man promises I had effort and in that manner standing up and promising to end and intervene against violence against women and they're
not just saying that they're going to do this and that's you know very typical kind of petition campaign but men are also sharing stories of the violence that they've witnessed in their lives and how it was meaningful and emotional to that men like Patrick Stewart by the way who that teachers says this is what a feminist looks like were sharing these deeply resonant stories with 1 another there was another campaign recently partnership
between the Washington Post and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education dated a guy a series of videos and Twitter chats called brother speaking and this is where black men that were invited to speak
about 3 topics letters dreams and year it
happens at pretty much and never in American culture that black men get to talk about these topics and are represented in this way in mainstream conversations the way that they were here and Dory Maynard started this movement after Trayvon Martin was shot last year cold blood on the street and said if we actually got to see black men fully represented in our culture and our
media it would change all over to internalize it perceived notions that we
have about 1 another
relationships in stories they are at the camp fire there how we find 1 another in this world and now we have this enormous potential to go out and share our stories with 1 another so that's where I wanna leave you today invite you to share your
stories and I'm going to take some questions now thank you very much on the
the little town instill the moderators ready you can hear from you may think thank you so we have time for about 10 minutes to unite
super we can all the time by expansion at the start and United Nations this
is dismissed year of life is what he'll
come into was the thank you very much I will speak English because no region of this proud of our
users of any kind of make me lose my German every time I'm here because a really close the English with you already know the things that you can show all but I can um yes it's a powerful emission impact that stories have on thought how how to deal with the lack and with to suspicion every now and then that they can they be manipulated just because of the yeah I think that this is where
I get very complicated for organizations to create storytelling campaigns because after things like this have been successful in the past everybody goes all we should get on board dualism which do like a handshake in all the great and that doesn't really work that assignment that predefined messaging doesn't necessarily work and certainly 1 stories are told in there and there they can be manipulated in a variety of ways and and use for our own purposes me because I am the eternal optimist side I believe that that the resonance and that the good stuff that happens kind of overpowers that the more darker or manipulative things but there's a the client that I spoke of that had does the and changing the conversation around abortion work they may have some stuff that you would be interested in they talk about ethical storytelling and there's a woman in New York Baylor peacock who I has created some immensely useful guides with axial on how I ethically to share our stories how to be prepared for them to be manipulated by others I'm and then also guides for were media people and journalists on how to tell other stories ethically and I think that's kind of the moment that we're at right now I always say that you know and that kind of new confusing parts of working on the internet in the squishy thing that haven't been defined yet the wonderful thing is that we all have the opportunity to shape how that happens in what we do with that and I think that if there's enough of us steward didn't super hero type people that that we can actually make a difference what questions everyone's scared of my hair no you're not your German come as candidates for
water right that as you and economy we do you grilling has don't you don't have the shortly drinking game he she has of camera by in the conference but whatever hi my thus
get here I was wondering I was following out it student blogs about feminism and then in the aftermath of the recent events affect girls killing themselves as being raped and you know people learn about this and
there was 1 lot city that so had these difficult to share her own story in you
know create empathy because she wanted to get you to the wrong kind of attention like whereas like and stuff and I was wondering what kind of inferences
anonymity then anonymously none he play in the confidence of empathy and that what you were talking about yet
there's sort of 2 schools of thought around anonymity and the role that it plays and storytelling 1 I would encourage right OK to keep referencing something area said that that set of ethical storytelling its exhale pro voice . org and in there if you look up the ethical storytelling stuff it teaches people how to be are prepared to tell their stories and help them decide if it's a valid and worth it for them to tell their stories because it's certainly arm especially when it comes to things like a rape abortion things that are just hugely stigmatize in the culture it's very it's not it should be ever expected that people automatically just they will have to tell you about that time on it anonymity as 1 school of thought is that is certainly provides the ability for people who are comfortable are in dangerous situations who live in politically terrible places and the ability to share their stories with
1 another the and I think that we need to
continue to support that and make that happen when people choose not to be anonymous the thing that I find it being up more powerful because of that relational because of the the power that can columns when people identified that's my friends saying that you know there's something that happens empathetically in our brains that activates that a little bit more that said anyone that is interested in in getting involved in these kinds of
moments um I tell people to build your community before you need it and make sure that you have a strong and network that can support you and love you through the most difficult awful things because the women that um and you'll hear more about this on Wednesday the women that were participating in the house fire campaign here got all high the
terrible things said about them to them death threats the whole shebang it ran the gamut and said in the US would experience a quite a bit about RAD ended up jumping in and saying here's what we've learned were here for you we can help protect you we can and do these things for you so it's important to have that um so my private in some cases network of love and support that will bring you
through on something challenging difficult the next question yeah the group of going we have the that the 2 very short all 1 the usual question and I see even at the back so just wave of me through an argument he is very
shine any other questions I'll be up here off OK there's someone waving in the back the a campsite it's you who knows who hold ideas that's occurrence with me running the microphone a kind of a and I'm I'm just wondering because uh mosasaurs size they touch and quite heavy emotional is like religion it's like such others like stuff like that and use anyway like more trivial subjects generating as much impact or do we
need these big themes I know I think actually the
during the act of last year there were some really interesting story telling that happened of from people in Europe in the living countries where censorship had previously under their older regime been a really big deal and ended up getting people that storytelling of telling how it was and what it was like that ended up activating people into getting involved with something like actor which wasn't necessarily a isn't as it's still a theme I'm the most you know emotional thing like net neutrality right I would say that the hard
thing about net neutrality is rallying people to go be neutral you know that's going to be on some but because because we have experiences and stories to share around what can happen with that
situations like that and that's
where the emotional resonance doesn't have to be necessarily something you know deeply intimate and personal i can happen around new more general things like censorship and and what not it's just a matter of finding it and in letting it emerge and not squashing and saying that that's a key in emotional thank you excellent I think we're done years thank you all so much they're going to be here thank you thank you so much to can say that so the
and thank you very much