Political Activism via Technology


According to Snowden (2012):

“The use of mobile communications technology is now so widespread that it has disrupted the conventions governing the public distribution of news and information.” Similar to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation the printing press helped spread his message to reach wider audiences. Technological advances change how people interact with information, whether it be a video of police brutality or people using Twitter (an online Mobile Blog or Moblog) to organize revolutionary efforts.

How Technology Links to Journalism

Without camera phones users would not be able to record different events happening around them. Goggin understands how pictures and video helped cellphone companies develop standards of multimedia messaging as well as multimedia synchronization with internet applications. This functionality allows users to send videos to one another, or post user generated content to twitter or YouTube. Users interact using technology through blogging by becoming “citizen journalists.”

According to Goggin (2006) who cites Nokia 2004c: “Blogging is all about communication — we are interested in other people’s lives, but at the same time we want to share our own experiences and thoughts with the others. Having a multimedia diary of your life is a unique starting point for sharing the items that make up your life memories.”

Whether that life experience be participating in a revolt or simply your child’s first steps, any event can become news for consumption essentially making anyone with a camera phone and the internet a “journalist.”

I appreciate how Snowden identifies traditional journalistic practices as “inadequate.” With the rise of user generated content via the internet journalism has moved more toward a web/media based occupation. So instead of reporting writing and editing a story, “neo-journalists” have to be familiar with photoshoping their images, using final cut to edit the the breaking news video they took with their phone or other mobile device. Along with having knowledge to running his/her own WordPress or blog to publish content.  “the capacity to adapt quickly and creatively to developments in technology has become a requirement for professional survival in journalism. Multi-skilling is now demanded, rather than desired.” (Snowden, 2012)

How Journalism Links to Politics

“Breaking news material frequently appears as an event occurs close to or occasionally in real time as the event unfolds.” (Snowden, 2012) “The proliferation of user-generated content, individually produced, widely distributed and free available has also disrupted the capacity of government and corporations to control or censor the reporting of news or information about events.” (Snowden, 2012) A perfect example of user-generated content that became uncensored  was the video that leaked showing American soldiers torturing prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. I’m sure the government wanted to keep it a secret that they were violating Human Rights as established by the Geneva conventions. When this story broke many different organizations were pressuring the U.S. government to act in accordance to it’s values. A short video that wasn’t suppose to leak can generate a lot of public outcry and I am willing to bet that the government would have got mainstream media to censor the images if the information wasn’t leaked by independent news sources.


How Technology Links to Politics


(The link below provides an interactive timeline of different events that have happened in the Arabian struggle)


Arab Spring is a series of events consisting of peaceful and non-peaceful protests and demonstrations in various Arab North African countries, where brave citizens oppose oppressive governments. What the world is seems the be amazed at is the strategic and successful of the internet in organizing protests and delivering information.The wired.com link talks about how the protests use the mobile blog twitter and the social network Facebook to their advantage in staging protests and deliver other protesters and the world content mainstream media may not cover, or even have access to.

iPhones as Political Action Devices

Leistert criticizes the iPhone’s revolutionary capabilities, based on a couple factors. The fact that Apple’s platform lacks open source software which would allow hacker culture an easier capabilities to modify the function of the iPhone. I generally have to disagree with this sentiment because iOS (The Operating System for Apple Mobile Devices) is written in Objective-C code which itself is open source, available to all to understand and use.  With knowledge of the capabilities of Objective-C one could still modify the code of the device. Also in terms of the App Store being closed to revolutionary apps, there is an App Store called Cydia, where any developer can submit his/her application for use. The whole idea that the iPhone is “closed-source” is negated by the fact that Cydia and the jailbreaking community exists to extend freedom into the device.


The only point made that is true is that you void your warranty by attempting to remove the iPhone’s battery. However the iPhone has password authentication that cannot be bypassed. There are glitches with it, but the idea is that if you cannot put in the correct passcode, or the phone is stolen you can “brick” the phone which means erase all data as well as the operating system off of the phone making it usable. I think this feature would be in the interest of activists with sensitive information on their device. It may not be as easily done with an iPhone to perform the features essential for a revolutionary person, however as a person who knows about phones everything that was said that cannot be done with the iPhone pretty much can be.

iPhone Problems:

Closed Source,

Centralized Application Distribution

Lack of Autonomy from Producer (Apple, or Cell Phone Providers)


iOS is closed source, but can easily be modified and has been. Closed source is simply in terms of something being legal, if you are in revolutionary groups I doubt something be legal is of consequence to you. Jailbreaking or unlocking an iPhone is modifying closed source code, yet is it freely available on the internet without issue.

Cydia is an alternative Application Distribution Platform

iPhones can be used on GSM & CDMA networks, can act as routers as well as send bluetooth messages. All of the problems provided by the article don’t really take into account that each problem can be easily fixed if the group had/wanted to use the iPhone.


Modern journalism is a result of actions by random individuals that happen to be at the right place or the wrong place at the right time. The camera’s introduction to the mobile device assists in citizen journalism and empowers the ordinary man or women to become their own source of news media. This effect transforms news into a medium that is not solely under control of corporations or the government, democratizing how we view information. The information we view can influence political discourse, and the information we share can assist in the political action we take. Any cellular device, iPhone or Android can be used in sharing information to revolutionize our world.

Works Cited

Goggin, Gerard. (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. London: Routledge. Chapter 8, 143-161

Leistert, Oliver. (2012). “The iPhone’s Failure: Protests and Resistances.” Moving Data: The iPhone and the future of media. New York: Columbia University Press. P. 238-248.

Rheingold, Howard. (2008). “Mobile Media and Political Collective Action.” In Katz, J. E. (Ed.). Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. P. 225-239

Snowden, Collette. (2012). “As It Happens: Mobile communications technology, journalism, and breaking news,” in N. Arceneaux & A. Kavoori (Eds), The Mobile Media Reader. New York: Peter Lang. P. 120-134.

The Impact of Twitter on Journalism | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios. (2012, November 15). YouTube. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl9xI-kAE8A


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