Rage Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Immortal words of Dylan Thomas beautifully express the fight against darkness in any form. Activism is the raising of an army of people rallying for or against a cause, with protest seeking some kind of change. Social media increasingly becomes the platform to share our rage.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Digital Activism uses the technology of social media to bring attention to a cause, giving anyone a voice. Millennials almost automatically innately express their feelings on social media, having grown up in the ‘always on’ sociosphere (boyd 2012). Social media gives oppressed individuals a global voice to protest social injustices, ignorance and misinformation.

Millennials express feelings on activism on social media

Social media has spawned clicktivism and slacktivism, criticised as the minimalist online involvement and no substitute for actually ‘doing something’, however even the simple act of using a #hashtag has proven to change the world. Physical civil action has changed because of social media, but we must not dismiss online activism. Examples #bluelivesmatter #marchforlife #heforshe began tweetstorms that seized more coverage for their cause than mainstream media.

# HeForShe

Digital activism can be louder than marching in the streets because its global reach bypasses authoritarian governments and corporations. Example, Global Citizen campaigns to end extreme poverty. Highlighting injustice, health and sanitation issues, civilians suffering in conflict, gender inequality, etc, to over 25 million responders has resulted in over 100 commitments made by governments, multilateral institutions and corporations.

Digital citizenship has challenged authoritarian regimes, from Hollywood moguls to political despots, and circulated previously suppressed information, but before we get too complacent about the power in clicking ‘like’ and reposting, consider the ever-present filter bubble. When society surrounds itself with people of shared outlook that never challenge assumptions, chances are we are only hearing the loudest squeaky wheel.

Eli Pariser TEDTalk ‘Beware online Filter Bubbles’

Axel Bruns explains that living in information cocoons results in “self-reinforcing ideological in-groups of hyperpartisans” threatening democracy (Bruns 2019). “The high degree of self-sorting leads to increased contempt for those with contrary views” (Sunstein 2008). When society polarises itself into Us vs Them, either through selective choice or by algorithm curation, then only the voice of the most outraged is heard against the dying of the light.

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Activism and Protest


boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76

Bruns, A 2019, “Are Filter Bubbles Real?”, Digital Humanities Research Group, Western Sydney University, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=ouzPhoSSGYw&feature=emb_logo&gt;

Gould, W R 2019, “Are you in a social media bubble> Here’s how to tell”, NBC News, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/problem-social-media-reinforcement-bubbles-what-you-can-do-about-ncna1063896&gt;

Hitchings-Hales, J and Calderwood, I 2017, “8 Massive Moments Hashtag Activism Really, Really Worked”, Global Citizen, viewed 30 April 2020, <https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hashtag-activism-hashtag10-twitter-trends-dresslik/&gt;

Hull, G 2017, “Why social media may not be so good for democracy”, The Conversation Media Group, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://theconversation.com/why-social-media-may-not-be-so-good-for-democracy-86285&gt;

JainKeff, 2010, “Dylan Thomas reciting his villanelle ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’”, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2cgcx-GJTQ&gt;

Pariser, E 2011, “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’”, TEDTalk, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en&gt;

Popova, M 2017, “The Story Behind Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ and the Poet’s Own Stirring Reading of His Masterpiece”, Brain Pickings, viewed 2 May 2020,  <https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/01/24/dylan-thomas-do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night/&gt;

Shah, N 2019, “In 10 Years of Citizen Impact, $48.4 Billion in Commitments to End Extreme Poverty”, Global Citizen, viewed 29 April 2020, <https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/10-years-total-impact-numbers/&gt;

The Pink Protest, 2017, “The Power of Online Activism”, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=fp_LoZUEOf8&feature=emb_logo&gt;

UN Women Org, 2019, viewed 30 April 2020, <https://www.heforshe.org/en&gt;

3 thoughts on “Rage Rage Against the Dying of the Light

  1. Hi, Wendy, I enjoy reading your posts.
    I am intrigued by the contradictions of social media. As you say, ‘Social media gives oppressed individuals a global voice to protest social injustices, ignorance and misinformation.’ But at the same time, as you also write, it gives people a sense of entitlement, that they can express any opinion regardless of the falsity, craziness, or , as we see with trolling, the damage their ‘opinions’ can do. It gives people a a voice to protest against the ignorance and misinformation, but it also gives some people (like certain politicians, self-styled medical and health ‘experts’) a platform to spread their damaging rhetoric and false, misleading information.
    Eli Pariser’s TED talk on filter bubbles was part of the learning materials in Innovation Cultures, a fascinating unit I did last year (with Rebecca as eLA. I was also introduced to Jurgen Habermas and his ideas about the public sphere).
    It speaks of something very human – people don’t like to be wrong, people don’t like admitting that their fundamental ideas about their own identity could be wrong. As Pariser says, instead of saying ‘well, I got that very wrong – the world isn’t flat!’, we look for ideas that reinforce our beliefs, and when we find them (inevitable, considering the sheer volume of information on the internet) it makes us believe even more (‘See! I was right! The mob says so!’).

    I will now read the article by Bruns that you cite – being aware of the irony that this, and Pariser’s work, reinforce my beliefs that filter bubbles are real!


  2. Hi Wendy,
    Jurgen Habermas is associated with the Frankfurt School. This from good old Wikipedia – ‘Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. His work addresses communicative rationality and the public sphere.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%BCrgen_Habermas

    An essay I wrote (in MDA10006 Innovation Cultures) was about the contribution the internet made to realising his ideas about the public sphere. I argued yes; as we’ve seen, the internet provides a forum for all citizens to contribute, offer their views, offer critique of established views, and perhaps improve discourse. But, as we’ve read about trolling, social media conflict, misinformation and disinformation, it also allows destructive, false, misleading, deliberately destructive information to be spread.

    Habermas ‘public sphere’ seemed to be based on the 17th and 18th century ‘coffee houses’ of France (and England), places that encouraged and allowed open debate and discussion. The irony of this ‘public sphere’ is that it excluded women!

    The good thing is that what began with a challenge by a rising middle class in pre-revolutionary France has led to questioning (and attempts at rectifying) social exclusion – ‘if you let non-propertied men vote, then why can’t women/ coloured people /disabled people have it as well?’ So what began with discussions about politics and civic society in coffee houses in France has profound effects on our understanding of democracy.

    Quite often I find the actual writing of philosophers, sociologists etc. hard to read – it is often easier to read someone else’s explanation of their ideas! Here’s something I found pretty straightforward:

    JÜRGEN HABERMAS AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE, https://www.media-studies.ca/articles/habermas.htm


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