Associate Professor at George Washington University David Karpf gave a speech on Digital Activism on Tuesday, Sept. 26 in the Mabel Brown Room of the L.P. Young Student Center.
Karpf’s focus was on what digital activism looks like today and what it’s good for. The presentation was attended by approximately 70 KSC students and a few members of the community.
Karpf’s presentation focused on how activism has changed over the years and what it looks like in the 21st century.
Karpf who is the author of “The MoveOn Effect,” and “Analytic Activism,” has been studying activism for most of his academic career. He said activism follows Robert Dahl’s definition of power, which says that state’s power is one group or individual causing another to act in a way they normally wouldn’t. Karpf also said that good activism is “nimble, responsive and reactive.”
Associate Professor of Communications and Philosophy, Dr. Amber Davisson helped put on the event. Davisson said she knew Karpf from graduate school and thought he would be a good way to start off a series of events similar to the one on Tuesday.
Future speakers include Nora Draper and Maggie Hassan, who will be speaking about broadband access.
Davisson said she has wanted to put on this type of a series of events for a while but has been unable to get funding. However, she said, “On a campus where there’s not a lot of money right now, there are a lot of organizations who are willing to chip in.” She said multiple organizations have contributed to making these events possible, including a grant from the Office of Service Learning.
Scott Gamble, a first-year here at KSC, said events like this are a great way to increase student awareness of what’s going on in the world. Gamble said the presentation taught him a lot about the way social media is being used today in politics, and how that affects our government.
Karpf, in his talk, said a big problem in today’s politics is the “echo-chamber environment” that so many people find themselves in. His speech was framed largely around the way digital activists are responding to the Trump Administration, and what that means going forward.
In speaking of what digital activism might look like in the next five years, Karpf said he doesn’t know what to expect except that “it’ll be different.”
He did say though that the key to good activism remains the same as it always has, and that is creating “lateral pressure,” or indirect pressure that is exerted on the target of activism by the larger community.
Gamble said that one of the most important things he took away from the speech was that “anyone can take part in these conversations,” and get involved now.
He also said that speeches like this are worthwhile because they teach students about the world and to see things from a new perspective. Karpf, who did around a dozen talks last year, said he enjoys speaking to students.
For the most part, last year, he was speaking about his book “Analytic Activism,” but he said “when you’re giving a book talk, there’s kind of a standard audience that shows up,” mostly academics who are studying the same subject.
Karpf said that when he gives talks like the one on Tuesday, he has to change his mindset and keep his audience in mind.
He says it’s “like when a stand-up comedian is used to doing the same jokes and is forced to do new jokes.”
Simon Burch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org