Sunday, 19 July 2009

Memory Politics on Facebook

Let me say straight off that while I have a Facebook account, I'm sceptical of its power to change the world. I get really irritated by online petitions - what are they supposed to do, anyway? And as for protest pages about extremist political parties - people, if you're not happy about politics, voting might be a good start. And how many dolphins can you really save by clicking on a "save the dolphins" link?? It's just a lazy option that allows you to feel like you've "done something" when the only thing you've done is show everyone on your feed how lazy you are. Hm.

Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by the memory politics on social networking sites such as FB. The widest possible variety of institutions and organisations are making use of it to recall past injustices, protest current ones, and put their views across. Let's take a look at just a few:

Old school colonial politics meets new school digital age in the Facebook page for WHINSEC (formerly School of the Americas).* Seriously, check it out. You can click to declare yourself a 'fan'. I refrained. Obviously, there are also a number of 'close down the SOA' pages.

The page commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the AMIA attack in Buenos Aires is well done with a good selection of images and videos.

The search for the disappeared children of Argentina also utilises social networking sites: for just a few of many examples, see here, here and here.

I bet when the Grandmothers started their consciousness-raising activities in the 1970s, they never imagined that one day, they would have a MySpace page. Their job would probably have been easier if that had been possible then. MySpace, Facebook, and blogs mean that anyone with an Internet connection** can communicate internationally, instantly, and for free - and they obviously make sense to reach out to the younger generation as well. Such websites do not just serve campaigning purposes but are also used as virtual memorials and archives of resources. So, while I still don't believe that clicking on a link will in itself get a bad law changed, there is still a wealth of reasons for human rights activists to exploit the digital age.

*Thanks (and hi!) to the hardworking Lee Rials, who scours the blogosphere for references to his institution, for mentioning the page on To the Roots and triggering this post in the first place.

**Obviously, the 'democratic' possibilities of the Internet are limited by people's ability to access it, and in many parts of Latin America, that is not yet possible for the majority. Nevertheless, urban inhabitants of most Latin American countries can use the very common Internet cafes which are priced at levels which exclude the poor, but are accessible for many. It's particularly evident that the Argentine organisations have the ability to make use of digital technologies, but even organisations from poorer and rural areas are making inroads on the web.

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