Hard News by Russell Brown


LATE: From #Slacktivism to Activism

This coming Monday evening, I'm chairing the next in this year's season of LATE events at Auckland Museum. As the title, From #Slacktivism to Activism, suggests, it's something of a reprise of the LATE I chaired two years ago, The Age of Slacktivism.

How far has the culture and practice of change come since then? Some way, I think. "Hashtag activsm" is still with us, but I believe we're now seeing a clearer and more important role for advocacy media – and that seems important given the pressures on journalism. It seems notable to me that Tim McKinnel, the former cop and private investigator who played a principal role in the freeing of Teina Pora, now works as an investigator for Greenpeace.

ActionStation, the local participatory-democracy platform, was only a few months old when its director, Marianne Elliot, appeared on the panel in 2014. Its reach and sophistication have grown markedly since and Laura O'Connell Rapira, who appeared in 2014 as co-founder of RockEnrol, returns as director of campaigns at ActionStation in 2016.

She's joined by Steve Abel, senior campaign advisor for Greenpeace New Zealand, and Toby Morris, whose 'Pencilsword' cartoons for The Wireless and Toby & Toby collabs with Toby Manhire have done a remarkable job of illuminating complex news and political issues for audiences that might otherwise consider themselves outside the traditional political conversation. The fourth panelist is Sina Brown-Davis (Te Roroa, Te Uri-o-Hau, Fale Ula and Vava’u), a vocal activist (including as a member of the Māori women’s group Te Wharepora Hou) and a prolific commentator on Facebook and other platforms.

It strikes me that information is at the heart of activism and advocacy in our era. Look at the way that TransportBlog has radically raised the level and quality of information in the public sphere around its issues. And on the other hand, I know I wasn't the only one who had qualms about both the TPP and some of the crankery and conspiracy theorising in the broader campaign against it. For all the efforts of researchers, protest vox-pops revealed that many of the people marching did not know a lot about what they were opposing, and believed some strange things about what the treaty portended. Is it enough to merely get people fired up?

Anyway, I think this will be a lively and interesting discussion. Tickets are $20, there's good food and drink and there will be entertainment.

You can book for LATE here. Don't be, er ... late.

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