In this age of technological growth, where computational power is said to double every two years, a span of thirty-eight years represents an exponential, staggering degree of advancement. Merely looking at the methods of communication we use, we can track the rise and fall of an extensive number of mediums and platforms that had at one point emerged as the dominant tool. The connectivity of humankind, both on an individual and global scale, is an ever-improving, ever-expanding field. Building upon established systems, adapting to the desires of the masses, fads and trends hailed as the next great invention before fading into obsoletion–this tumultuousness has been a mainstay throughout the explosion forcing humanity into globalization.
The implications of this technology for activism are far-reaching, heralding a new era where spreading awareness of a cause to millions around the world is as simple as pressing a button. Rather than worrying about getting the message out, getting voices heard, the primary issue now is often in getting people already drowning in information overload to care about one cause in particular enough to contribute to it.
Thirty-eight years may not seem all that long a time to some, but for those who have spent the majority of their life having access to the entire compendium of human knowledge at their fingertips, having the ability to instantaneously contact someone on the other side of the world, it can often be hard to fully imagine a time without those conveniences of modern life. That dissonance between the methods of activism as used by current and previous generations–the similarities and differences, what has evolved and what has disappeared, what victories have been earned and what remains to be accomplished–will be the primary subject on which this blog intends to focus.
Examining the archives to be digitized, the first examples within them that stood out as relating to this theme of past-versus-present are the multiple instances of printed advertisements from magazines and newspapers, as well as the order forms for those advertisements. Certainly advertisements in printed periodicals still exist today, but the declining popularity and niche audience severely limit the reach such an advertisement would have–particularly for a small business. Newspaper advertisement today is dominated by full-page inserts from major corporations, the small blurbs hardly earning a glance. A modern activist group small business might instead choose to advertise on a Facebook page for their local community, or on a discussion board related to their work.
The digital age has allowed for extensive data collection–tech companies harvesting as much information as they can in order to compile detailed profiles of as many people as possible–and has as such brought about the advent of targeted advertising. Businesses and organizations can utilize services such as Google’s AdSense to ensure their advertisements reach only those who might be interested in them, avoiding the expense that would come with a broader, sweeping approach to distribution–a far cry from the days of buying space by the line in the local paper.