WRT 204 (Cooke)

A resource for the Digital Research Web Project

Your Librarian

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Amy Pajewski
FHG 211



Also known as online activism or digital activism, cyberactivism is the gamut of Internet-based strategies and methods utilized by individuals and organizations for organizing, managing, and performing various types of activism. Cyberactivism aims to generate citizen-based movements for specific causes, similar to traditional activism. It gained prominence with the emergence of social media and mobile technologies.

Online activism enables the dissemination of information to large audiences. Social networks have increased the level of independence of activists from mainstream media by providing alternative platforms in which unedited and uncensored information can be spread. Grassroots information networks disseminate valuable information for activists worldwide in real time. Messenger services facilitate communication among activists and with the wider public. Streaming platforms enable easy sharing of videos, documenting everything from opinions to live events. This upheaval of traditional gatekeeping mechanisms of the media allows individuals to be involved in the information gathering and distributing process, a phenomenon termed “citizen journalism.”

Cyberactivism aims to engage a wide variety of people both offline and online. The international Occupy movement of 2011 emerged in the fall of 2011 as a network of diverse activist groups concerned with social inequalities. While the movement relied heavily on cyberactivism in social media, it also mobilized people to physical protests in more than 950 cities around the world.

In authoritarian countries, social media may undermine a regime’s legitimacy by empowering people to organize resistance and to expose wrongdoings of the regime. As such, they have the potential to challenge conventional power relations. Online communication and information networks became the catalyst for the Arab Spring of 2011. Social media created new gateways for mobilization and engagement when other means of organization were suppressed by the regime.


Some refer to cyberactivism as clicktivism or slacktivism, terms that imply effortless and feel-good online actions with minor real-life impact. Some are worried that even if the Internet helps engage people in activism, it could decrease traditional activism and long-term commitment to a cause. Moreover, the possible increase in online activism at the expense of offline activism has been criticized for deepening the digital divide, keeping citizens of low socioeconomic status and the elderly out of the activism arena.

Shani, M., & Leiser, A. (Eds.) (2017). (Vols. 1-2). SAGE Publications, Inc., https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483391144


Exigency & Research Question


Exigence is when an issue, problem, or situation prompts someone to write or speak. It is the motivating factor, the driving force behind why the writer or speaker is delivering their message. While the purpose of a text is what a writer hopes to achieve with their message, exigence is merely what causes a person to sit down and write.

What events have taken place within your movement that sparked you to speak up?

For example,

Perhaps you remember Blackout Tuesday way back in the summer of 2020. Blackout Tuesday was a collective action to protest racism and police brutality. The action was originally organized within the music industry in response to the murder of George Floyd and murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the killing of Breonna Taylor. However, many people criticized this approach because communication channels using the #blm hashtag were jammed with black squares. On a day that was supposed to give space for people to reflect, critics instead spoke to the performative nature of 'clicktivism.' This event prompted many people to speak up about the what it means to be an activist rather than simply virtue signaling on social media. 

Developing a Research Question

  1. Start big and broad and continue to go deeper, and more specific
  2. Complex & dynamic research questions produce complex & dynamic answers
  3. Don’t dwell on easily answerable questions, look instead to explore. No yes/no questions! Instead: how/why questions Consider: Does this question feel researchable? Where will you look for answers? Do you have any major biases or barriers in researching the question?
  4. Don’t be afraid to continually revise your research questions. Remember the (re)search cycle