Dancing in the Streets

Last night, November 7th, 2020, I ventured into downtown Kalamazoo to witness people celebrating the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Senator Kamala Harris. Local activists put together a Facebook event inviting citizens to the courthouse for an impromptu, socially-distanced dance party. My friend told me about the event, so she and my husband walked over to join the celebration. It was only the second time my husband had been downtown since the beginning of the pandemic.

A Biden supporter sprays Champagne along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

This week’s Spilka reading focused on the role of technical writers and how they interact with communities. The reading discussed the potential technology has to “help citizens revitalize democracy” (Spilka, 151). The Arab Spring/Twitter Revolution of 2011 comes to mind: activists used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to coordinate protests and broadcast them to the world.

Using social media isn’t a necessary component of social change in communities, though. Activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham recently stated on her Instagram: “Black media has been DOING THE WORK of educating OUR communities, cutting through mountains of disinformation that targeted us, and galvanized voters. A lot of the work was never done on Twitter, even tho folks act like this is the only space we can be seen.” As the Longo reading suggests, “we need to look at cultural assumptions underpinning the design of these tools and how we envision people using them.” Mainstream media does not seem to be aware of how Black communities work to organize and educate themselves. Major news networks assumed that if it wasn’t happening online, it wasn’t happening at all.

“We want to feel connected to other people” (Spilka, 156). If technology alone was a suitable replacement for in-person interaction, then people across the world wouldn’t be celebrating in the streets during a pandemic. Perhaps the most important takeaway from the readings and events of this week is, although technology can be an effective tool for organizing a community, it’s the people of that community that truly facilitate change.




Posted on November 8, 2020, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I love this, Leanna. You’re right. If the online community was enough, we also wouldn’t have nearly such a hard time observing the suggested/required at-home protocols necessitated by this pandemic. Your example also points out how the online community impacts the in-person ones, though. After all, that socially distanced dance party started as an event that spread through social media. It offered the time and place, as well as the behavioral expectations.There was little risk in joining in because you had all the details already. I like this idea that our social media and online communities can augment and sharpen our face-to-face, 3-dimensional ones.

    • Thanks, Emily!
      That’s a really good point: Facebook events provide more than just a time and location. I can search Facebook for the other people invited to the event, the organizations planning the get-together, and related events in order to assess the atmosphere of the party before I even arrive! A Paperless Post can’t do that. 😀

      • It’s been awhile since I was living on a college campus, but having access to the list of people invited to a party and those who planned to attend would have been a real bonus back then! 😉

  2. I second Emily here about the FB event offering the details for the dance party and making the participants feel comfortable enough to venture out. And the structure of this blog post, applying the readings to current events, could be a structure you rely on for the final paper, especially since you connect it to the pandemic. Perhaps you could historicize and consider what has been done well via tech to facilitate change [those 2011 events you namedrop] and what hasn’t regarding community activism. So much has changed in terms of tone on social media, and it would be interesting to explore.

  3. Leanna,
    Reading your post, I am able to feel the cheers and ambiance on the street on the day the new president was elected. Although I admit that we can go on a technological spree, I am pretty much anti-digital-technology. Additionally, I argue that having an in-person relationship is one of the most important factors for building rapport. In that sense, I totally agree with what you said, “If technology alone was a suitable replacement for in-person interaction, then people across the world wouldn’t be celebrating in the streets during a pandemic.”

    Thank you for the nice post and photo, Leanna!

    • Thank you, YJ! It was a very special night. Someone gave a little kid the blowhorn, and the kid was having a blast! 😀

  4. Leanna, this is great!
    I like your view of technology, too. It is a tool that assists us, but people behind the technology are the ones creating and inspiring change. I think of how the ability to “share” content is one of those great tools. We can use it to amplify a good message and pass it along. Saving content or sending it to someone has also allowed new attitudes to be discoverable. More important than these abilities though is the decisions made by people to be a part of that information movement.

  5. An aspect of the communicator community that struck me this past week is that a couple notable subscription-based news outlets have been putting election and vote-counting news articles on the free side of the paywall. Fighting misinformation campaigns is more important to them and I imagine it pangs at the core of their journalistic hearts to see how easily misinformation spreads while blood, sweat, and tears are publishing the truth.

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