This exhibit focuses on digital case studies devoted to social justice. All the case studies in this exhibit have offline goals – that is, they want to see social justice achieved in society at large, not just in online spaces. These offline goals, however, can be focused at large-scale change – changing institutional structures or systemic oppression – or they can be focused at more individual or communal change – improving the lives of individual people. This exhibit is organized around this rough "individual" versus "institutional" divide, though that line is not always clear. All the case studies we looked at had multiple goals, but for the purpose of this exhibit we will focus solely on their main goal.
The majority of the case studies in this exhibit are focused on what we are calling "institutional reform" – that is, they want to see society as a whole change, not just improvement for some lives in particular places. These case studies work for this change through influence, advocacy, and to combat stereotypes. They use their online presence to reach a larger audience than they might be able to reach through offline action alone, which is geographically restricted. Additionally, their websites and social media accounts allow them to organize their efforts and inform their supporters of their actions. Within this category we can further divide the case studies into individuals calling for institutional reform and organizations calling for institutional reform. The former tend to focus on raising awareness and spreading their message to fellow citizens while the latter tend to focus on inspiring or organizing real world action.
Rev. Broderick Greer, for example, uses his website and large social media following to advocate for African American and LGBTQ rights. His sermons, blog posts, and tweets often discuss his viewpoints on civil rights issues and current events in the United States. In light of the 2016 US Presidential election, his Twitter account has become a platform for questioning and criticizing Donald Trump's character and policies. In a similar manner, Reverend Traci Blackmon has been a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement since Michael Brown was shot and killed a few miles from her church. She had been active in organizing and coordinating protests and rallies to advance civil rights in the United States, and she uses her Facebook and Twitter accounts to discuss issues and current events in America concerning injustices to women and minorities. Shaun King, a writer for the New York Daily News, attempts to raise awareness of racism and police brutality in America, through his social media accounts as well as his traditional journalism. Additionally, he has recently coordinated a project called "Injustice Boycott," which aspires to be a real life boycott of institutions, businesses, cities, and organizations that support or benefit from racist police practices, akin to the civil rights boycotts of the 1960s. In this way, Shaun King is an excellent example of a case study that blurs the line between individuals advocating for systemic change and collectives or groups mobilizing for collective action.
Call to Action is a collective digital site that seeks systematic change within the Roman Catholic Church. This organization goes beyond raising awareness of the inequalities within the Church and attempts to cultivate real change through organizing campaigns aimed to inspire Catholics to build inclusive communities for women and LGBTQ people. They do this by offering campaign events, volunteering opportunities, and the chance to contact authorities such as the bishop. Hope Mob focuses its energy on the fact that people of color are greatly underrepresented as leaders in non-profit campaigns. Hope Mob attempts to promote and support the efforts of community leaders of color who lack the time or resources to focus on fundraising efforts. By providing funding, partnerships, and extensive social media efforts, this organization can provide these leaders with the resources they need to successfully launch their campaign.
The organization Believe Out Loud was difficult to categorize as it does not neatly fit into our "institutional" versus "individual" comparison. It works for institutional reform by writing letters and petitions to government officials that call for legislation to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in the workplace based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. However, the organization also attempts to provide resources, like the "Welcoming Church Map," for LGBTQ individuals, which provide information on which churches will be welcoming and accept them as valued members of the congregation. The organization attempts to improve the lives of LGBTQ people both through legislation and through individual support.
The case studies which are focused on what we called “individual service” have a mission of improving the lives of people and their communities through direct action. We noticed that the online presence of these case studies works differently than those of the “institutional reform” groups. These too work to spread the word about their causes, but they also work to fundraise and recruit volunteers to provide direct aid.
One such case study is Homeboy Industries which works to provide employment and support for people looking to escape the cycle of gang involvement and incarceration. It does this by directly offering jobs and services to individuals who are seeking help. Another organization that works in this way is Black Life Matters United, which focuses on providing equality to the black community in a direct way. They are connecting church communities to create a network with the goals of implementing after school programs and eventually creating a charter school. The focus is on doing work which will make a direct impact on the lives of black children and their families.
We found that many of the sites are interested in fighting for institutional change and that these movements are often led by organizations and individuals who have effectively spread their message by taking advantage of the large audience that social media offers. We also looked at case studies working directly with the individuals they are serving and found that they use their online presence to help fundraise and recruit people to their cause.