An Optimist Story: Helene Campbell

Hello again my fellow bloggers!

I have been having some technical difficulties with coming up with a subject to discuss in my blog. And then all of a sudden DING DING. I should also mention that my idea for this blog stemmed from the article by The Cycling Feminist, so a thank you is in order for the inspiring blog post!

Moving on…

After discussing social media, and technology, I have a thorough understanding that their is indeed a relationship (or lack there of in some views) between social media, technology and activism.  To further prove this, Clay Shirky wrote an article entitled The Political Power of Social Media in 2011. In this article, Shirky articulates on the thought that social media and similar technologies have the power to create social activism, and will eventually lead to social changes.  He further proves this by using examples such as the use of mass text-messaging to overthrow the Philippines President Joseph Estrada.

So where does all of this information lead us to?

Let us tumble down the rabbit hole to see.

Being a very optimistic person, I tend to view most subjects in a very positive manner. The same goes with technology and social media. Do not get me wrong, I am not a zombie to the notion that technology has some impact on our society, but I also note that we individuals impact and change technology (sounds to me like social shaping of technology approach ;)….) With this understanding, I tend to side with Shirky in believing that technology and social media can positively impact social activism and change.  To further support my reasoning’s, I will use a very recent example of an individual using social media in order to create social activism and change.  This individual is none other than Helene Campbell of Ottawa.

Let me begin by discussing the story of Helene Campbell and how she began using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forums to share her story. You can read all about her story and journey on her website A Lung Story, but here is a quick summary. In September 2011, Helene was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, an incurable lung disease.  As time went on, Helene’s health was deteriorating.  Eventually, she was transfered to the Toronto General Hospital.  Along her whole struggle, however, Helene used her Facebook account and Twitter account to start an activist movement that was concerned with the becoming an organ donor or giving blood, since she herself needed a donor for her needed lung transfer. This social action began spreading slowly, with the hashtags “#beanorgandonor” and “#donateblood” appearing over different Twitter accounts. Soon, with the thanks of local and national newspapers and television broadcasters, Helene’s story, as well as her campaign began to gain followers.  Soon enough, Helene was able to get celebrity endorsers to support her cause, including the famous Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres. Soon enough, on April 6, 2012, Helene receives her double-lung transplant surgery, with a successful recovery to follow soon after. In July 2012, Helene is able to return home to the city of Ottawa. Even though her story has a happy ending, Helene knows that not all stories end so well. With that in mind, she still is an avid supporter to her cause.  For example, she is still tweeting with “#beaorgandonor” or “#giveblood” in her tweets.

To begin to conclude, Helene Campbell’s campaign is a true example of how social media and technology can have a positive effect, by creating social activism and change in our society.  Approximately 2,000 people signed up to become organ donor after the retweeted message by Justin Bieber, and since December 2011, organ donor registers in Ottawa alone have increased by 8,000 donors! That to me shows how successful this campaign truly was.  In summary, I believe (maybe due to all my optimism) that technology and social media can be successful in employing social activism.  Helene’s story is the verification that social media can be used to help create political and social change in our own city and country, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

As readers of this blog, do you believe that social media and technologies can create change and activism?


Do you believe that social media and technology allows “slacktivists” and “slackivism” to prosper?

Until Next Time.

This picture describes me PERFECTLY!

P.S. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEARN MORE VISIT A Lung Story Website, Helene’s Twitter Page, or A Lung Story Facebook Page.

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3 Responses to An Optimist Story: Helene Campbell

  1. marijkelarge says:

    I often approach social media and technology as platforms that can be used for activism and to create change. Honestly, I rarely engage in a critical debate, with myself, about how technology and media allows for “slacktivists” and “slacktivism” to prosper. So, thank you, for once again challenging my perspective and provoking me to question my point of view. I also appreciate your optimism.

    So, I hope to engage in a conversation with you regarding the two questions you posed at the end of your blog post. I decided to engage with your questions by conducting two case studies.

    I will first address your second question, “Do you believe that social media and technology allows “slacktivists” and “slackivism” to prosper?”

    I certainly think that social media allows “slacktivists” and “slackvisim” to prosper, as by definition a “slacktivist” is a term for folks who support causes and engage in activism on the Internet and through using social media. So, then, I asked myself do you think that using viral videos, tweets, facebook etc., tools of so-called “slacktivists,” accomplishes anything?

    Which, is really similar to your first question: “as readers of this blog, do you believe that social media and technologies create change and activism?”

    **It should be noted that you say, “social media and technology create change…” which would align itself closely with the technological determinism theory that says technology changes us and we have little power to resist. In contrast, I would argue that “slacktivism” aligns itself more closely with the idea that people are involved in creating the meanings we associate with technology (a tool we can use for activism), which falls under the social construction of technology theory.

    Case Study #1: Free Rice Campaign – We are a participatory culture in the age of social media.

    “Slacktivists” can create change! This web-based game, sponsored by the United Nations World Food Program, actually turns a click of the mouse into food. Participants take quizzes on varying subjects and, for each right answer, they earn ten grains of rice for those in need. The site relies on advertisements to pay for distribution of donated food. They leave you with the option to get more involved by using social media, once again to spread their message and share food. So, yes, I would argue that this example of “Slacktivism” creates change and is a form of activism.

    Based on this example, would you say that a “slacktivism” is really just a new form of a more “traditional” activism? Or, would you say that “slacktivists” can contribute in a small way, but still should not be considered “true” activists? Or, would you argue neither?

    Case Study #2: KONY 2012 – arguably the most cited example of “slacktivism”

    When the viral video phenomenon “KONY 2012” was released, almost a hundred million people watched the video about an Ugandan warlord on youtube. But, critics were skeptical of the impact. Critics further argued that while sending the video to all of your friends might of made you feel good, they argue that such “lazy” engagement does not come close to “real” activism. KONY 2012 is widely debated, and I am only scratching the surface, if you are interested more about KONY 2012 and slacktivism it is widely talked about it on the web. In fact, our fellow blogger, The Cycling Feminist (whom you say you drew inspiration from), posted an interesting blog post titled, “The Ultimate Slacktivist Movement” that also garnered insightful comments.

    For an alternative perspective to the critics mentioned above, check out: KONY 2012 May Be Flawed, But Slacktivism Isn’t The Enemy.

    In regards to KONY 2012, do you agree with this statement from an article in the New York Times: “slacktivism ends and activism begins when the fingers leave the Apply keyboard and the butt leaves the Herman Miller Chair?”

    Taking into consideration Case Study #1 and #2, do you think that “slacktivism” deserves its poor reputation? Check out this infographic. It shows how slacktivists have had a huge impact on issues as varied as fundraising money for a bullied bus monitor to stopping dolphin slaughter.

    So, I leave you with these questions: When people come together, there is often a powerful response. The infographic points out that with “slactivism” there is strength in numbers. Have you witnessed “slacktivism” in action? Is “slacktivism” the future of social change?

    I realized that I may of raised more questions than I answered, but I believe that the slacktivism movement isn’t just good or bad, rather, for me, what is important when one dedicates their time to a cause, as an activist or slacktivist, or both, is that they understand what their contribution to the cause has been and how it has made a difference.

    After reading you article, I became fairly obsessed with reading about “slacktisim” and so if you are just as interested as I, check out these websites and articles for some interesting perspectives.

    1. For another interesting response about “slacktivism” check out fellow blogger, Missmediawatch’s post.

    2. TedTalks: Political and Social Aspects of the Internet: Slacktivism.

    3.  Social Media, Slacktivism, and KONY 2012: Activism or Slacktivism? The ‘Stop Kony’ Campaign as a Teachable Moment in the New York Times.

    4. Check out this debate held at Oxford on Activism vs. Slacktivism:

    I would love to hear your thoughts!

    PS. I loved your images and captions of the train and Alice in Wonderland. It put a smile on my face, which is challenging to do in the morning.

  2. Hello fellow optimist! In several ways, the relationship between social media, technology and activism cannot be ignored hence the reason for this class and blog post. Although Shirky is exclusive overall to political activism, it is equally as important that you highlighted the role of social media and social activism. Through social media campaigns, several charities and organisations have been able to promote their social causes. Case in point, UNICEF and the Haiti Earthquake, Alicia Keys and her Keep a Child Alive campaign to mention a few. Your example of Helene Campbell clearly illustrates how we are becoming more interconnected with one another through the use of technology and social media. Perhaps it’s a virtual/cyber world brought into reality.
    In response to your first question, yes I do believe social media can promote social activism but however it also enhances online slackitivism. Pressing issues become trendy and ‘sexy’ depending on who’s behind a particular campaign. Take for instance Kony 2012, where is that campaign now? Am not anybody knows and neither do I.
    And yes, social media does allow slackitivists to prosper because society has separated the internet/cyber world from the real world. It becomes easier for internet users to form personalities online than translate them into the real world.

  3. Hi Becca,

    I’m so happy I was able to inspire your blog this week! As such, I thought it would be fitting to respond to your very optimistic viewpoint on the impact of social media. Let me preface this response by saying that 1) My critique of your view is going to come off as a little pessimistic (and I don’t necessarily consider myself pessimistic) and 2) I hold nothing against Helene Campbell personally, and am very happy that her social media efforts have resulted in more awareness concerning organ donor-ship, as you have stated above. This is solely a critique.

    That being said, I think it is important to consider the notion of privilege when looking at Ms. Campbell’s social media campaign. She is a young, pretty, White female. Taking into account ,Nils Christie’s work on crime victimization, he developed ,a typology of victim that he has coined as the “ideal victim”. These individuals are usually granted legitimacy as victims, but they must contain at least one or two of the following five attributes: the victim must be weak, must be carrying out a respectable activity, must be where they were supposed to be, the offender is “big and bad” and the offender didn’t know the victim personally. So, what does that mean for Helene Campbell…who is not a victim of a crime in this case? Well…she still holds some of these characteristics. She is deemed weak (she has contracted disease), she was carrying out a respectable activity (she was likely doing what she was socially supposed to be doing as a young adult) and the offender is “big and bad” (the disease is life threatening). All of these coupled with her race (White), middle to upper class background, and youth contribute to her being considered an “ideal victim” in this case.

    As a result of this, she was able to use tools that may not have been available to others (like a computer and internet connection) to garner the attention of celebrities, who championed her cause because not only is it deemed worthy in the eyes of media, but she also fits the bill of the “ideal victim”. Therefore, supporting her cause will likely not backfire for their own image as celebrities.

    I realize that this is cynical with regards to the impact of social media causes, but I think it is important to remember that the individuals who champion the cause matter. If Helene was forty years-old, or male, or of an ethnic background other than White, or in a lower socio-economic class, I don’t know if she would have received as much attention from the media as she did. However, this case does raise some interesting implications with regards to reconciling the ideology of the Canadian healthcare system and changes in technology. It begs the question: if this were to continue, is there the possibility of creating a giant divide between the haves and the have-nots in terms of healthcare in Canada?

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