Xiao Qiang gave a presentation on how to develop reward mechanisms for grassroots bloggers in politically risky societies. While Chinese government censorship is not technologically perfect but it is nevertheless successful because of the political, off-line pressures and disincentives. Where there is strong government control and political expression is risky, activists increasingly find indirect was to spread information, e.g., through satires, sarcastic jokes, etc.
Censors are not as fast nor as creative as grassroots activists. The former are doing their job, the latter are following a cause. The aggregation nature of the Internet is significant. We should also keep our pulse on the latest commercial technology developments and think about what tools could be applied for activist purposes.
What motivates people to be digital activists? This question was addressed directly to the participants. One blogger at the conference said that in his country, individuals became more active “because of the stupidity of the government.” However, he mentioned that there is no support network for activists when the government cracks down. Another blogger mentioned that it is important to identify and build on the dynamism that already exists in a country. A third blogger suggested more effective blogging, methods such as contributing one picture with just 160 characters of text as a blog entry. One blogger added that aggregators (of blogs) were an important incentive for people to read and write blogs. Aggregators of videos and pictures are also impotant. These can then be shared on Facebook and other social networking tools.
Ethan Zuckerman summarized the discussion by pointing out that the existing of a social network, an aggregator platform and the contribution of (technology) experts are important factors that movitate individuals to become digital activists.