This blog has existed for well over ten years. It has taken countless hours away from other activities from both us, the writers and editors, and you, the people who comment (particularly some of you … You know who you are).
In spite of this, we keep doing it. We value this blog, and we believe it contributes something.
But what is it ultimately? What do we achieve with it?
These and other questions were part of the second main theme in the DW Global Media Forum, which concluded today. We are all participants now. Nothing is private, and we are all scrutinizing each other, We are all, to some extent, “citizen journalists.”
But where is the change that we are looking for? How can we turn greater participation into action on the ground?
No blog can do away with Maduro, or El Sisi, or Assad. For all it has accomplished, and guardando las distancias, Wikileaks has not brought down the powerful intelligence-military complex it denounces. Then what is the point of all this participation slash activism?
I thought about this question as I listened to one of the originators of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, a Nigerian woman whose name escapes me. After a convoluted debate – this is Germany after all, so why make it simple when complicated also works? – someone in the audience asked her what it was all for, given how the girls were still missing.
As she struggled with the answer, I started arriving at the conclusion that this was all hopeless, that indeed, no Twitter campaign can put a stop to Boko Haram, just like no blog can change the reality on the ground in Venezuela.
But then, she said something that has stayed with me. Participation, she said, makes us more human.
Whether it is by bringing to the forefront an issue that we did not know about, or simply raising the costs for supporting the wrong people, online participation and activism are about communicating with people. The point is to change a group of people just a tiny bit, moving them closer to the final objective.
Ultimately, we blog because we can, and we read blogs because it helps us connect with other people. We have opposable thumbs for a reason, and that is to type, comment, and click.
I guess the question has no easy answers. Yes, blogs or other forms of online activism don’t make change happen. We see it in Nigeria, we see it on the streets of Caracas, and we see it in the deflating Arab Spring. If you measure impact by the amount of actual political change we achieve, then yes, online participation is a massive failure.
But that’s probably the wrong benchmark. Whether it is by making Boko Haram synonymous with horror or making chavismo unacceptable to anyone with minimal democratic convictions, blogs are about increasing our sense of shared humanity.
In that regard, we, you, and them … are a resounding success.
PS.- This is my last post on the forum. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.