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Fleshspace and Internet Space: Integration and Variation

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away there was a conference call Skeptech. And at Skeptech I was on a panel about meatspace and cyberspace activism. And since that time there have been thoughts percolating in the back of my mind about the pros and cons of the each of these mediums of communication and how people might more effectively use each of them. And finally, today, these thoughts have come to fruition so that you may know them and think upon them.

So there are some clear differences between what it takes to organize or act in face to face world vs in the internet world. The internet is constant, it’s impersonal, it’s there forever, and it has all sorts of media and tools for you to use. Face to face interaction is often more emotional, personal, immediate, and can create a feeling of bonding or community much more quickly than the internet. It’s generally fairly clear that each of these media is more appropriate for different people and different purposes. I tend to prefer online because writing is one of my passions, I am generally anxious around other people and tire easily in flesh space, and because I don’t have the funds or time to put into a lot of volunteering (whereas I can bust out a blog post on my break at work). For those people who are outgoing or feed off the energy of others, or who aren’t comfortable in an online media, or who would rather not put their voices front and center but are happy stuffing mailboxes, in person activism can be great.

One of the important things about activism is that it asks you to do some self-reflection about where your talents and interests lie. It asks you to think about what you want to do with your unpaid time and what you could see yourself doing for a while without burning out. It asks you to figure out where you’re comfortable. However even more than that, it asks you to try out things that you didn’t know you might like. It shows you where the needs are and asks if you can fill them. You might not have experience with door knocking, but you try it once and realize that you really enjoy talking to strangers about what you love. However with all activism it can be hard to remember that you’re allowed to stop or change tracks or switch up what you’re doing whenever you want. If you try something and it’s not for you, you’re not bound in stone to keep doing it. So why not try new things?


I think that no matter where you feel most comfortable, it’s important to take breaks from it every once in a while and see what’s up in other spheres of activism. I like to do this by going to conferences, which can help me to really get ideas and bounce my thoughts off of other people and really feel like I’m part of a community, energized by their support. If you tend to spend a lot of time out and about, it can be really nice to sit and just read, get a feel for some of the deep debates and ideas that are happening on the internet, or just recharge a bit by being on your own.

However what I’m most interested in at this point is the integration of technology and meatspace activism. This clearly seems to be where our world in general is headed. Some of the most effective forms of activism, community, and dialogue that I have seen have been when you both have people in the same room together AND technology. A great example of this is live tweet walls at conferences, which allow audience members to actually interact with presenters and to hold discussions as a presentation is happening. Posting videos of events has also been popular. Liveblogging is huge, and it forces the internet to happen at real world pace with real world donation consequences. I know that we have creative individuals out there who can integrate these spaces. Programs like foursquare could be highly useful for an occupy-like movement. The atheist census is doing great things to document the real world numbers and concerns of atheists. Video conferencing has been used to bring in speakers that couldn’t physically be present. I have huge hopes that these kinds of integrations are the future of the movement, and I’d love to hear what you have to say about them. What ideas do you have? How do you see technology as the future of your group or in your life?

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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