UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

#NetrootsNW - Yes to on-line activism but beware of clicktivism!

On Saturday 18th February around 100 progressive activists and campaigners gathered in Manchester for the inaugural Netroots North West. Netroots is a project to support the growth of progressive, grassroots, on-line activism.

Those in attendance took part in practical training sessions in campaigning skills and making the most of technology for activism, discussions on campaign strategies, and presentations on new developments and challenges for online progressives.

Netroots North West was opened by Sunny Hundal, Editor of the Liberal Conspiracy blog - http://liberalconspiracy.org/ . Presentations followed; first Professor Rachel Gibson of the University of Manchester, spoke about the history of campaigning and her latest research into the use of online technologies in elections and campaigns.

Second was Clifford Singer who spoke about how the left has better and more genuine grassroots activists whilst the right wing groups have more money and resources. Clifford is responsible for websites such as My David Cameron - http://mydavidcameron.com/  , the other taxpayers alliance - http://taxpayersalliance.org/  and False Economy - http://falseeconomy.org.uk/ .

Amusingly the Other Taxpayers Alliance has more followers on twitter than Tory front The Taxpayers Alliance. There was one point of contention however when a left vs right analysis of UK daily newspapers omitted the Morning Star.

The majority of the day was spent in a choice of workshops and the full programme can be read here - http://www.netrootsuk.org/netroots-north-west-2012/netroots-north-west-draft-programme  . Perhaps the most interesting session was “Whose Internet?”, addressed by Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group - http://www.openrightsgroup.org/index  and Loz Kaye, Leader of the UK Pirate Party.

Both spoke of the threat of government and corporations placing limits on our digital freedoms in the name of copyright and security. A great point was made about Facebook; you are the product and the advertiser is the customer – you are a farm animal, your data is being farmed.

The final session consisted of a decent talk from Kate Green, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, who spoke against government cuts and the need for activism. A view not always shared by the Labour leadership.

Ally Fogg, a journalist and community campaigner, closed the day with a powerful speech including a mention of the Peterloo Massacre and leaving those in attendance with the thought that, “there is no justice, just us”.

There was much which was useful at Netroots North West, but it did lack a trade union perspective. As trade unionists how do we use new technologies to help organise, build collectivism and compliment the essential role of the workplace rep? And in the process avoid falling into the trap of believing that “clicktivism” is the answer. More on Netroots UK here - http://www.netrootsuk.org/