Centre for Internet & Society

Thomas Burks
Birmingham, AL USA

Video Proposal

We have a small production company in Birmingham, Alabama. I was hired on a year ago to do film and commercials for them as they expand into advertising and video coverage of events. We only have about three employees including myself, working out of our homes. We recently acquired a space to open a studio and retail location downtown where we live. We use Facebook, blogs, and viral marketing all the time to get our name out there. Our account executive is constantly monitoring our Facebook for client orders and bookings. We are beginning to use twitter to provide information more fluidly to people. We believe this might be a year of growth for our small company, as we are able to provide better quality content. We're fully digital, constantly updating our websites and blogs, and I believe we would be able to tell a great digital story. We submit numerous small films and skits, we cover awesome concerts, and rely so heavily on the digital world to show our content. This will be the gist of our video.

Video Genre



What do you understand by the term Digital Native? Do you consider yourself one?
The term digital native, I understand, is any person living a lifestyle dominated by technology. It is a facet in their day to day lives and a staple in
their structure and organization. I do consider myself a digital native; I spend more time a day dealing with technology than not. I don't think your background could have anything to do with someone's status as a digital native, unless their location and situation would keep them from accessing it. But the beauty of the internet and our way of life is that the world is much smaller today. Our window to the world is becoming a doorway.

There is a perception that a digital native is typical of a young, American geek who’s plugged in to his devices 24x7 and apathetic to social causes. You agree?
I agree that this perception exists. Most people's first thought about my country (U.S.) when you think of a techie or a social media addict is a hipster in a coffee shop with an indie band and a hemp beanie. But this is only in my country; I see people of all cultures and creeds flourishing with technology all the time, involved with causes and doing their bit for society, whether they come from America or other countries.

Can digital natives from developing nations create an impact with digital activism?
Absolutely! Take the Kony 2012 campaign. Although it ended badly for the director, it caused a major buzz in less than a week. It's only a matter of time before pop culture takes a hold of it and we see it in major media like sitcoms and cartoons. I try to stay involved with film making endeavors going on around my town through Facebook and Twitter. I did a digital ad for "Operation Warm", a charity that provides coats to children in need.

Activism has changed in the last decade. How effective are online campaigns in raising awareness about an issue vis-à-vis onsite deployment?
I think it's much more effective than it was five years ago, and seems to still be growing, especially where the younger generation is involved. The only drawback to the effectiveness of digital activism is that it discourages educating yourself about an issue in its entirety. Once again, take Kony2012, so many people took it at face value. But it raised ire with many due to the Foundation's shaky background and vague details. It's easy to get your message to the masses, but it's also easy to not see the whole picture.

Are digital natives taking the easy way out by what critics say is ‘slacktivism’: tweeting, linking and liking about grave social issues?
Unfortunately, yes I think so. Some get so wrapped up in "getting their message out" that they don't remember to ACT. You'll affect more lives out there on the street, than you ever will behind a computer. You have to find balance in the two.

A recent example of digital native activism is the Get Kony video campaign. What are your thoughts on the criticism it received?
I honestly thought the video was well edited and shot, and delivered a message strongly. But further digging led to details that were not so noble about the Invisible Children’s organization; the possibility that Joseph Kony has not been heard from in years and may be dead. It's just important to step back and say, "Okay, they seem to have a strong argument here, but what if..."

Are we seeing a trend where digital natives are more involved with local causes than with global issues?
It's just easier for most people to tackle things close to home, and that's okay. Imagine if EVERYONE focused on their own community and well being, everyone would be better off. That's no reason to try and help someone who's far away, but you can do more good in person than you can do over the internet. It's good to incorporate it into your strategy, but remember it's you actions that count.

Your thoughts on Citizen Action and the use of ICT
I think we're going through a transition, people are learning more and more through the internet, and have access to such powerful tools. It's going to be a renaissance of knowledge and creativity. I have learned more technical details for my trade off the internet in a year, than I have during my time in school. It's an exciting time to be alive.

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