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SXSW Interactive 2014

The Unruly Mob Would Like to Comment

When the Texas Legislature took up abortion legislation, planned and spontaneous social media filled the Capitol with thousands of activists and delivered a global participatory audience. Celebrities tweeted as an 11-hour filibuster approached a midnight deadline, joined by fake Twitter accounts, YouTube, viral memes, livestreaming, guerrilla wifi hotspots, Taiwan animation, secret Facebook groups, Google+ Hangouts, new songs, merchandise, competing Wikipedia edits, dueling commentators, inappropriate touching, women in chains, alleged terrorist sightings, tampon confiscation, Hail Satan chanting, attempted use of a smartphone as an official timepiece, humorous Amazon product reviews for the filibuster shoes, conflicting timestamps, suffragettes, pizza, and vomit. The Internet had it all (http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/wendy-davis-filibuster-by-the-numbers-062613). Did it make a difference? Hear battle-tested techniques you can use from those in opposing trenches and in between.

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  1. The abortion debate in the Summer of 2013 has been called the most “truly transformational moment in Texas politics.” How did social media inspire unprecedented levels of public participation?
  2. Participating interests weren't just pro-choice or pro-life. Some were there to advance a candidate or a specific cause or philosophical position, or attack those of others. How was social media employed for short-term goals like passage or failure of the bill and raising awareness for an individual or a cause? How was it used for long-term goals like fundraising and building membership? What strategies were the most effective?
  3. At its height, 180,000 people watched events unfold on The Texas Tribune's livestream, which its CEO credited to making it into a national and international story (http://www.cjr.org/realtalk/texas_tribune_ftw.php?page=all). What roles did traditional media, new media, and citizen broadcast play?
  4. Memes generated in real time contributed to events (http://www.uproxx.com/webculture/2013/06/the-internets-best-tributes-to-feminist-hero-wendy-davis/#page/2)(http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/senator-wendy-davis-filibuster). One Game of Thrones-related tumblr image has over 35,000 notes (http://oliviabensons.tumblr.com/post/53900241101). How did creativity help break through the noise of 8700 on-topic tweets per minute and energize the public, and where did it fit in the overall strategy?
  5. So what?



Steven Polunsky, Committee Director, Texas Senate

Meta Information:

  • Tags: politics, activism, policy
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Policy and Civic Engagement
  • Track 2
  • Level: Intermediate
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