“The Politics of Funding” in 3.3.5 of today’s readings were interesting to me, considering the use of numerous crowdfunding platforms as a way of conducting online community fundraising. The idea that it is “necessary to think of a funding model that offers incentives, financial assistance and support to ideas without the usual mechanics of funding and scholarship” is basically the idea that drives Kickstarter. However, there is a minimum threshold that must be observed to effectively accomplish any serious goals or to mobilize activity- lest it end up fulfilling the prophecy set out by the “Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism”. This theory suggests that people are not interested in using the Internet for activism- they would much rather surf pornography or lolcats.
Projects like this one on Kickstarter, where the initiator raised $55,000 for potato salad, demonstrates the entertainment value and troll effect that Digital Natives are undeniably influenced and oftentimes motivated by. Since the internet is a platform for recreation as much as it is for rather serious campaigning, the potato salad Kickstarter reflects the viral nature of the Internet that compels Digital Youth to support projects that are otherwise pretty professional.
In contrast, there are several examples of what a successful Kickstarter campaign (that is also aligned with social justice) might look like- take the Reading Rainbow project that raised $5 million on Kickstarter, for example.
But like any activist project, it takes a good marketing strategy to engage Digital Natives. Similar to the success of the Reading Rainbow campaign, the All of Us Mental Health campaign launched by a couple of offices in UCLA student government might be considered an effective use of media to convey activist causes. The particular strategy used here was to use photographs with a unifying theme that were photographed in the same fashion, then released at the same time. Part of this process tacitly recognizes a couple of things- such as the potential virality of releasing many photos at once (leading us to consider what might or might not be a good strategy to make content viral), and the use of profile pictures as a way of garnering attention (as opposed to simply sharing a post).
Whatever it is, the burden of proof seems to lie in the creators- so while it might be true that people consciously seek out pornography and lolcats over going fishing for an important social cause to donate to, they are evidently more than happy to support a well marketed and properly supported cause, the success of which is dependent on the creators. For me, this in no discredits users- it is human nature to gravitate toward an entertaining more than serious cause.