(Worth 20% of your grade; due on December 17)
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Some of you have heard that statement, attributed to cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, so many times that is has become the ultimate platitude — a throwaway line appropriate for any commencement speech or awards ceremony. (Oh, and by the way, no one knows if Mead actually said that.) But if our readings and our discussions this semester have shown us anything, it’s that Mead’s (or whoever’s) declaration has never been more true than it is today, in the era of social media, online petitions, and crowdsourcing. Digital tools have simplified and accelerated the means by which people advocate for change in their communities, and even traditional causes now rely on Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and IndieGoGo campaigns to communicate their message.
For your final project in this class, you will work with two of your classmates to achieve a simple goal: use the internet to change the world. Sound daunting? It should. But before you lose hope, let’s parse that goal. “Change” and “world” are both flexible terms, so instead of thinking about how to end world hunger or stop human trafficking, consider the problems you encounter every day — right here in Blacksburg, or on campus at Virginia Tech — and start asking, “What could we do to change that?” Over the next few weeks, we will study massive, global campaigns for social change, and if your team wants to tackle a big problem in the world, that’s great, but you do not need to have Bono perform at a benefit concert in order to succeed on this assignment. All of us (your professor included) will need to balance ambition with realistic expectations; if we can find that balance, I have no doubt that the projects developed by this class will, in some small way, change the world for the better.
Developing Your Project
Because each team’s work on this assignment will be unique, your team will draft a Plan of Action that explains your project, outlines your proposed efforts to implement the project, and recommends a set of evaluation criteria for me to use when I assign grades. In addition, we will use frequent conferences to help all teams stay on track. After Thanksgiving break, I will meet with your team to review your plan of action, and once I have approved your project, you can begin implementing it. In class, we will regularly review the progress of all teams to learn what is working and what isn’t.
Submitting Your Project
In addition, you will submit an individual memo of transmittal via Google Docs that critiques your own work on this project and evaluates your peers’ contributions to the project. Please use the Unit #4 Memo Template to complete this part of the assignment. Directions are included inside the document.
In the spirit of this assignment, I am asking you to help me develop the evaluation criteria I will use to evaluate your project. When we return from Thanksgiving break, be prepared to answer these questions:
- What qualifies as a worthy cause for students to undertake? Can it be partisan? Can it be controversial?
- How many different “channels” (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, online petition, mobile app, flashmob) are needed to help a cause succeed in the digital age?
- If the goal for this assignment is to “change the world,” what constitutes “change”? How will you (and I) know if your team has succeeded? What standards should we use to measure success?
Your team might find inspiration by analyzing the following projects. Some of these projects are massive, ongoing efforts to influence global change; others are hyperlocal projects with small, short-term goals. As you review these sites, consider how they use the affordances of the web to improve the world. If you find additional projects that we might want to emulate in our work, please send them to me so I can add them to this list.
- Rolling Jubilee
- SOPA Strike
- Internet Defense League
- Save Stadium Woods
- Charity: Water
- Free Rice
- It Gets Better
- Caring Across Generations
Potential Tools and Platforms
The following is an incomplete list of tools and platforms you may want to use for your project. Please do not limit yourselves to the tools on this list, and if you find additional tools that might be helpful, please send them to me so I can add them to the list.
- Twitter account and/or hashtag
- Facebook group
- Google+ page
- Instagram account and/or hashtag
- Thunderclap campaign
- Online petition (White House Petitions, Change.org, additional petition sites)
- Fundraising campaign (Indiegogo, Rally, Razoo, Fundly, GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose, StartSomeGood, Ricebowlproject, Ulule, GoFundMe, Neigbor.ly)
- YouTube video
- Project 4 Awesome campaign
- Tap essay
- Original website (Google Sites, WordPress, Tumblr, Wix, VT Filebox)
- Flashmob or offline meetup