Steve Walker

Some less or more well-organised thoughts

Archive for October 2012

Earliest online activism?

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I’ve just seen a tweet (via @miskellaneous) asking about the earliest online activism. Of course, this depends on what we mean by online, but significant early dates, I think, include:

– Interdoc Velletri agreement on the importance of global online communication for grassroots NGOs (agreed in 1984, after a 1982 initiative of the Canadian IDRC in 1982). Brian Murphy’s (2005) wrote an article in First Monday article: Interdoc: the first international non-governmental computer network, which includes a copy of the agreement.

– In 1982, the British Colombian Teachers’ Federation began using online terminals to organise distributed meeting (this was reported at the 1992 Labour Telematics Conference; I have the papers from this conference and keep meaning to post the somewhere. Among the fascinating papers is one about the S. African WorkNet bulletin board system; and one about the (then) International Chemical, Energy and General Workers’ Unions use of online databases and email in supporting their affiliates’ campaigns around the world. Contact me if you’re interested, but I will try to get these posted, along with the conference report, in the next week or two.

– Earlier, according to Lucore (2002) in the Journal of Labour Research, the Teamsters were using email to co-ordinate their locals by the late 1970s (following a pilot in the late 1960s). In 1972, Charles Levinson’s ‘International Trade Unionism’ refers to the potential of telex in global online labour education.

– But my favourite, and winner by a long way if we’re allowed to include telegraphy is the 1908 (yes, 1908) use by Indian telegraph workers of the telegraph network to co-ordinate a trans-regional strike (Choudhury, 2003 in the International Review of Social History). (Note: 18/6/13 – the New York Times tells us that Indian telegraphy system is to close in July 2013, after 163 years –


Written by Steve

October 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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