Internet activism: How are political movements shaped online?

In today's political world, building a campaign team that is dedicated to a digital presence is key to winning.

Jen Schradie: So if someone is thinking about how to build some kind of team to really build and develop an online political or other type of campaign, it's really important to think about who is part of this team. Is it people who understand the audience, right? Do you really know that everyone has internet access or not, or uses a specific platform or not?

And also, does the team really have a really clear division of labor? That is one of the most important pieces that I found. That rather than let's build a Twitter platform -- or presence. Let's build a Facebook presence. Let's use Instagram. And it takes more than just building the platform. It really takes developing it.

And what I found is the architecture of the platform is really important. The groups that tended to have the highest levels of participation really built them for participation, which I know sounds kind of silly. But Facebook in particular, but other platforms have different ways that you can actually set up their platforms to either encourage other people to post or to really restrict that.

And I think to really understand how those platforms work, it takes someone dedicated to understand the next platform that we don't even know exists now, and is able to spend time learning and training. And the problem is that groups that have very little resources where they just rely on volunteers who are also doing a million other things, simply can't keep up with all these changes.

I talked to one activist who had gone to a training on how to build a website and to update their website. They had a website. But then six months later, because they weren't doing it on a regular basis, because this organizer had multiple other tasks to do, wasn't really able to remember six months later how to engage.

So really to have a strong online presence, it does take expertise. And expertise doesn't necessarily mean throwing the online engagement to a young intern. In fact, I think that's something that is an assumption that is not always valid, that young people automatically just know how to use social media.

In fact, I was very interested in finding that it was sometimes older Tea Party activists, sometimes in their 70s, who were the most digitally savvy. So not only did they spend a lot of time online, but they also went to trainings. And this is where having resources do really matter. Yes, there is free information online, et cetera.

But what I really found was that however grassroots a lot of these conservative groups were, they did have connections to very resource-rich organizations that provided consistent training in how to use digital media. And not only the training and how to use it, but they also were given and sent a lot of posts and memes, and et cetera, that really worked for the political message that these groups were trying to make.

  • When it comes to developing an effective online campaign, it's important to build a team of members who understand their audience and who have a clear understanding of their team's division of labor.
  • Successful campaigns understand the pros and cons of various social media platforms — their respective architectures are important when it comes to strategically propagating a message. Having someone who spends concentrated time to really understand how the platforms work, and how to capitalize on their algorithms, is vital to compete in today's political world.
  • Young people aren't automatically savvy when it comes to boosting a campaign's engagement. What matters most is having the resources to train team members how to better utilize social media.
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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
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The history of using the Insurrection Act against Americans

Numerous U.S. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act to to quell race and labor riots.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
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  • The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

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Facebook finally adds option to delete old posts in batches

Got any embarrassing old posts collecting dust on your profile? Facebook wants to help you delete them.

Facebook
Technology & Innovation
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