The Power of the Internet
Lisa Witter is the chief operating officer of Fenton Communications, the largest public interest communications firm in the country. She heads the firm's practice in women's issues and global affairs for clients including Women for Women International, MoveOn.org, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and many others. She is a co-founder of the award-winning website SheSource.org, an online brain trust of women experts to help close the gender gap among commentators in the news media. She was honored as an outstanding activist and expert on women's issues by Oxygen.com for her work on a national campaign against privatizing Social Security during the 2000 presidential election. Lisa is a blogger and political commentator with her work appearing on MSNBC, Fox News, The Huffington Post, AlterNet and Anderson Cooper 360. In 2004, she was a contestant on the Showtime reality show American Candidate. Witter is co-author of The She Spot: Why Women Are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them.
She is on the advisory board for Indianapolis University's Women and Philanthropy Institute, Pop!Tech, Momsrising.org, Women for Women International and Climate Counts.
Question: How is the Internet altering social change initiatives?
Lisa Witter:I think there’s two things that I’ve really seen in my perspective the internet changing, one is who’s using it and two how it’s being used. You know, I went to school at UC Santa Cruz right when the internet was really being developed and I could remember doing my, you know, my coding, you know, my DOS coding and I was on a computers LAN and it was a very impersonal medium and then websites came where you went to the website and you got information and maybe did ecommerce but what’s really changed about the internet now, it’s become much more of an intimate of tool, it’s about for many people, it’s about their life, it’s about well you go on Amazon, it’s about the books that they might like, you know, what’s recommended. They’re reading the reviews that their friends or even strangers, instead of just advertisement, so the whole internet has become with Facebook, with MySpace, it’s become much more of an intimate and personal thing and because of that I think the dynamics and who is using it have really changed. I think it started off as sort of a white male sort of geeky tool and now actually more women are online than men are, more women are blogging then men are. It’s really a women’s medium if you think about it, I mean we are through our brain chemistry, we’re wired to be connected to other people and the internet is such a powerful way to connect whether through, you know, MySpace or Facebook or Twitter, you know, I think a lot of these things are gonna come and go, I think Twitter will come and then, you know, who knows, there might be a new version of Twitter that technology may change. But the truth is, is that people are gaining relationships in new ways then they ever have and like I can talk to someone in Ghana about a problem with genital mutilation that I never was before. So it’s become much more of an intimate tool and it’s changed politics.
Question: What's the next big online trend?
Lisa Witter: What’s interesting, you know, with Intel, Andy Grove is always poking holes in his company to try to find out, you know, where his competitors are gonna come in and take him out. AOL at one time was the, you know, breakthrough technology and then all of a sudden AOLs sort of an old story and the new story is Facebook and sort of what will be next, you know, after that, there’s so much. The conversance between the web and television is completely is what’s next, you know, almost every household has a television, it’s part of our lives, it’s part of our identity and that intimacy that we see both through the internet and also what people are enjoying watching. People love American Idol because it’s an intimate show, they’re seeing people like themselves reflecting, so I’m not sure exactly where it’s going but I know we’re gonna continue to have user-generated content, I think people are gonna be booking their, you know, creating their own television shows. I think that there’s gonna be much more instant response to the way that television works and we’re just gonna see a convergence.
Lisa Witter explains social change in the digital age.