Midterm Exam

AVAAZ.org is a perfect example of a civic media outlet.  This is a website that takes action on civic issues through participatory media. Once getting onto the site, we immediately know what the website stands for, how many members take part in the movement worldwide, and even how to become part of it.  Not only do we immediately know how to sign up to be a member of the cause, but we also immediately know how to create our own cause through starting our own petition.

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With over 27 million members worldwide, an attribute to the large following could be ease of membership through low transaction costs.  It is not only free to join, but it also is a very simple process and does not take much thought or effort to become part of it.  In fact, I actually just signed up for the website myself and it took me approximately 2 minutes.  Right on the homepage under the amount of members, is a spot to enter your e-mail address, and once you do that, all you need to do is enter your name, country, and zip code and you are all signed up. There are no monetary and minimal cognitive transaction costs to become involved with this website. However even without membership, a person is able to read through the issues the website highlights to inform themselves on political matters around the world.

A particular circumstance that caught my attention was a story highlighted on the home page on a woman from Brazil, Ana Paula who felt she was unfairly imprisoned in Russia.  Avaaz explains her story, gives an option to sign the petition, and explains what signing the petition could accomplish.  There are statistics that show us how many people have already signed and from what countries, and how many total signatures is their goal, which gives her petition credibility.  This woman is your average citizen, that was simply just peacefully protesting the drilling of the arctic for oil.  She isn’t a popular political figure or celebrity, yet she was able to get get over 940,000 signatures so far, and the number keeps increasing as I’m typing up this midterm.  This website has given this woman an opportunity to have her story heard.

Avaaz displays disruptive characteristics of old traditional civic action organizations that are similar to that of MoveOn.  Like MoveOn, and unlike older traditional civic action organizations, Avaaz has a very easy membership process, and has a specific cause fundraising process.  It is free and it is simple to join.  Any money you may donate, or time you may spend for this organization is only on the specific topics that you choose.  Also like MoveOn, Avaaz may not neccesarily need your money, but would need your support.  In the case of Ana Paula, the woman who believes she is unfairly imprisoned, the only thing that Avaaz is asking from you is your support of signing a petition if you feel that it is a just cause, and you can do that at the click of a mouse.  What differs from MoveOn with Avaaz is the fact that Avaaz deals with political issues on an international scale. Avaaz bridges any gaps between countries with a very easy way to change the language of the site at the very top.

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Avaaz is a great way to gain social capital through bridging ties. It not only gives you the opportunity to share your petition through their website and to their following, but also gives you a chance to share your petition, or any Avaaz petitions for that matter with your own following on your personal social media sites.  If you or anybody for that matter shares a petition on their own facebook or twitter site, it gives their followers and friends the opportunity to share it with their followers and friends. In order to even be able to start a petition through Avaaz you must give background information on the cause, the purpose, and why it is important to you.  This gives the petition at least some credibility to back up what you are petitioning for.

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Overall, this website is a great example of participatory media used for civic change.  It has low transaction costs, boosts social capital through bridging ties, gives the opportunity for ordinary people to have their voice heard, and has great simplicity and usability for users worldwide with things such as the ease of changing the language of the website.

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