The Great LJ Strike of 2008, Part 2

I actually didn’t manage to log on to LiveJournal during the strike, rendering my refusal to participate moot.

What can I say? I was busy!

I’m tempted to write it off as a familial ethic with regard to strikes, claim that my father growing up in a coal mining town somehow made it impossible for me to cross a picket line– but that would be taking the easy route. The fact was, and is, that I just had a busy Friday. And as many times as I’ve been on LiveJournal sixteen times in one day, there’s just as many times that I’ve failed to participate, for a day, two days, a week.

Social networks, especially text-heavy ones like LJ, are semi-sporadic in terms of participation, even among the most addicted.

Which led me to thinking: the real problem with the kind of hybrid work stoppage/boycott that can be one’s only recourse in social networking systems has a real problem: the unavailability of a picket line.

I’d always thought of picket lines as a spectacular display on the part of the striking party, as a spectacle of solidarity and protest. But they serve a further function: they serve to create a way that those striking, those most committed to the action, can actually stand up and be counted. A picket line separates group action from a day of spiked absenteeism.

If numbers come from the LJ strike, if one were to numerically assess the efficacy of the action, I would show up as a participant, despite my desire to, if anything, participate despite, to not participate in the group action. Looking at my friends, I actually had a few friends who seem to be posting as a direct response to the action, posting somewhat low-content posts, posts they otherwise would not have made, just to stand up and be counted as non-participants. I frankly just didn’t have the time. I made a couple Twitter tweets, but other than that, I was basically just not able to take the time to be online on Friday. My feed reader was likewise neglected.

So– if one wants to effectively signal the power of a mass action in the virtual world, one needs to create a virtual picket line.

In the future, when people are boycott/striking a particular SNS in order to prove a point, it might be wise for them to create an online picket line, in addition. It could function as a sort of one-day-only petition, and users could sign using their usernames on whatever SNS is under scrutiny– this would provide the people in charge, who need to be able to gauge the power and efficacy of such a mass action in order to actually evaluate if it should be taken seriously, a data pool for comparison.

Just a thought, but I think it could be beneficial for digital organizing.