The digital divide is real. The literacy gap is real.
The “I’m 29 and my eyes are fine so I put this flyer in the smallest font imaginable” gap is real. (If I’ve asked you to read something that you had to hold 3 inches away from your face, I’m sorry.) So for all of the things I’ve been writing lately about digital organizing, I want to address something that I can be pretty flippant about: using digital tactics in a way that promotes accessibility for people in your base. Accessibility commute a lot of different things, and people who are a lot smarter than me has written about how to make websites and social media more accessible and easier to read.
Why Can’t We “Digital Organize”? But what I want to talk about specifically choosing particular digital tactics that will work. I have worked with people who could only use the Internet for an hour a day (at the library) who posted more useful base building material on social media in that hour than I did in 6 months of working on it. I have worked with people who struggled to read English, or found that using the Internet for too long would trigger migraines, but still managed to create videos or audio that reached people and helped them achieve their goals. I have often found that when people say we cannot use this tactic, because my base can’t use this technology, they’re saying: 1.it is not worth it to me to teach my base this technology or build a workflow to make it work (fine) 2.I am not comfortable with this piece of technology and I am projecting that fear onto my base. I struggle with the second one.
People want to share what they know and contribute to the things they believe in. I find that people who have the least access to technology are the most enthusiastic about learning how to use it better. Sometimes, even better, they use it in a way I never would’ve imagined that is way more helpful in terms of reaching their goals. The catch: this kind of deep training takes a lot of time, trust, and energy. It can kind of suck, both for the people learning and the people teaching. I have chosen to stop working with people on this kind of development because we both agreed there were other, easier ways for them to contribute that were better aligned with their self interest.
But when this kind of deep technology training works, it can be kind of magic: it can help resolve internal equity issues or power divisions on your team, expand your base and your messaging to to the places where it’s needed most, get people deeply invested in the campaign, and help everyone do better research, and build a democratic strategy. When you’re thinking about what you can spend your pandemic time doing, creating a how to use Twitter worksheet — well, God even I am cringing at this prospect. (Here’s an okay one I made, Godspeed.) there are not a great deal of well-crafted step by step tools that explain fundamental pieces of digital organizing tactics for those who are not comfortable with technology, but I don’t think you have to die on that hill. Instead, this is the time to figure out the right medium for your asynchronous communication. Again, asynchronous communication is any communication, decision-making, and discussion where responses are not expected in real time.
Here are some prompts: Ask a member who you think of or have seen struggle with technology access about what format Is easiest for them. Is it easier for them to have a voicemail with some of this strategy included? Could you make a new email you sent to most of your team that you also print out? Do you just need to change your font size? Ask that member or someone else about what information in the campaign is hard for them to remember or that they feel like you don’t always get to in your one on ones or meetings. Is it more about your target, who they are, what they do, why your focused on them to solve this problem? Is it why the target is not doing a good job? These questions kind of suck, you should ask the question that you think I should have on here instead.