Assessment 3 · Uncategorized

Activism or clicktivism? A discussion on what Web 2.0 bring to social movements

MECO6936 Assignment 3

Echo Guo


Tutorial Time:  Tursday 12pm-3pm, Kai Soh

Most people have heard the word Web 2.0 and know its basic meaning, but not everyone understand what it means for our society. The Web 2.0 decentralized the old power structure by giving the majority the ability to produce and reproduce media (Hinton, 2013). Some believe the Web 2.0 allows a new form of online democracy by giving the mass the right to speak. Further, it allows campaigns and protests that used to happen in the street to happen in the digital world. For movements, the Web 2.0 and social media give them a bigger stage to spread their voices. Web 2.0 not only enhance the conversation between individuals, it also enables conversation between individuals and communities. In Web 2.0 environment, “the audience are no longer simply consumers of media: they have become participants” (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013). Through using the social network platforms, movements of any kind could now recruit, interact and communicate with their potential participants intimately. To discuss how social media and Web 2.0 enhance the power of movements, Fashion Revolution will be used as a case to look at.


The Fashion Revolution is a not-for profit movement first launched in 2014 to remember the Rana Plaza disaster that killed more than 1000 workers in the clothing factory. According to Fashion Revolution’s web page, the movement’s main purpose is to call for “greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry” (, 2017). The movement ask its participants to ask the brands who made theirs clothes on Twitter by posting a photo of them wearing a clothe, using the hash-tag topic #whomademyclothes and @ the brand. The brands respond to the questions by posting photos of their workers with the hash-tag #Imadeyourclothes.


The movement’s founder, Carry Somers claims, their campaign “were the number 1 global trend on Twitter with hundreds of thousands of people calling on brands for greater transparency”  (Claire, 2017). The success of this campaign is not because how delicate it was designed, but because of the social media’s ability of enables normal people to participate into a movement at anytime anywhere. Like Hinton and Hjorth (2013, p2) said “If there is one word that summaries the particular quality of social media, it would be ‘participation’”. The Fashion Revolution movement did not rely on their own strength, it asked the social media users to participate through creating their own content, which is defined as UCC (User Created Content). Participants are not simply responding to the content that created by the movement, they also become the creator of original content that contribute to the movement’s development. The advantage of UCC is, the contents are created, developed, and shared by users voluntarily. For the Fashion Revolution, the platform Twitter enables it could be easily searched by searching #whomademyclothes. The way to participate is also simple, it does not require the participants to do much, but take a picture of their cloths and ask the question out. They even have a tweeting format provided for its participants on their web page. However, the movement could not be so successful without the Web 2.0 and social media technology. Like Hutchinson (2013) listed out, for organizational communication, Web 2.0 has the quality of free, equal, innovative, meanwhile it enables decentralized activities and empowers participants. Imagine if the movement was held in another way without the help of social network platform, it could never went this far.

However, there are numerous campaigns and hash-tag topics happening in the digital world everyday. It makes people wonder, why Fashion Revolution succeed? Or in another way, what features of the movement make people want to participate into it? Of course the tragedy Rana Plaza incident has already drawn the topic much attention, netizens are using the movement as a way to express their emotion on the sweat factories and the whole clothing industry. At the same time, the participation method that introduced by Fashion Revolution, which encourages people to post selfies of themselves with a recently bought cloths, also promotes the development of this campaign. Selfie is no longer a new word these days, but it is never out dated in any social media platform. Selfie that posted on social media is a form of representation of identity. According to study, the primary motivation of selfie-posting is impression management, users of social media tent to post selfies which could convey a postive self-image (Pounders, Kowalczyk and Stowers, 2016). In this case, posting a selfie with the purpose of supporting a non-for-profit movement can be a positive presentation, it could boost ones image on the social media. Usually, posting selfie is seen as narcissism, but through participating into the Fashion Revolution movement, the participants now have a noble reason to post their selfie. Looking through the Fashion Revolution selfies, some are taken in a sexy/good looking gesture, and have added filter on the photo to make the skin looks smooth. All these presentation of beauty are not necessary for this movement at all. It is possible that some might participate into this movement not for supporting the right of workers, but to portrait a desired image of themselves. However, no matter for what reason the social media users participated into the Fashion Revolution, it did go viral, and many major brands has stand out and respond to this movement.

Fashion Revolution has gain huge popularity, it is going to held its third Fashion Revolution Week in April 2017 again. However, does its popularity really bring revolution to the fashion industry? According to Hinton and Hjorth (2013), social media changes the fabric of activism in the emergence of social uprisings. Like the Fashion Revolution, the whole movement is happened online and have global influence. It quickly drew huge attention on social media, and forms a public surveillance power against the unsustainable and inhuman fashion industry by directly questioning the brands. It seems like Fashion Revolution is one of the successful online campaign, since many major fashion brands responded to this movement by showing pictures of their factory workers holding a piece of paper that says “I made your cloths”. It is obvious that the pictures are professionally filmed, and the brands are posting these pictures to boost their brands’ image. However, who made the cloths is not the most important question. The real issues of fashion industry are the working condition, the wage, sustainability, and so on. By showing a happy face of the worker means nothing, and it is even covering for the real issue inside the fashion industry. The founder of the movement Carry Somers introduced that although thousands of people participated, but very few brands responded, especially mainstream fashion brands and retailers (Claire, 2017). After posting their selfie photos and questions, most participants will not ask further questions, meanwhile there will be no further discussion over those brands that decide to stay silent. Using a word to describe this situation is ‘clicktivism’. The traditional modes of movements require more substantial engagement from activists (Hinton, 2013). Nowadays, it does not take much effort to launch and participate into a movement, but participants would only stay on the superficial level of a movement, with no further efforts be made. That’s why many have argued that the Web 2.0 has turned activism into ‘clicktivism’. The Fashion Revolution do make the issues of fashion industry broadly learned by the public on social media, and that’s it. No further solution is raised from the movement.


In conclusion, the web 2.0 has brought campaigns and movements new opportunities. Through using social media, all voices now get the chance to be heard. However, the attention of audiences are limited, so only the campaigns with good strategy could win. On the other side, the effects of online movements is not as great as their popularity. It is hard to measure to what extent the online movement has made successful changes in the real life. In hence, to avoid “clicktivism”, social media should be use as a tool to popularize the social movement, but not as a place where the movement stays, at the superficial level.



Hinton, S. (2013). What is Web 2.0?. In: S. Hinton and L. Hjorth, ed., Understanding social media, 1st ed. London: SAGE, pp.8-31.

Hinton, S. and Hjorth, L. (2013). Participation and User Created Content. In: S. Hinton and L. Hjorth, ed.,Understanding Social Media, 1st ed. London: SAGE, pp.55-76.

Hutchinson, J. (2013). Communication Models of Institutional Online Communities: the Role of the ABC Cultural Intermediary. Journal of Media and Communication, 1(5).

Pounders, K., Kowalczyk, C. and Stowers, K. (2016). Insight into the motivation of selfie postings: impression management and self-esteem. European Journal of Marketing, 50(9/10), pp.1879-1892.



Claire, M. (2017). It’s Fashion Revolution Day 2015! Founder Carry Somers tells us why it’s so important. [online] Marie Claire. Available at: [Accessed 18 Apr. 2017]. (2017). Fashion Revolution. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Apr. 2017].






One thought on “Activism or clicktivism? A discussion on what Web 2.0 bring to social movements

  1. Hi Echo

    I’m also quite interested in this issue (or as I have heard it called “slacktivism”).
    I think that you have raised some great points about how greater online penetration means that we are engaging albeit passively with many social issues of our times. I think you really hit the nail on the head when you talk of people’s superificial engagement with an issue rather than traditional forms of protest. However, I feel it is important to note that many online campaigns have manifested in the offline world such as in the 2017 Women’s March and the 2011 Arab Spring.

    I think another really great example is the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) where people were clearly clicktivists when netizens from around the world posted that they were in Dakota to throw police off the scent when to police (whose job it is to investigate) could easily see that they were elsewhere. It was a great idea of online activism but truly smelt of slacktivism. Like the #IMadeYourClothes, it was easy to see that this was very fake it its efforts.



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