The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism

Location: Marina Ballroom E Level: Novice

The Web was invented so physicists could share research papers. Web 2.0 was invented so we could share cute pictures of our cats. The tools of Web 2.0, while designed for mundane uses, can be extremely powerful in the hands of digital activists, especially those in environments where free speech is limited.

This talk looks at creative uses of well-known tools to promote free speech in countries from Bahrain to China, and looks at ways in which the use of these tools helps evade internet censorship and promotes human rights issues to a wider audience.

We’ll look at projects like Sami ben Gharbia’s Tunisia Prisons Mapo which put information about secret prisons and the activists housed in them into a Google Maps mashup, as well as creative uses of blogs, twitter, flickr, and other well-known tools.

Photo of Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman

Global Voices

Ethan Zuckerman is a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. His research focuses on activist uses of the internet and citizen media in the developing world. With Rebecca MacKinnon, he is the cofounder of Global Voices (, an award-winning international community of webloggers and citizen journalists. Prior to his work with Berkman and Global Voices, Ethan founded Geekcorps, a volunteer organization which sent technology experts to work with ICT companies in the developing world, and prior to that helped found His blog lives at


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