1. Online Activism 101

“New technological environments are commonly cast in the molds of the preceding technology out of the sheer unawareness of their designers.”—Marshall McLuhan

I was standing in front of an easel in the middle of the windowless sanctuary of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Jackson in June 1997, leading a forum discussion on the importance of online organizing for churches, and I looked like I was trying to sell something—and doing a terrible job of it.

“So why do we need a website?” one of the parishioners asked. It was a good question. I had no good answer because in 1997 only 22.1% of the U.S. population used the Internet—and Mississippi, America’s poorest state and among its most rural, wasn’t exactly leading the ...

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