10 tactics for turning information into action is a 50-minute film documenting info-activism success stories from around the world. It explores how rights advocates have used digital technologies to create positive change. The film is produced by the Tactical Technology collective (TCC), an NGO that offers guides, tools, training and consultancy to human rights advocates. The film is freely available online and the organization offers to provide copies of the film and the printed toolkits that come with it to anyone who offers to organize a screening.
I had the opportunity to hold a public screening in the Moroccan city of Rabat on February 16. Faith Bosworth, TCC's Communications Coordinator asked me a couple of questions about it:
How did you first hear about it? What did you think of the 10 tactics?
I first heard about "10 tactics" in December 2009 when I attended the second Arab bloggers conference in Beirut. Watching the film and reading the invaluable guides, tools and booklets that come with it, and then listening to real life experiences from some of the most prominent Arab online activists I had the privilege to meet in Lebanon, made the experience even more compelling. I met the narrator back then in Beirut, and I learned the philosophy behind the project, how it came to life and how important it was to spread the word and share with as much people as possible.
The tactics explained in the film and toolkits, although some of which appeared evident to some of us, are an honest summing up of years of struggle and online activism, thoroughly explained and generously shared with the rest of the world. It is an impressive easy-to-understand and ready-to-use guide for grassroots activists and netizens, many of which may lack the knowledge to making their campaigns successful while protecting themselves and their sources.
Did you feel that the content speaks to activists in Morocco?
In a region of the world (the Arab region) where people suffer a great deal of lack of freedom and lack of access to information, the Internet has proved to be a blessing for the millions of persecuted and disenfranchised. It is definitely a place where the film will be having the greater impact. So when I was invited to a workshop for Maghreb bloggers in Rabat back in January, I instantly thought this was the occasion to screen "10 Tactics" and share thoughts, views and tools about online activism with fellow bloggers.
During the screening, I had the feeling people connected easily to most of the content. I think some of the tools presented, although they were appreciated, might have unsurprisingly left the audience (Moroccan that is) with the feeling that some tactics are so technically intimidating or expensive that these were not for them. In a country suffering from poverty and massive illiteracy, acquiring a laptop or even a camera is sometimes beyond reach. All in all, people felt indeed connected and some examples in particular seemed to speak to the audience: reactions to the fearturing of the "Moroccan Sniper" (a Moroccan activist who captured police corruption on camera and posted it on Youtube) were very positive. Also, there were Oh's and Boo's when the film revealed how Geobombing techniques exposed abuse of public money in Tunisia to finance private flights by the president's wife. This particular story was a revelation to most of the people in the audience, especially our Tunisian colleagues, most of whom heard about it for the first time. Youtube by the way is blocked in Tunisia ever since this story was brought to light!
Was there a discussion after the screening? What sorts of things did people say?
There wasn't a formal discussion held right after the screening since we couldn't make it before very late in the evening, but people started talking about it spontaneously. And in the following day when, coincidently, the main workshop was about using online tools for advocacy and activism, those who watched the film felt they already had a preview of the major tools available out there and their actual use on the ground. Geobombing for example was obviously something they needed no further explanations about. Some people came back to me and said: "This is impressive... this is great"... that kind of stuff. But what struck me was the one single negative reaction I got from a participant who felt there was, as he said "a hidden agenda behind these kind of campaigns, especially when free material is so generously distributed." I had a hard time trying to convince the guy that what we saw was basically ordinary people talking about their experiences to other ordinary people. Regardless of the specific examples exposed in the film or the printed toolkits and booklets, the main idea was to be able to share those experiences and make use of those wonderful tools available online. But this particular reaction wasn't really a surprise knowing how conspiracy theories tend to encrust in people's minds in this region, partly given the long and painful history of Western negative interference. But this was in no way mainstream among the audience which overwhelmingly welcomed "10 Tactics" and embraced the idea behind the project.
How do you think people will use the information they received from the film and from the other Tactical Tech materials?
The kind of reactions I got were in the sort of asking if individual participants could organize screenings of their own. One participant in particular, took great interest in the toolkits and the film itself. She is a journalist and told me she knew about NGOs in the region of Marrakesh who try to help alleviate poverty and raise awareness about problems related to illiteracy and how it affects people's welfare. She wants to screen the film for those people and see if it can be of any use to them. I also got in touch with Khalid Jamaï, active member of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH), and veteran journalist. He was very interested in organizing a screening of the "10 Tactics" in the headquarters of the organization in Rabat.