#amazonfail and we’re not done yet: links and perspectives (UPDATED with new links)

amazon.fail ... and you're done

Update, April 21: added some additional links here

Amazon’s stock has recovered, bouyed by Friday’s report that Kindle sales have exceeded expectations. Traffic on the #amazonfail hashtag is much lighter.  The auction for AmazonFail.com is over, at least for the time being.

But I don’t think this issue’s going away quite that quickly.

Right now it feels like everybody’s taking a step back and reflecting.  There’s general agreement on the narrative described in the National Coalition Against Censorship’s #amazonfail explained in a flowchart and there’s a theme starting to emerge in the tweets on #amazonfail and blog posts:

It’s not over.

All the attention being paid to Clay Shirky’s view obscures the fact that most of the participants don’t see it that way.  Here are some perspectives that for some reason don’t seem to be getting as much visibility:

April 21: and …

Meanwhile in the mainstream world the backlash continues with Nick Carr’s analogizing the “hashmob” to a pillowfight etc. etc.  Whatever.

So many lenses …

Moving forward … now what?

Especially in light of the backlash that attempts to rewrite history to reverse blame, characterize the activists as a “mob”, and turn the page on the “glitch” without addressing the deeper issues, I think it would be very valuable to collect and highlight the history as it happened.  More on that in a comment.

There’s so many things happening with #amazonfail that I find I have to look at it through multiple lenses to try to understand it.  The posts I link to include writers, publishers, lesbians, gays, queers, disability rights activists, feminists, independent bookstores, ethicists, and anti-DRMers.  All of those are important and to focus on any one as “the” issue risks marginalizing the others.  I’d like to suggest a couple more lenses on the table as well.

It doesn’t look like a mob to me

One important one is “internet mobs”.  The abstract of Danielle Citron’s recent Cyber civil rights law review article makes the point that

Social networking sites and blogs have increasingly become breeding grounds for anonymous online groups that attack women, people of color, and members of other traditionally disadvantaged groups. These destructive groups target individuals with defamation, threats of violence, and technology-based attacks that silence victims and concomitantly destroy their privacy…. Today’s cyber attack groups update a history of anonymous mobs coming together to victimize and subjugate vulnerable people. The social science literature identifies conditions that magnify dangerous group behavior and those that tend to defuse it. Unfortunately, Web 2.0 technologies accelerate mob behavior.

There’s no question that Twitter is an incredible accellerant.  There are a few examples of statements I see as defamatory or targeting an individual.  Overall, though, very little of this applies.  With #amazonfail, it’s activists from traditionally disadvantaged groups calling attention to how they’ve been silenced.   And neither “Support independent bookstores” and “Boycott Amazon” are ‘dangerous group behavior’; it’s consumers organizing to leverage their buying power against a large corporation — something that Clay talked about approvingly in his book.   Hmm.  Doesn’t seem like a mob to me.

Danielle’s December 2007 presentation “Destructive Crowds: New Threats to Online Reputation and Privacy” has more background on this. Dealing with hate speech, flaming, and trolls on the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008 Wikia page has a lot of related links, including the Kathy Sierra case.

Self-organizing in action

Another good lens for #amazonfail is the general context of Twitter-based activism.  #motrinmoms is the most obvious parallel; Joanne Bamberger’s Don’t call me a mommyblogger is a good starting point, and I have a lot more links in #MotrinMoms: from Twitter to the New York Times in 24 hours.  More generally there are some intense debates about Twitter activism going on in the political space right now, for example with progressives’ reactions to the perception that conservatives are dominant on Twitter, and #pman’s role in the ongoing protests in Moldova.

If you’re interested in this lens, there are zillions of links, along with my perspectives, in my guest-blogging series Lessons from Skittles for poets and activists on The Seminal and the Building engaged communities that act presentation that Tracy Viselli and I gave at the #nim09 have more.  Twitter *is* a strategy (DRAFT) and the comments are an attempt to sum it up to a higher level.

Motrin Moms, #pman, the activism against the Facebook Terms of Service, Join the Impact, and Get FISA Right all self-organized within 48 hours.  It seems to me that #amazonfail did the same, discussing and preparing for purchase-shifting and potentially a boycott while waiting for more facts to emerge and giving Amazon time to respond.   A lot of the people involved are also connecting with each other, on Twitter and elsewhere.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

Your thoughts?


PS: thanks to @newlady1 for the suggestion of linking to Clay’s thoughts, and to Mia for the info about AmazonFail.org.