Cute cat theory

The cute cat theory was coined by Ethan Zuckerman in 2008 as a way of explaining why it is that digital activists use mainstream social media, rather than specialized tools and platforms. Zuckerman posits that activists are using sites where people mainly share pictures of ‘cute cats’ because, simply put, that is where the people are. It is more difficult to engage people, or call them to action, when you first have to bring them to a specialized platform. Instead, using sites which are primarily used for social networking, surfing porn, or viewing lolcats, you are reaching people where they already spend much of their time. He showed that you can use web 2.0 for “cute cats pictures” as well as political content.  Repressive governments might attempt to block this political content by blocking access to, say, all of Blogspot or all of Twitter, but in doing so they also block people from looking at non-political content, like pictures of cute kittens. And then people who weren’t interested in activism started doing this. For example you put activist video on youtube, only few people watched it. But government noticed that you put this video and blocked this vebsite. They blocked not only your video but also videos of cute catty. So cute catty people starting interested why government blocked this video so they started interested also about political activism. First of all they didn’t know anything but now they involve and know more and some of them can even getting started to be activism also. This brings more attention to the political causes the government is trying to suppress through the streisand effect, and can politicize users who previously just wanted unfettered access to cute kittens.

That’s why activist people should use mainstream social media- now when people are addicted in this things it’s the best way to interested a lot of people and show them your point as a acticvist. This is great for Web 2.0, and suggests that activists should host their blogs on sites where a lot of kittens would be taken down as collateral damage should they be blocked.

However, what happens when a government is perfectly willing to block all social media? What if a user wants to do more than produce political content on the web? In addition, this may offer some protection from censorship.

I agree with Zuckerman’s proposition about the effect of closing down a key wide distribution medium. Way back in the 80’s when the Polish government had what they thought was a little local difficulty in Gdansk, they closed the telephone exchange. Pretty soon the whole country and the world knew that there was something big going down in Gdansk. You know the result.



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