I just finished writing a journal article on agency, thank the universe (it only took two years), before the start of the new year. In that article, I concluded by defining agency as as "the latent human ability that acts to influence conditions in their environment that they believe are adversely affecting them individually, their community or their broader environment that contributes to the creation of social and ecological capital” (e-Dialogue, 2009). There are also critical differences to be nuanced between agency and power, and one of my closest co-researchers on this project, Ken Lyotier noted, "the difference with those who engage in repressive agency may be that they believe that the change they intend is a result of their leadership, when it fact it is the result of a whole pile of others only following orders (e-Dialogue, 2009). And the role of social media in re-vitalizing democratic participation is evidenced in the Occupy Wall Street movement and most lately, in the Idle No More movement.
Using a sophisticated combination of social media, flash mobs in malls and strategic alignment with researchers, indigenous women are calling on individuals to join in their movement to challenge aggressive resource development supported by legislation gutting environment assessment. One of its spokespeople, Dr. Pamela Palmater, chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University, explains in this video, the reasons behind the movement, that every economic indicator for First Nations has persistently gone down over the last decade, and 22% of youth die from suicide.
One of my more conservative friends said over Christmas," it will never stick, these movements all fade away". There is so little research into how the internet and social media are sustaining these movements, and I would argue that these replacements for the inefficiencies of the old 'telephone tree' is a powerful way to revitalize democratic involvment of the grass roots. I also find it interesting that the founders of Idle No More refuse to align themselves, with all due respect, to any of the traditional power structures, including the Assembly of First Nations, reiterating this is a people's movement. So, the question remains, "will it stick", let's hope so, and let's hope that our elected officials realize the world is changing and maybe we need more active listening.