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The Potential of Google+ for Activism

I’ve been on Google+ since early last week, watching the numbers swell dramatically and getting to know the service.  There are definitely some problems, especially when it comes to policies about real names and pictures, that make me leery of Google+’s potential for feminist and queer work.  But as far as the site structure goes, I’ve been thinking of a number of ways it might be more effective for activism than existing platforms (or at least, a good complement).

  1. Self-selecting Circles.  Google+ Circles are secret, so people can see who’s in your Circles if you allow them, but never see who’s in which Circle.  This is obviously very helpful when it comes to categories you don’t want everyone to know about–your family will never find out about your Sex Geeks circle, and no one will know that they’re only an Acquaintance, not a Friend.  But Circles also can be helpful in the way filters are often used on Dreamwidth–you can ask who wants to be where, and broadcast relevant news only to those people.  If people have been hiding your Facebook posts because they’re interested in your posts on disability, but don’t really want to read about immigration or prisoner’s rights, you can at least get them to read what’s relevant to them now.  I have a general Activism Circle where I’m sharing the most crucial stuff to everyone, but I get more in depth on specific Circles.  Asking publicly also helps you find folks you don’t know, or folks who you don’t realize are into activism.
  2. Hangouts as a form of consciousness-raising.  Not too long ago, I read the book Manifesta and was trying to figure out a way to bring back feminist consciousness-raising groups, especially as a way for diverse feminists to share experiences and community priorities.  That can be hard to arrange in person, but Hangouts have a lot of potential for this.  You can arrange a Hangout on a particular topic, or just throw together a group of activists who don’t know each other and moderate a discussion.  Hangouts could also be used for strategizing, for book groups, and for free online classes or workshops.  There are some limits in terms of accessibility, because those who have a webcam are an even smaller group than those who have a computer with Internet access (also relevant, I don’t think most mobile devices could run Hangouts, and mobile Internet use alone is more common among people of color and working class people).  They’re also still hammering out how it can be used by deaf Google+ users.  But, it’s a start.
  3. Integration with Google Reader.  I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I get most of my news through Google Reader.  My typical process is to read news sources and blogs, bookmark stories with to share later, and then post those stories on Facebook or Twitter.  Often, I forget to ever post them.  The new Share button in the upper-right hand corner of any Google screen is going to make this a lot easier for Google+.  I can read an interesting blog post, copy the link, click Share, paste the link, write a comment, and post, all without ever leaving the window.  That upper right hand box also just makes things easier to follow, as you can read new comments to entries there, and reply to them, without leaving your Gmail or Reader.
What benefits have you found to Google+ for activism?  Any downsides?