The Future of Change
How Technology Shapes Social Revolutions
by Ray Brescia
Pub Date 15 Apr 2020
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In The Future of Change, Ray Brescia identifies a series of "social innovation moments" in American history. Through these moments—during which social movements have embraced advances in communications technologies—he illuminates the complicated, dangerous, innovative, and exciting relationship between these technologies, social movements, and social change. Brescia shows that, almost without fail, developments in how we communicate shape social movements, just as those movements change the very technologies themselves.
From the printing press to the television, social movements have leveraged communications technologies to advance change. In this moment of rapidly evolving communications, it's imperative to assess the role that the Internet, mobile devices, and social media can play in promoting social justice. But first we must look to the past, to examples of movements throughout American history that successfully harnessed communications technology, thus facilitating positive social change. Such movements embraced new communications technologies to help organize their communities; to form grassroots networks in order to facilitate face-to-face interactions; and to promote positive, inclusive messaging that stressed their participants' shared dignity and humanity. Using the past as prologue, The Future of Change provides effective lessons in the use of communications technology so that we can have the best communicative tools at our disposal—both now and in the future.
Ray Brescia is the Hon. Harold R. Tyler Chair in Law & Technology and a Professor of Law at Albany Law School. Before, he was a lawyer and community organizer in New York City, working in Harlem, Washington Heights, the South Bronx, and Chinatown to promote housing rights, worker rights, and economic development. He has held positions at the Urban Justice Center, the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and the Legal Aid Society of New York, where he was a Skadden Fellow, and as a law clerk to the Hon. Constance Baker Motley, United States District Court Judge. Follow him on Twitter @rbrescia.
"In this timely and important book, Ray Brescia cracks the code of how social change happens. Drawing on an array of examples from U.S. history, he shows how new technologies—from steam power to the postal system to Facebook—have combined with inclusive messages and grassroots networks to build movements and change laws. For anyone interested in advancing progressive causes, The Future of Change is an essential read."—Daniel H. Pink, author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human
"A thoughtful and comprehensive exploration of how social movements are structured by the media environments in which they operate. Brescia goes far beyond describing how activists have used media from the printing press to Twitter; he exposes how the very logic and ethos of a social movement can become defined by the technologies they deploy."—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock and Team Human
"This is an important book that truly understands how social movements can succeed to make change in people's lives. With a rich examination of history, and keen understanding of old-school organizing techniques as well as modern social media strategies, Ray Brescia provides a roadmap for all engaged citizens to change the country for the better. And not a moment too soon. This book is needed now more than ever."—Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress