Kate Ronald says that “walking denotes first hand, practical experience […] it means connecting that practice to theory” which begs the question: Is digital feminism walking the walk, or just talking the talk? I am inclined to believe it is a bit of both. When we engage in digital feminism how do we qualify the experience? Is it first-hand? In the sense that it is being experienced in a moment, by an individual – even though the information is digitized – it is, sort of, but it is necessary to put that individual in context. They are looking at a screen and though there is interaction, Malcolm Gladwell’s piece hits the nail on the head. Though he praises the social media aspect of digital activism’s ability to create diverse networks as “our greatest source of new ideas and information” he draws a bold line between the relatively low personal investment of online campaigns and the on the ground, face-to-face activism that creates real change. Digital activism captures a Polaroid moment. Polaroid images are far from digital, yet they are an instantaneous moment captured in a semi-permanent media and the moment you catch two seconds later could be profoundly different. Polaroid images are also wonderful. Just after the birth of my first child, my aunt took a Polaroid shot of myself, my infant son, and my now ex-husband to bring to my grandfather who was very ill, four hospitals away in Portland. Little did we know my grandfather would die the next day and if it hadn’t been for that Polaroid camera, he would have never seen his great-grandson. But the fact is, he never held his great-grandson and while I am grateful for that blurry image, developed before my very eyes, it is blue on black considering the connection that could have been made face to face. The rhetoric that we use in a digital community and the rhetoric we use inside of an encompassing community “of shared interest” (Ronald) considered in the terms Ali Darwish uses to characterized text in Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice, (textual, contextual, cultural, temporal, intentionally and inter-textually) both rely on the reciprocal relationship that is developed between reader and author. The community of teacher/scholars that Ronald refers to cannot exist on texts alone. Sharing, reading, and responding to digital information, theories, and practices are only half of the process of real change, connection is the other.
Rosa Parks was not a woman who was simply fed up with having to stand on the bus who, encouraged by an article in the paper, decided it was time to take up the civil rights movement. She was chosen; her seat had been reserved for her. She came prepared that day, she had been groomed for the ordeal and more importantly, she had a concrete, personal connection to the people who were there to support her. “It strikes me that feminist rhetoricians almost always […talk and walk…] by necessity,” says Ronald and digital feminist rhetoricians are no exception. The digital realm may encourage community by name and follower but it cannot replace the more powerful physical and emotion connections of face-to-face communities.