Google Docs as subversive technology

Read an article the other day in TechReview (How Google Docs became the social media of the resistance) about how Google Docs was being used to help coordinate and promote the resistance surrounding the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

The article points out that Google Docs are sharing resources around anti-racism, email templates, bail resources, pro-bono legal assistance, etc. to help inform and coordinate the movements actions and activities.

Social unrest, the killer app for Google Docs

Protests could be the killer app for shared Google Docs. Facebook and other social media sites are better used for documenting the real time interactions during protests, but coordinating, motivating and informing the protests and protestors is better accomplished using Google Docs, a simple web based, document editor and sharing service.

In pre-internet days, I suppose all this would have been done on hand copied, typeset printed, carbon copied or photocopied theses/phamplets/fliers/printouts. For example, Luther’s list of grievances nailed to the cathedral door, Common Sense pamphlet during the USA revolutionary war to countless fliers during the 60’s protests, all these used the technology of the day to promote protest and revolution.

Nowadays all it takes is a shared Google Doc and a Google (drive) account.

Google Docs are everywhere

The high school that one of my kids went to uses Google Docs for sharing and submitting homework assignments.

Google Docs are shareable because they are hosted on Google Drives. Docs is just one component of the Google (G-)suite of web based apps that includes Google Sheets (spreadsheets), Google Slides (presentations) and Google Drives (object storage).

Moreover, any Google Doc, Sheet or Slide file can be shared and edited by anyone. And Google services like Docs, Sheets, and Slides are useable anonymously, Anyone onlin, can make a change to a shareable/editable doc, sheet, or slide and their changes are automatically saved to the google drive file.

Another thing is that any Google Doc can be shared with just a URL. And they can also be made read-only (or uneditable) by their owner at any time. And of course any Google Doc is backed up automatically by Google drive services.

Owners of documents can revert to previous versions of a Doc file. So if someone incorrectly (or maliciously) changes a doc, the originator can revert it back to a prior version.

Why not use a Wiki

I would think a Wiki would be better to use to coordinate, motivate and inform a protest. Once a Wiki is setup and started, it can be much easier to navigate, as easy to update, and can become a central repository of all information about a movement/protest.

But it takes a lot more effort and IT-web knowledge to set up a Wiki. And it has to have it’s own web address.

Another problem with a Wiki, is that it can become a central point which can be more easily attacked or disturbed. And Wiki edit wars are pretty common, so they too are not immune to malicious behavior.

But with 10s to 100s of Google Docs, spread across user a similar number of user Google drives, Google Docs are a much more distributed resource, less prone to single point of attack. And they can be created and edited almost on a whim. And the only thing it takes is a Google log in and Google drive.

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Photo copiers were a controlled technology in the old Soviet Union and even today facebook and twitter are restricted in China and other authoritarian states.

But Google Doc’s seems to have become a much more ubiquitous tool and have become the latest technology, to aid, abet and support social resistance.

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