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Published by chaebong_nam, 2017-02-05 19:20:02


Gov 94 Citizenship in the Digital Age From Voice to Influence
Sarah Wu and Alice Jeon

“the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals and a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude...all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”
-The Vegan Society

Brief History
● Modern day veganism circa 1944, Donald Watson
● Took root in vegetarian ideals, but took execution to a different level of commitment
● 1970s, studies link veganism to health benefits

About our project: Starting Questions
● What are people’s motivation for becoming vegan?
● Do these actors consider veganism a political statement? Are vegan groups
● What role does social media play for vegans and for vegan groups?
● What are the risks and sacrifices of being involved in the modern vegan

● 3 Interviewees: A graduate student in the Harvard sociology department, a senior from the United States, a freshman hailing from Greece.
● Semi-structured interview ranging from 30 minutes to an hour
● 3 interview questions:
How did you decide to go vegan? Are you involved in any online and offline vegan communities?
(How) do you use social media to sustain your vegan lifestyle?


Why does it matter to me?
● Heightened awareness of meat and dairy production (animal rights) and nutritional impact (health) through media; upbringing
● Was it political?
“My grandfather who got sick from cancer was prescribed a vegan diet. And I was like why would they prescribe him a vegan diet? If that’s the thing you should be eating when you have cancer, why wouldn’t you eat that all the time? The more read about it, the more that my mind was blown by the impact of nutrition. I just started reading more and more about it and I went down the rabbit hole.”
One interviewee brings up the famous quote by Paul McCartney: “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

How much should they share?
● What are the associated risks and sacrifices?
● The stigma of being labeled a “preachy” vegan
● Taking and uploading pictures of all their meals: an intimate ordeal
● Issue of privacy

How do they make it about more than themselves?
● Depends on motivations behind becoming vegan, but overlap exists
● Ethically-motivated vegans and a disinterested perspective
● Health-motivated vegan more explicitly aligns with rooted cosmopolitanism
○ Driven by equitable self-interest
○ Seeking optimal health, doing so in a way that is good for environment and prevents animal suffering

Where do we start? How do we make it easy and engaging?
● The role of social media; conflicting responses; resources interviewees mentioned: documentaries, blogs, family/friends, books, newspapers(!), vegan groups
● Realizing that veganism doesn’t look like this:

How do they get wisdom from crowds?
● Crowdsourcing vegan recipes, answers to lifestyle questions through various platforms
● Asking vs reading Q&A

How do they handle the downsides of crowds?
● Echo-chamber effect
● Policing within vegan groups causing inter-group tensions
● Importance of fact-checking information

Does raising our voices count as civic and political action?
● Shelby’s argument for intrinsic value in symbolic expression
● “Coming out” as vegan, solidarity against animal cruelty, environmental harm,
and for healthier lifestyles

How do we get from voice to change?
● Voice often leads to change through social media and virality
● One interviewee mentioned Animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky’s lecture on
veganism, drew parallels between slaughterhouses and concentration camps
○ The lecture was translated into Hebrew went viral in Israel, 1 million hits
○ Post-viral video: 8% of Israelis converted, no changes at the polity level, but individual choices have send economic signals

How can we find allies?
● Global connections through social media
● Offline gatherings: Boston-Plant Based Millennials, Harvard Vegan Society
● Using celebrities for leverage

Conclusion: What have we found so far?
● Small sample size but the value of case studies
● Motivations for becoming vegan largely stem from ethical and health reasons
● Intentional living and advocacy on a small scale (converting friends)
● Vegan groups vary e.g. support networks, education / advocacy goals
● Conflicting role of social media
● Low-risk activity when non-political; more risk when advocating re: disconnect between intention and perception


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