Our mission is to make the world a better place.” In recent years, this statement has become a commonplace among organisations and start-up companies whose existence must, for a reason or other, be explained in terms wider than their immediate function. The degree to which the world becomes better is not immediately, if at all, quantifiable, so how do we measure these mission statements against reality? How do we fill the distance between promises and action, between digital petitions and tangible change?

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Modern advocacy organisations and activist groups are increasingly using social media to promote collective action and facilitate civic engagement, which blurs the lines when it comes to the role of new media in activist work. Crowds are gathered faster, and causes become known immediately online, which creates a more acute sense of emergency and need for intervention. Social and connective media have the benefit of bringing local issues to global attention, ideally channeling the best possible response and most effective action. The challenge is to turn the relatively low-cost effort of internet activism into real-life action.

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In this issue of PETRIe, we look at activism and the many shapes it takes in order to generate social change, as well as at the risk of empty forms of activist action. If activism is often employed as merely a trend, what happens when it goes out of fashion? It´s a given for the art, fashion, and entertainment industries to increasingly adopt one activist stance or another; but what is the impact of this type of engagement on the very structure of the industry? What are the discourses that surround a work of art in the moment it becomes a piece of activist art? How do the ethical and the aesthetic blend, and how do they manage to move the social in the direction of positive change? How do we, really, make the world a better place?

Words: Elena Stanciu

Artwork: Nadia Hernandez for It's Nice That