The role of cell phone text messaging in state legislative advocacy

The use of cellphone text messaging (aka SMS, for short messsage service) in activism contexts has already been well documented by [Howard Rheingold](, among many others. But most of the celebrated examples have been drawn from the contexts of international national-elections and associated mass protests: the recent elections in Spain, the Phillippines, Korea, etc. A [recent AP story]( noted that newspaper editors are starting to feel threatened by the ability of text messaging to provide instant news, opinion, and rumors far faster than traditional print & television media.

I’ve been thinking a bit about how this technology could best be applied in the context of Northwest environmental activism. Of course there’s the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, but was really an international-scale protest event, rather than a local/regional-scale environmental campaign.

The challenge is that most Northwest environmental issues are neither top-of-mind, a source of mass public outrage or particularly fast-moving. I’m also wondering how cell-phone text messaging could be most effectively used outside of a protest-organizing context. How can it be more of a news & information service?

One thing I’m thinking is that it might be worthwhile to set up an instant messaging network to connect environmental lobbyists in Olympia with each other and with their colleagues back in the main offices in Seattle and elsewhere. While this is not a very “public-facing” kind of application, I think it may be very high-value. Why? Well, critical moments in legislation often happen very quickly, and require quick coordination among a bunch of busy people who are often hard to reach. These people already carry cell phones, but it’s often not practical to provide quick information updates via conversation.

What I imagine is the text-message equivalent of an email listserv… where lobbyists can instantly post quick updates on conversations, deals, etc. to their collleagues. A way to improve our “operational intelligence” if you will. Also, this will help the lobbyists improve communication with their more distant collegauges — Executive Directors, Communications Directors and Field Organizers — back in Seattle and elsewhere.

A service like this would be easy to get going — nearly all of the principles already have cellphones — although some might require upgrades to SMS-capable phones. The only other piece would be to establish a centralized list to manage the updates.