Being in Washington, DC (and being somewhat old), I remember the days before the Internet, when people actually physically drove (or flew or walked or biked) themselves down to the Capitol Mall to take part in a protest. Apparently, this is not the case anymore. While it is true that some large-scale events can garner some warm bodies (such as a recent rally on the mall in opposition to the war in Iraq), it turns out that many people prefer to participate in cyber protests.
In a recent Washington Post article (Where Have All the Protests Gone? Online), writer Jennifer Earl discusses this issue, noting that the Internet has become a powerful organizing tool for protests. Not only does it help provide logisitical support for the old fashioned approach (directions, downloading signs, providing travel information, etc.), but it has, perhaps more important, become an important new venue for registering discontent.
Advocacy organizations need to consider these new approaches when figuiring out ways for their members to participate in any type of activism. And we're talking more than just sending e-mails here. The world of online activism is filled with all kinds of social networking activities -- online activities that often lead to offline action.