Relevant for this audience: I have a post in The Wire, Business Insider’s media vertical, responding to a pretty silly post Malcolm Gladwell wrote on social media and Egypt.
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I’m not convinced by either side. On the one hand, there is no way the new forms of communication have no impact whatsoever on contemporary protest movements. On the other, we have a very rare, if imperfect, test case of what happens when all that fancy new social media gets shut down in the middle of a massive uprising. The answer: not much.
All that tweeting gave Western techno-utopians a window into what elite English-speaking Egyptians were seeing and thinking. That’s of some non-negligable value.
However, one would be hard pressed to say that but for twitter, facebook, tumblr & co., there wouldn’t be people in Tarhir Square or Ben Ali would have stepped down in Tunisia. Of course, nobody is saying that, because it’s crazy talk.
So what exactly can you say about the role of social media in global protest other than it makes it easier for outsiders to follow?
Good post. For historical examples, I’d also point out how the printing press enabled the protestant reformation and everything that followed. And does anyone think the Soviet Union would have been able to exert the level of control over people it did without modern 20th century surveillance technology? (Surveillance technology is certainly a theme in modern Russian movies about the Soviet days.) The technology does matter. In ads for nuclear power that we used to see in the 1950s and early 60s, we learned that nukes (or communication technology) can sometimes be harnessed for good purposes, and can also be very destructive.