Social media revolution coverage overview

image2aRecent appraisals of using social media for social change have been on an accelerated track. Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, etc are claimed to be either aiding or hurting democratic participation and free speech. The pattern of appraisal seems to start with hype, refutation, following with reasoned reassessment. For example, the hype – Thomas Friedman’s “The Virtual Mosque” NYTimes op/ed (June 16), refutation – Jeremy Scahill’s blog post and Tweets taking to taskĀ  Friedman’s piece (June 16), and the reassessment – Teharani’s piece in GlobalVoices. Sometimes this pattern can be observed over one person’s responses – i.e. Shirky’s initial excitement over social media as a social force, and his support of Twitter’s use in Iran’s post election demonstrations, and his reversal based on new data (see: Will Heaven’s piece in UK Telegraph). Teharani points out, as do others (Evegeny Morozov and Patronus Analytical), that there could be important limitations to social media use, as well as opportunities. To sum/crib Teharani:

1-Communication tool for reformists leaders Twitter and Facebook along with reformist websites such as Ghlamnews help communicate the decisions of reformist leaders and pass on the message.

2-Closing the gap between Iran and the world Iranian tweets reached thousands around the world and by following and re-tweeting people get involved.

3-Twitter does not organize demonstrations: Reformist leaders and their supporters make decisions to organize protests and they communicate it through different means.

4-Tweets can misinform people: either through reflex/impulse retweets or through malicious infiltration and disinformation (see Patronus Analytical for more on this).

5-Tweeting is recycling news and tips Information pool -most people tweet what they read on websites, and have also shared useful tips and information to help Iranians circumvent internet filtering and censorship.

6-Misunderstanding the sender: Sometimes tweet information form online sources without checking the facts, or without mentioning any references.

7-Activism and agendas: Most Iranians who tweet are activists supporting the protest movement and promoting a cause. Their information should be double-checked and not be accepted at face value.

Another important reassessment is Ted Friedman’s Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinsm , which recognizes and responds to the unmistakeable US hype over Twitter’s social media revolution, attributing it to technological determinism or “a familiar American narrative of technological utopianism, in which hopes for social and political transformation become attached to the promise of new technologies.” Friedman gives a balanced view first looking at the benefits of cyber utopianism, which “momentarily transcend immediate pragmatic concerns” helping imagine new possibilities and a “radically different future.” But he also looks at the dangers of technological utopianism, which can “simply replace military utopianism as a self-serving imperial fantasy;” that democratic change cannot simply happen through military or technological means. The dialectic, then, is to “distinguish cybertopian hopes from the messier reality, without giving short shrift to either.” Well stated.


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2 Responses to “Social media revolution coverage overview”

  1. criticalinternetculture Says:

    There continues to be information about uses of the Internet to target citizens using US technology – deep packet inspection technology, that Karr suggests has been in use in the US for some time.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-karr/helping-iran-target-irani_b_229369.html

  2. criticalinternetculture Says:

    Here’s also an excellent piece by Mark Glaser who takes on the issue of trust and the technological means of routing around gov censors through API and twitter applications like tweetdeck. Excellent list at bottom for sources on who to trust in terms of information verification and context.

    http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2009/06/your-guide-to-iran-election-news-online176.html

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