Category Archives: ntwk resistance

Wouldn’t it be great to re-tweet Martin Luther King?

Amanda made a great point in Kate Milberry’s Comm506 class today that social change isn’t caused by our social tools – it’s caused by our social movement. 

We were discussing Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial 2010 piece in the The New YorkerSmall Change Why the revolution will not be tweeted, and the resulting public discussion and backlash to it. Though pointing out the benefits of social media, Gladwell stated that social media doesn’t cause revolution, and that “social media can’t provide what social change has always required” – organized, strategic planning and cohesive action among strong-tie networks.

There was great discussion in class about activism on a number of levels suported by social media, especially the level of diffusing information and ideas that engage people not only in understanding but action as well. In this interview, Malcolm Gladwell On Social Media and Over Confidence TheArtofcom [2:37-7:50], Gladwell gives more meaning to his article, with no apologies. 

He makes the (obvious) point that Twitter is not flawless; that it’s a powerful tool that doesn’t solve all our problems. He says he is not disparaging its importance – that it will become important in the movement – just not in the first round of organization. He says, “We belittle the organizational talents of true activism when we say they can be replaced by an electronic app. If Martin Luther King were around today, he’d slap you in the face if you tried to suggest that something on your iPhone can replace all the years of planning and patient disciplined sophisticated movement building that made civil rights possible.”

Today Mr King wouldn’t need to slap anybody. He could just Tweet, blog and share his rant on Facebook.

They don’t make a chair for high-risk activists

Malcolm Gladwell says, “Activism that challenges the status quo—that attacks deeply rooted problems—is not for the faint of heart.” Serious activism requires an authority figure, and a task-oriented, centralized organization of strategy, discipline, and coordination. Going up against powerful and organized hierarchies takes lots of planning – and support from your network of strongest ties.

Your strongest ties are the ones to call on when you decide to take down a government. They’re the ones that will stick with you ‘til the end, and not turn you in. Supported and organized, they persevere with you in the face of danger, as a cohesive unit.

Your weak ties? Well, call on your weak ties when you need a kidney, or $.25 towards a kidney. From their favourite chair, they’ll tweet out the word, post on every friend’s wall, and actively support you as you persevere in the face of your personal danger.

Is Democracy Slipping Through the Net?

Evgeny Morozov is 28 years old. And he’s a cyber-sceptic.

Morozov, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, grew up in Belarus. He has written a book, The Net Delusion  to show us “that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder—not easier—to promote democracy.”  Two chapters are available on the site .

I had no idea, until reading Ed Pilkington’s piece on The Guardian, Evgeny Morozov: How democracy slipped through the net, that the US state department, in 2009, emailed Twitter to delay routine maintenance to allow protester tweets to continue uninterrupted. Morozov sees this action as setting a “dangerous precedent, convincing the Iranian leadership, and many other authoritarian regimes around the world, that the US government was in cahoots with Silicon Valley and that the internet was being turned into an extension of politics by other means.”

Morozov was on the Twitter-revolution-bandwagon until the pro-democracy claims about the internet began appearing as “wildly exaggerated.” Trying to understand how the internet can be used to promote democracy, he says he hasn’t given up on the technology, but believes it needs to be “done differently.”