Will the next revolution be tweeted? – Aid Debates
Posted on January 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm
With recent events in Tunisia and Egypt – I thought it might be interesting to repost and reopen this debate. This post is from October 7th, 2010.
Whether social media can lead to real change has been debated in the aid world before. People have argued both for and against the potential impact and usefulness of social media campaigns. A recent article from Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker Small Change: the revolution will not be tweeted restarted the online debate. The following are some of the posts that have been written in response to Gladwell’s article.
The Wrong Debate: Why We Should Stop Debating Technology’s Relevance and Start Figuring Out How to Effectively Leverage It – Huffington Post - “There are as many weaknesses to organizing in the digital age as there are advantages. Thanks to Gladwell’s article and the many responses it generated, more people are aware of both. As new technologies are not going anywhere and activists are bound to incorporate them, it’s an opportune time to take concrete steps towards shaping the next 10 years of activism so that the weaknesses of protest in the 21st century do not end up overshadowing its strengths.”
Why Facebook and Twitter won’t be leading the revolution – From Poverty to Power – “There are many things, though, that networks don’t do well. Car companies sensibly use a network to organize their hundreds of suppliers, but not to design their cars. [Networks] can’t think strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?”
Is Social Networking Useless for Social Change? - Huffington Post - “For starters, a bit of conceptual clarification. Social networking websites are not a form of organization at all; they are a means of communication. Comparing Twitter to the NAACP is like comparing a telephone to a PTA. They are not the same thing, they don’t perform the same kind of functions and therefore their effectiveness or lack thereof simply can’t be compared.”
Recognition: How the revolution IS being tweeted – The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management – “This is where Gladwell makes his first mistake: ‘Weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.’ What he misses is that the difference between acting and not-acting is very slim. Often people have ideas, have passion. All they may need is a little nudge to push them into action.”
Letter to the Editor: “Small Change” by Malcolm Gladwell – Aspire: the She’s the First Blog – “I read an article in The New Yorker today that riled me up so much, because I thought it was an unfair assessment of social media’s power to effect social change, and it underestimates the impact that each of you who’ve fundraised or given to She’s the First have made. So even if The New Yorker doesn’t read my letter, I at least wanted to share it here — my personal views that come from a place of deep passion for She’s the First — and I invite you to agree/disagree in the comments and even write your own letter to The New Yorker.”
Welcome to the debate, Malcolm – Context Culture + Collaboration – “Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted,” revisits an argument it seems like we in the activism community have been having for quite a while. While it can only be good to open the debate up to the masses who read the New Yorker, Gladwell misses the target. In the debate on digital activism, Gladwell and most commentators on `social media for social action’ elevate the “digital” as opposed to the “activism.” Digital tools are now a permanent part of our toolkit (whether we’re managing discrete actions, campaigns or movements), and can be leveraged effectively whenever they are appropriate and accessible.”
Why social media matters – Oxfam America – “While Gladwell is right to point out that we often overhype the promise of shiny digital tools to deliver large-scale change, he misjudges the current relationship between these tools and the organizers who use them. It’s true that social platforms like Twitter and Facebook work by linking thousands of people who would never otherwise meet, yet it’s this precise attribute of an online network – its ability to minimize the obstacles of time and distance that can sometimes hinder effective real-world organizing – that hold potential for effecting real change.”
HT How Matters
Why Malcolm Gladwell Is Wrong About Digital Activism – Radio Free Europe – “The reality is that these days a good deal of activism will have some kind of digital component. As a label, cyberdissident is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Activists fighting oppressive regimes want to get their messages out and, unlike politicians who tend to fetishise technology, they just want to use the most effective tool, whether that’s a print flyer, a sit-in, or a Facebook group — or a combination of all of the above.”
Activism vs slacktivism: it’s about context not tools – Wait… What? – “In 1994 in El Salvador, people were not using social media to organize. But if they had been, it would have been every bit as risky as wearing or owning an FMLN t-shirt and just as meaningful. Simply identifying with a cause was subversive, much more so if you actually spoke out or identified yourself publicly.”
Can Twitter Lead People to the Streets? - NYT Room for Debate – “Can social media tools like Twitter nurture political action? What are their limitations and how might that change as social media mature?” Six people share their thoughts on the topic.
Is Digital Activism an Effective Medium for Change – Common Dreams.org – “So what are your thoughts? Would the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005, for example, have galvanised so many people to march around Edinburgh if it had been conducted by Twitter? Is digital engagement the future of activism, and what can supposedly short digital-attention spans offer to the slow, complex process of development?”
Malcolm Gladwell is #Wrong - Change Observer - “Malcolm Gladwell’s take on social media is like a nun’s likely review of the Kama Sutra — self-righteous and misguided by virtue of voluntary self-exclusion from the subject. But while the nun’s stance reflects adherence to a moral code, Gladwell’s merely discloses a stubborn opinion based on little more than a bystander’s observations.”
Perhaps a revolution is not what we need - Confessions of an ACA fan – “In any case, I think critiques like Gladwell’s does important work — it stirs the pot; it forces us to articulate what we really mean; the debates which follow clears away old stereotypes and cliches. That’s why I am as interested in what people are saying in response to Gladwell as I am interest in Gladwell’s original comments.”
say you want to tweet a revolution? - Ramesh Srinivasan – “Here’s where Gladwell takes the wrong exit. It’s hard for me to think about revolutions without remembering the incredible Battle of Algiers film, which apparently the CIA studied when the government was deciding to take the curious step of invading Afghanistan. The success of the resistance network in Algiers was its horizontal structure. There was no point of centrality that could be attacked to then take down the overall network.”
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