Week 12 – Emily Thibodeau

Morozov and  Gladwee both agree that social media is not enough to drive a revolution, Morozov detailing the limits within nations where revolutions are desired and Gladwell highlighting problems with the technology itself. Morozov contends that the Iranian twitter revolution did not work because the government was not ignorant of the power of social media. Additionally, social media is not designed to survive in repressive cultures. Social media simply added to the noise that was coming out of Iran. Confusion existed because real reports were hard to obtain, correctly translate, and disseminate without editorial comments. Cyber-utopianists ignore why the internet failed and the limitations that social media has within repressive societies.

Gladwell discusses what is necessary for a revolution. He argues that strong ties drive high risk activism, such as the US Civil Rights Movement. Social media fosters weak ties, which increase participation by decreasing the motivation needed to participate. Additionally, unlike traditional movements, social media movements are network based. The lack of hierarchy can create problems because it is only resilient and adaptable in low risk situations, which are different from revolutionary situations. In short, social media does not provide enough of a backbone for revolutions to be based on.

Both authors agree that social media is not the answer. There are too many situational and inherent limitations of social media for it to thrive in high-risk situations. Morozov focuses on how other governments are slow to turn to social media – examining the archaic practices of the US government in repressive societies. The lack of activity on social media sites limits users information from democratic sources. Gladwell contends that social networks cannot have an impact that is similar to the great revolutions of the past. In combination, the repressive governments that many revolutions are seen in and the limitations of social media suggest that revolutions should be based on strong ties. People need other people to encourage them to act in risky situations, not friends on facebook or retweets. Is there any way to convert the weak ties of social media to the strong ties that are seemingly necessary to enact a revoluation?

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