week 12


Gladwell and Morozov explore the role of Twitter and social media generally in several revolutions, with a particular focus on Iran.    Both point out a plethora of weakness stemming from activism carried out via social media tools.  Thus, a questionable doubt is created as to whether online social media tools and Twitter are viable / intelligent means for activism.  Moreover, on a higher level, the argued shortcomings of activism through social media tools / Twitter spark a thought-starting seed of whether they can be partially improved or remedied.


For the purpose of his analysis, Gladwell compared and contrasted the Civil Rights Movement to online social media activism to highlight the fundamental and numerous weaknesses of activism via social media tools.  Social media is built around weak, loose ties and it lacks a clear hierarchy and authority, which breeds a slue of negative ramifications.  It is extremely difficult to reach a consensus or obtain goals.  It is prone to conflict and error.  There is little strategy.  Misunderstanding communications is rampant (a problem with technological communication according to Standage), and the lack of authority means people are not disciplined or held responsible / accountable (for their actions or lack there of).   Resilience and adaptively are promoted, and while it is easy to express oneself; it is difficult for the expression to have any impact.


Morozov was more direct as he dissected the pitfalls of the so-called Iranian Twitter Revolution.   (1) Arguably the largest mistake of the revolution was the telephone effect, which is inherent in this “new media ecosystem”.   Meaning, the final message has nothing in common with the original, an intrinsic consequence of technology according to Standage.  (2) Twitter amplifies noise with its limiting 140 characters and the short cuts developed to surpass the boundary.  (3) A mass amount of public information is displayed freely on a public forum without the thought that it may be tracked and used negatively in the future.  (4) Twitter is poorly suited for planning protests, and poorly planned activism can easily backfire.  (5) Another massive drawback highlighted by Morozov is the differentiation between literal activism and harmless, feel-good Internet activism, like innocuous Facebook fan pages and groups.  In light of Karpf, there is a difference between tactics and strategy, or the number of people that “like” or “join” a page protesting the government and the people who are proactive and take action.  Largely, the social media tools fuel simple, feel good activism.


Clearly, social media revolutions have abundant problems.  Both authors largely discuss miscommunication and the distortion of messages / meaning which innately happens when information stops and travels through so many hands.

In the face of so many downfalls associated with online / Twitter revolutions as described by Gladwell and Morozov, why do we continue to peruse such tactics to mobilize activism?   Moreover, should we continue to use it, as there are clearly other options available to promote and organize activism?

While acknowledging the weaknesses of social media activism, is there possibly an unexplored / undiscovered secret that could potentially revolutionize social media activism and defeat the pitfalls highlighted by Gladwell and Morozov / what is it; or is it too drastically different and inherently riddled with excessive shortcomings in comparison to traditional, offline activism?  Explain.



Layne Steele Paddon

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1 Response to week 12

  1. lmelamed says:

    I feel that such untraditional medias scholars continue to criticize and analyze have yet to be ousted as sources of political activism. These social media outlets have not existed for extensive periods of time compared to newspapers and television and ought to have the opportunity to not be completely eliminated from the equation that results towards offline activism. Before we rule out Twitter and Facebook, I think that longitudinal studies need to be executed and measurements of individuals actions before and after exposure of activism opportunities via Twitter and Facebook need to be put into effect to see whether we can establish co variation or causation. I believe that effective tracking methods (if possible) need to be put in place in order to measure whether people who become involved in various political and social initiatives through becoming aware and educated via Facebook and Twitter. If scholars today keep discussing about how Twitter and Facebook are ineffective, than why don’t they shut up and move on to the next topic of discussion or phenomena?

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