Patrick Nolan Week 14

At first, this week’s readings don’t seem to be well connected or centered around one particular theme. That being said, the ideas presented can all come together to represent viewpoints in the same conversation.  A main question that arises from the articles is whether the technological aspects (in this case typically the internet/social media) or the social aspects of protesting/problem solving are more powerful. I will suggest it is the social aspects, but look at how a few of the authors from this week would probably weigh in.

From the Abdo reading on Iran, it is implied that the social/political environment is the most important.  Abdo looks into whether or not an Iranian revolution could be successful and some of the important factors in a possible outcome.  In the end, it seems the Iranian movement is far less organized than others from the Arab spring and faces more brutal military opposition than any of the others.  It seems an important factor in the success of a possible revolution has nothing to do with the internet but rather depends on whether the U.S. gets involved or not.  The protestors seem to want U.S. Support, but Washington is hesitant to give it.  While they want to promote democracy and make sure the people have the kind of government they want, they are hesitant to mess with the current regime as the relationship is already very shaky at best. In my opinion, the U.S. should do their part and make sure that social justice is achieved.

The Cohn reading indirectly suggests that technology is very important, shown by the deliberate switch from America.gov to the use of social media (like facebook, twitter, and youtube) to distribute policy information in countries around the world.  They deemed that people won’t visit America.gov to find policy and foreign affairs, you have to bring it to them, where they already are: social media.  They recognized that shorter concentrated messages can be more effective and will reach an ever important younger demographic.

The Gladwell piece was difficult to understand in my opinion but I gathered that he believes the social conditions are more important.  It seems he is frustrated by how popular media seem the think the medium is more important than the message and believes that this is not the case.  He points out that revolutions (on an ever bigger scale) have happened in the past and did not need the internet or mobile communication.  That implies the technology is not the most important factor.

It seems HIndman would take the stance that social factors are more important.  I conclude this because he sees that all users of the technology are not equal and therefore many people’s opinions are not relevant.  This comes from the idea that just because you post content to the internet, doesn’t mean anyone cares.  I think Morozov would also conclude that social factors are more important, supported by his argument that without the right social and political climate, even the greatest technologies would go to waste (Weinberg wouldn’t be happy with that sentiment).

Question to the class:  Thinking more broadly than just in terms of the internet and social media, can humans count on technology development to solve problems, or will it be social innovation that solve societal problems?

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About nopatric

Student at University of Michigan studying communications and environmental science (with a specialization in sustainable technology)
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1 Response to Patrick Nolan Week 14

  1. I believe that we cannot count on technological development to solve our problems, but indeed need to rely on social innovation. However, I believe that communications devices can provide the necessary mediums to increase social participation and collective action. One of our readings from a week or two ago said that no dictator is simply going to step down from power because of an online petition. People need to instigate movement and resistance if they want to see change. Likewise, miscommunication often occurs because of the restrictions of technology. It is much easier to solve an issue that you may be having with a friend, or to plan an event face-to-face. Because of this, I believe that people will always rely on the social qualities of their relationships to solve problems. While technological developments certainly facilitate some aspects of these situations, they will never hold the power of the people.

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