Week 12

Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov both take interesting stances on the role of social media in revolutionary activity, particularly particularly Twitter in the Iranian Revolution. Both authors’ stances lie starkly in contrast to the broadly accepted concept that revolutions in the modern age are occurring online; new technology has conceivably pushed its way to the forefront of all social activity.

Gladwell compares modern “revolutions” to civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s and describes the inherent difference as lying within the ties between the individuals. While those who began non-violent demonstrations in the 60s had strong social ties between them, the typical social media aficionado typically has weak connections with a great multitude of individuals. This fact makes people less compelled to actually actively try to change something, instead content to take the easier route of continuing to further the cause online. Nothing truly revolutionary comes of this.

Morozov echoes Gladwell’s sentiment of the downfall of weak ties and also begs for consideration of the prospect that social media organization methods can be easily monitored and sabotaged by the government and other detractors.

Both authors further state that Twitter is not entirely ineffective to the revolutionary cause but is, in itself, not enough. The people involved must have some real world motivation as well. In consideration of these analyses, do you think that the role of social media in the wake of revolution is as purely a tool for dissemination of real revolutionary activity, or do you think that there is a more strategic way to primarily utilize social media to one’s revolutionary advantage?

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3 Responses to Week 12

  1. bhkadin says:

    Starting a revolution is more difficult today than it was in the 1960s. Before the Internet, revolutionary leaders can gather people in secret without having to worry about being tracked online. Today, most governments are competent with the Internet and its uses. Some authoritarian governments have the ability to track its citizens every move. This makes it more difficult for citizens to gather online. One of the readings stated that a revolution on social media works best when the government is not present online. This is when Twitter and other social media tools are beneficial. Twitter was useful in the Iranian case because it reached out to the West for help. However, Iranians should have used social media to gather more revolutionaries within their country. There are various advantages as well as disadvantages when using social media for revolutionary causes. As long as citizens are careful and knowledgeable that there is the possibility of tracking, social media sites can be a useful tool for gathering people together.

    • ariellme says:

      Although Twitter has numerous advantages, including increasing participation among revolutionaries, Gladwell proclaims that this supplants the motivation factor. In turn, this alters the impact of a revolutionary movement in a negative sense. Moreover, Gladwell states, “In the Iranian case…the people tweeting about the demonstrations were almost all in the West.” This further exemplifies the lack of social media activism that occurred inside Iran. A more strategic way of utilizing social media in Iran, for example, would be to communicate via Twitter in the masses native language, Farsi. This would discourage Western involvement and encourage locals to get more involved in order to keep the conversations going. Furthermore, if locals tweet about the events, meeting places and times would have a higher probability of accuracy, as opposed to if those in the West tweet about demonstrations and protests.

  2. Travis Gonyou says:

    I would begin by saying that dissemination of real activist activity is not separate from revolutionary advantage. Finding out about the movement is part of the journey towards motivating one to be engaged in activism themselves. You are entirely right to say that this is not an efficient mode of motivation on its own, but I think a pivotal tool all the same. Attracting the West’s attention and that of the international media brings a level of importance to a cause that oftentimes can be used as justifications from joining the movement at an individual or micro level. So I would say that Twitter is an effective tool, but is not the only tool in the shed necessary to have a successful movement. It is necessary but not sufficient to the ends.

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