Week 14

This week’s readings focused on the potential make-up of social movements moving forward through analyzing technological, social media, and US Government roles in activism. I argue that however beneficial a technology may be, there is no ‘technological fix’ (Morozov) to the problems of society, and we should continue to view the grievances and situations of the actual people. Technology and US support will not make the people revolt, so we should view the aspects of their society that perpetuate revolts, regardless of what social media tools they may use. US attempts to promote democracy through ‘2-Way’ discussions over the Internet are noble, but this will not put an end to autocratic regimes. Democracy must come from the people.

The Cohn and Abdo pieces were focused on the United State’s efforts/roles in the promotion of democracy/activism abroad. The Cohn piece spoke about the US’s decision to part from their passive .gov website toward social media as a means of promoting democracy. The Abdo piece spoke about the importance of US support by comparing Egypt’s uprising and Iran’s.

Morozov’s piece analyzes the ‘technological fix,’ (Weinburg) or the idea that technological advances will always find a cure for society’s problems. Morozov’s piece mirrors his expected cynical view of the Internet’s capability to solve world problems and talks about how people aim to apply ‘technological fixes’ “aggressively and indiscriminately.” However, he argues that they fail to realize ‘technological fixes’ attack only “symptoms” of issues and fail to attack the root of the problem. To me, this analysis connected with the idea that we need to understand local conditions, years of oppression, and the people’s grievances to really topple a set of issues.

The short Malcolm Gladwell piece, “Does Egypt Need Twitter?”, acknowledges that people in Egypt may of, at some point, used social media as a means of communication, but he says that revolutions have occurred way before the Internet was invented. His most interesting line, to me, was “People with a grievance will always find a way to communicate with each other.” This places the upmost importance on the grievances that drive the unique populations in their unique states of oppression and do not try and place a cookie cutter analysis on their situation; deeming that their route of communication was more influential than the problems at hand.

My question: Do you think that as new social networks are established and new technologies arise, we will begin to ascribe them credit for social activism in the future? Will Twitter and Facebook just be viewed as tools of communication, rather than driving forces when we view these uprisings in retrospect?


About tommyotoole

Student at The University of Michigan
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4 Responses to Week 14

  1. bhkadin says:

    I agree with you and Morozov that there is no technological fix to the problems of society. Therefore I do not believe that new social networking sites and technologies that arise can be given credit for social activism in the future. Social networking and technologies are only tools that can be utilized to organize activism. They are not the sole tools used for a revolution. You need people and physical resources to cause an uprising; not people hiding behind a computer screen. I think Twitter and Facebook are definitely useful in spreading the word and connecting people with similar complaints. However, I believe that slacktivism is too strong, and people are too lazy to go outside and actually act. As our previous readings discussed, people were able to gather long before social media. How do you think women’s rights and civil rights activists were able to mobilize? Social media and technology make mobilizing easier, but we can definitely survive without it.

  2. rebyi says:

    I think social networks should be given credit for social activism, even today. I just don’t believe that it should be given all the credit. Slacktivism is apparent with social media today and I don’t think new social networks and new technologies arising in the future will make it any better. The increase of social networking and technological communicating will definitely continuously help spread the news faster and it will help create awareness, etc. Twitter and Facebook are driving forces, but even in the future, I believe uprisings, protests, and political movements will still be driven from strong ties.

  3. kbyrd23 says:

    I believe that as new social networks are established and new technologies arise we will begin to ascribe them credit for social activism in the future. As we can see from history, new forms of media are adopted and then adapted to fit the need of the user. Television for example was critical to the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s. Social media today is seen as an agent for political change. I think that as new technologies arise, users will adopt the technology and then use it to meet their needs, personal or political. I could definitely see new social media getting credit for social movements in the future.

    If the new social media is more effective than Facebook and Twitter then I believe that these media will be abandoned just like Friendster, and MySpace to an extent. I think that if new social is good enough to influence political movements, it will probably be robust and engaging enough for users to use it for communication. I believe that the most popular social media sites will be the ones that people use for political action.

  4. breahm says:

    I think this is a really good question in light of what we’ve read in class about social media itself being just another communication tool. I think like with anything new and somewhat novel, people get really excited about new communication tools. I think the relative ease-of-access of social media, especially in light of the discussion we had about them being free, has made them a more useful tool than television, newspapers, and radio were in the past. You don’t need to own a computer to have a social network. They’re everywhere, all the time. I think that just like we’re seeing now were different social media sites have different advantages based on what people hope to gain from them, a newer social media site may not necessarily replace facebook or twitter but compliment them. Each social media site compliments the other and I think that’s also a defining factor of these sites. I don’t know that they’re as important as they’re made out to be, but they definitely have a significant place in the communication landscape.

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