Monday, October 04, 2010

Let's play the game, "Revolution." I'll be Mao and you be Lenin!....(then let's tweet about it)

Last week, I decided it was a good idea to start reading things that only old people read. I have always considered myself a 63 year old trapped in a twenty something's body, but I am always looking for ways to project this image to others more accurately. Vests. Blazers with elbow pads. I am also currently playing with the idea of purchasing a corncob pipe and walking around with it unlit, at opportune times.

In the same spirit, I started reading the New Yorker online. Some of the articles are good. Others make you giggle. But the recent article I have found is from Malcolm Gladwell (pictured) who is also the author of those Outliers, Tipping Point, and Blink books you always see at Barnes & Nobles and are hesitant to purchase because you just think they are some motivational backwash (the descriptions on the book don't do justice to it's content). The article, "SMALL CHANGE: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," was a fantastic read that highlights something eerily relevant that I think most of us would like to forget. It gets at the concept that Twitter and Facebook are great humanitarian vehicles to initiate world change. Two most popular examples being how organization of the Iranian protests from last year were organized from Twitter, or the same argument goes to a protest of the communist Moldavian government last year which was dubbed the "Twitter Revolution." Both examples are very misleading, and most likely wrong. 

Gladwell points out that the revolutions of our past (such as the sit-ins and marches that happened in the late 50's and early 60's in the South protesting segregation) were begun by close social ties (a sermon at your church or a conversation with a close friend) with a high-risk, high reward  action that is operated within the framework of a hierarchical structure (most people say the efficiency of groups such as SNCC and SCLC was because they were organized like a military operation). In contrast, revolutions via social networks, Gladwell argues are impossible because they do the opposite. Revolutions are defined by close nit-social ties. The very fabric of a social network is a way to maintain or generate loose connections. I have over 1,000 friends on facebook. But how many am I really "friends" with? 

Secondly, social networks provide social change through low-risk proposals that will inspire no one to act. Rather, social networks tell people they are acting or helping out (e.g. giving money to a charity for Darfur), but the reality is it gave them a position to feel more justified in their laziness. 

Last point is that social networks are networks without a hierarchy. Nothing gets done in terms of action (Al Qaeda for instance is now a network and not an organized top-down entity and their effectiveness is almost zero now.)

You should read the article. It's good. 

1 comment:

John said...

I think China and Iran may disagree.