Twitter did not go to Tunisia and tell people to revolt. Last September I asked about power in the information age. Who has it? And what is it? If we can get access to nearly all common and not-so-common knowledge, instantly, is knowledge power? Indulge with me for a moment, and let’s say no, knowledge is no longer power. Then is our network the power?
Someone who is connected to a listening audience, who is connected to a listening audience, who is connected to a listening audience is quite powerful. That has always been powerful, but now nearly anyone with a tether to the digital world can be any of those someones. And they have the potential to be quite powerful figures. Save of course that these “powerful figures” are not always recognized as such because they flow in and out of the role as a leader if you consider Ben Schniederman’s theories about consumers and producers online.
The revolution was not tweeted. The revolutionaries in Tunisia were just on Twitter. They spread their ideas fast which got them up, out and in the way faster. Twitter just made it easier for the People to say, “Listen to us, now.”
Matthew Igram via GigaOm writes
But is anyone really arguing that Twitter and Facebook caused the revolutions in Tunisia or Egypt, or even the earlier public uprisings in Moldova or Iran for that matter? Maybe cyber-utopians somewhere are doing this, but I haven’t seen or heard of any. The argument I have tried to make is simply that they and other social media tools can be incredibly powerful, both for spreading the word — which can give moral or emotional support to others in a country, as well as generating external support — as well as for organizational purposes, thanks to the power of the network. As Jared Cohen of Google Ideas put it, social media may not be a cause, but it can be a powerful “accelerant.”
Did Twitter or Facebook cause the Tunisian revolt? No. But they did spread the news, and many Tunisian revolutionaries gave them a lot of credit for helping with the process. Did Twitter cause the revolts in Egypt? No. But they did help activists such as WikiLeaks supporter Jacob Appelbaum (known on Twitter as @ioerror) and others as they organized the dialup and satellite phone connections that created an ad-hoc Internet after Egypt turned the real one off — which, of course, it did in large part to try and prevent demonstrators from using Internet-based tools to foment unrest. As Cory Doctorow noted in his review of Evgeny Morozov’s book, even if Twitter and Facebook are just used to replace the process of stapling pieces of paper to telephone poles and sending out hundreds of emails, they are still a huge benefit to social activism of all kinds.
In October, Gladwell said the revolution would not be tweeted. He said our thousands of weak ties won’t make change happen. Soon after, I questioned the power of (Facebook’s) algorithm that aims to reduce information overload and weed out irrelevant content. Doing this, however, there’s no way to protect yourself from over tweeting. The conversation is always streaming and always linear. So then, if you tweet often are you more likely to get ignored or at least get some views.
It depends if you’re a loud, verbose person at a loud party or a quiet person, at a quiet party, saying one, striking thing every so often. The problem here is that everyone is at a different party. Then why, if everyone is at a different party, did the demonstrators catch word so fast?
It’s the two-step flow, 2.0. The beautiful flow of information that embraces the idea of human agency to share knowledge and information. But now, unlike ever before, anyone has the potential to have the power the mass media once had.
We can’t help but keep asking if participating in social media is activism. Does changing a Facebook Status or Twitter profile picture make a difference? Some argue it brings awareness to an issue. But it’s passive activism, it’s enough to get points for “caring” about an issue for a fleeting trend.
Why then is a riot, a protest or a lunch counter sit in considered considered activism, when it too, is also just spreading awareness about an issue? Because it causes disruption. The actions do not ask the community to stop what they are doing and pay attention, they require it. It gets in the way, it upsets people and it makes people talk about the problem.
No. The revolution will not be tweeted. No the revolution was not tweeted. But yes, our new tools inspired conversation that empowered people to put the problem in the way. Whether or not that is Good is another question.
The revolution happened on the streets.