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Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the lost-amid-breakfast-descriptions dept.

Social Networks 305

An anonymous reader writes "Social media is ill-suited to promoting real social change, argues Malcolm Gladwell in this article from The New Yorker magazine. He deftly debunks conventional wisdom surrounding the impact of Twitter, Facebook and other social media in driving systemic social change, comparing them to the organizational strategies of the 1960s civil rights movement. For example, the Montgomery bus boycott, he argues, was successful because it was driven by the disciplined and hierarchically organized NAACP. In contrast, a loose, social-media style network wouldn't have sustained the year long campaign. He concludes that social media promote social 'weak ties' which are not strong enough to motivate people to take big risks, such as imprisonment or attack, for social change."

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305 comments

WTO? (0)

pyster (670298) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762760)

Have these jackasses forgotten the wto and other protests recently?

Re:WTO? (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762862)

Which revolution did those protests successfully pull off? Did the 1999 protests in Seattle even meaningfully slow down the WTO, much less kill it?

Re:WTO? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763638)

Roger that. Protesting to our leaders, begging them for democracy... it is a bit odd, isn't it?

Why do we have leaders? Why do we protest to them, hoping that it might change something?

The real way to make a difference in politics is to IGNORE the leaders. Here is the way to get started: http://metagovernment.org/wiki/Main_Page [metagovernment.org]

Re:WTO? (4, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763756)

That's a very good point. The main reason for "democratic" popuplation to be manipulated to elect a certain establishment is to guarantee subsequent consent: "did not you _freely_ elected this?"

Re:WTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762882)

Have these jackasses forgotten the wto and other protests recently?

I'm afraid I have forgotten the wto and other recent protests. What social change did those render? (Again, compare to results of bus boycotts, etc.)

Re:WTO? (5, Insightful)

Zenin (266666) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763112)

Because protests actually affect anything in the slightest anymore?

In the heyday of protesting the huge protest was new, rare, impressive, and scary. News media outlets were limited and protests were big new(s), which amplified their impression, excitement, and scary nature (scary to those being protested against). And they protested things that actually, really mattered. War and peace, freedom and oppression.

But today?

At least in the US protests are a dime a dozen. Huge protests maybe a quarter a dozen. Decades of ever increasing protests for every single cause from global threats against humanity to legalizing pet ferrets, protests have lost their bite. They've lost it because protesting never had any real bite. The huge over use of protesting taught The Man that protests really don't mean anything...they don't really don't hurt...they are mostly all bark, no bite. In the flood of 24/7 news outlets, protests rarely get much if any attention. There's just too many for too stupid of causes for anyone to care to pay attention when real ones for real causes happen.

Social media "protests" may be too weak to have any real effect...but neither are actual, feet on the ground, protests.

Re:WTO? (3, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763648)

Very true.

The last protest I took part in was the worldwide march against the Iraq War. There were literally millions of people marching across the world. Most major cities globally had at least a few hundred thousand people all protesting against it. But the war happened anyway, and by and large the protests achieved absolutely nothing. Most politicians and pundits didn't even comment on them, at the time or since.

So forget popular protest. If you want to make a difference or change the world, buy a newspaper.

Speak to Tony Blair and David Miliband (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763698)

British protests against the war in Iraq were extensive, but Blair was so excited by getting close to Bush that he ignored them.

Today he can't appear in public in the UK (the security would be too expensive) and his protégé David Miliband has just narrowly lost the chance of being the next Prime Minister, with many people thinking that his support for the war tipped the balance. Protests change public opinion, perhaps only a little, but sometimes decisively. You appear to be falling into the trap of so many USA citizens, of despising "soft power". But the values of your Founding Fathers are today being more undermined by the "soft power" of lobbyists and journalists than by any display of force.

Re:WTO? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763728)

That raises a scientific question: how many protesters is enough to make a significant immediate impact?

What is the reference number to measure it against? Population of the capital?

How massive they should be?

The other point of spectrum (small number of protesters - huge impact) might be illustrated by the example of Madrid bombings, which involved 3 immediate organizers and may be dozens more helpers. As a result, the anti-war party of Zapatero won and Spain removed troops from the "coalition of the willing" (strangely, nothing about it in wikipedia on MAdrid bombings).

This is to proceed to more general question: how to make a minority point and make majority to listen to you?

Re:WTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763776)

Because protests actually [never] affect anything in the slightest anymore?

That may be true in the U.S., but in Europe, people still take to the streets, and even become violent if they're angry enough. And politicians pay attention. It's easy to dismiss protest marches as "loud but numerically inconsequential" parts of the electorate, but European politicians seem to have learned the lessons of history a bit better and understand that for every protester, there are often many more who sympathize but were just unwilling or unable to actively show their support. The absence of street protests in America just reflects the fact that that country is, ideologically speaking, remarkably homogeneous... for now at least.

Re:WTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763274)

What does the World Trade Organization have to do with jackasses forgetting?

Re:WTO? (1, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763322)

The Battle of Seattle did nothing to slow down the WTO, the mass protests against the Gulf War did nothing at all. Mass protests against WTO, G8, etc do nothing but damage some property, get people arrested and hurt and get overtime for security forces.

Re:WTO? (4, Interesting)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763350)

No, I don't think they have. I am currently in Barcelona and got to see the protests here first hand a couple of nights ago; up close and personal with camera in hand, both from within the ranks of the rioters and those of the police and fire brigade, dodging riot batons and thrown bottles and masonry accordingly. It's not the first riot I've witnessed like this, and it probably won't be the last, but the organization has been pretty much the same every time.

The initial setup, performed by a trade union here in Barcelona, does indeed take organization, but the vandalism, thrown rocks, burning barricades and all the other mindless acts that occur is always totally anarchic. You might get a few people come together to build a barricade, trash a police car, set fire to garbage cans etc., but there is absolutely no organization and absolutely no overall strategy other than to cause mayhem. The rioters build on each others daring and gain confidence from each other to do ever more destructive feats of violence but that's about it. Eventually, they have the capability and numbers to overwhelm the police - they probably outnumbered them 10:1 in Barcelona - but they can't. They can't do it because they have no overall strategy and leadership; just anarchy. Even if they did have the leadership, riots are extremely fluid situations that no not allow for much prior planning and there is no ready way to co-ordinate that kind of mob mentality into an effective force.

Re:WTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763736)

Perhaps you are confusing the difference between a RIOT and a PROTEST. A protest actually has a purpose and a goal. While a riot is just people behaving in their most primitive manner trying to justify their behaviour around some initial event or cause.

Claiming that anything that happens, after a protest evolves (maybe a better word is mutates) into a RIOT, is related to the originating event's cause or purpose is just plain ignorant.

Re:WTO? (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763520)

We're talking about Malcom Gladwell here, of "Igon Value" [nytimes.com] fame. Some of his arguments are interesting entertainment, but just because he is writing about something doesn't mean he knows much about it.

Exactly wrong (-1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762814)

Twitter has been a key component in Iran for organisers against their election results. Just as soon as there is something similar in other countries, expect a LOT of people to get on twitter to organise dissent. Whoever wrote this piece has an incredibly short memory - or a numbingly parochial view of the world and the internet.

Re:Exactly wrong (1)

Demerara (256642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763036)

Just as soon as there is something similar in other countries, expect a LOT of people to get on twitter to organise dissent.

Not necessarily. Once a country gains the capacity not merely to block Twitter/Facebook/Whatever (that's too simple) but to trace the messages back to their sources - not necessarily on the day or in real time - then it's game over. If you know that the goons will come knocking at three in the morning, you'll be loathe to use the likes of TwitBook.

What's needed is a truly secure solution - because we know that the bad guys are likely to find needles in the haystack...

Re:Exactly wrong (2, Insightful)

bjornmeansbear (1913344) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763054)

You apparently didn't read this correctly. Slashdot is referencing/paraphrasing a Malcolm Galdwell article—which is then linked to for you to read the whole argument. Maybe you should comment on the new yorker story, not just the summary here. Also, the free spreading of dissent isn't really the same as actually creating revolutionary change. While it could lead to such, it is still just someone talking (or typing), not necessarily acting.

Re:Exactly wrong (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763068)

If you actually made it to the bottom of page #1 of the Gladwell article, you might have read this(emphasis mine):

In the Iranian case, meanwhile, the people tweeting about the demonstrations were almost all in the West. “It is time to get Twitter’s role in the events in Iran right,” Golnaz Esfandiari wrote, this past summer, in Foreign Policy. “Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran.” The cadre of prominent bloggers, like Andrew Sullivan, who championed the role of social media in Iran, Esfandiari continued, misunderstood the situation. “Western journalists who couldn’t reach—or didn’t bother reaching?—people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets post with tag #iranelection,” she wrote. “Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.”

Re:Exactly wrong (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763080)

If you'd read it, you'd see that the author doubts Twitter was actually that vital to the effort. As a supporting question, he wonders why they weren't speaking in Farsi.

Re:Exactly wrong (3, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763242)

Did you read the article at all? The author goes into great length about the Iranian Twitter protests and just why they didn't matter. Specifically, the author seems to think that the massive amount of Tehran protesting was actually being done by Westerners outside of the country while the Iranians themselves were not organizing with Twitter as much as was hyped:

Here's the relevant bit of the article:

In the Iranian case, meanwhile, the people tweeting about the demonstrations were almost all in the West. “It is time to get Twitter’s role in the events in Iran right,” Golnaz Esfandiari wrote, this past summer, in Foreign Policy. “Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran.” The cadre of prominent bloggers, like Andrew Sullivan, who championed the role of social media in Iran, Esfandiari continued, misunderstood the situation. “Western journalists who couldn’t reach—or didn’t bother reaching?—people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets post with tag #iranelection,” she wrote. “Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.”

So to summarize, the actual protests in Iran were being organized locally, whereas Twitter was simply used by Western media to cover the event because, well, Westerners don't live in Iran. I know it's not typical MOD for 'dotters to RTFA, but in this case, the article was well written and very thorough. I would highly suggest taking the time to read through the entire thing.

Not exactly successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763762)

Did you read the article at all? The author goes into great length about the Iranian Twitter protests and just why they didn't matter. Specifically, the author seems to think that the massive amount of Tehran protesting was actually being done by Westerners outside of the country while the Iranians themselves were not organizing with Twitter as much as was hyped:

Here's the relevant bit of the article:

In the Iranian case, meanwhile, the people tweeting about the demonstrations were almost all in the West. “It is time to get Twitter’s role in the events in Iran right,” Golnaz Esfandiari wrote, this past summer, in Foreign Policy. “Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran.” The cadre of prominent bloggers, like Andrew Sullivan, who championed the role of social media in Iran, Esfandiari continued, misunderstood the situation. “Western journalists who couldn’t reach—or didn’t bother reaching?—people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets post with tag #iranelection,” she wrote. “Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi.”

So to summarize, the actual protests in Iran were being organized locally, whereas Twitter was simply used by Western media to cover the event because, well, Westerners don't live in Iran. I know it's not typical MOD for 'dotters to RTFA, but in this case, the article was well written and very thorough. I would highly suggest taking the time to read through the entire thing.

Its not like the locally organized Iranian protests were successful.

Re:Exactly wrong (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763318)

No, the author is arguing that the role twitter played in the Iranian protests was greatly overblown in western media, FTA:

In the Iranian case, meanwhile, the people tweeting about the demonstrations were almost all in the West. "It is time to get Twitter's role in the events in Iran right," Golnaz Esfandiari wrote, this past summer, in Foreign Policy. "Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran." The cadre of prominent bloggers, like Andrew Sullivan, who championed the role of social media in Iran, Esfandiari continued, misunderstood the situation. "Western journalists who couldn't reach--or didn't bother reaching?--people on the ground in Iran simply scrolled through the English-language tweets post with tag #iranelection," she wrote. "Through it all, no one seemed to wonder why people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi."

Re:Exactly wrong (1)

ddxexex (1664191) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763466)

It's Malcolm Gladwell. Like most of his works, you can tell that he did his research. And he addresses why your point isn't how the world actually works. Your idea seems like common sense, but he shows that it turns out it that it just isn't true. Basically it turns out that revolutions/demonstrations work better when you ask a few people who you know well than thousands of people you barely know.

Re:Exactly wrong (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763566)

The one who wrote this piece is Malcolm Gladwell, who ten years ago wrote a book about how easy it is for a small idea to change the world once the idea becomes widespread (The TIpping Point). He is always looking to make technologically shocking statements, catching trends right after smart people have picked them up, but before the average public is paying attention (and by average public, I mean people who think they are smart but are too lazy to actually look for information. This is his audience). He's been around long enough that I'll bet in the late 90s he was predicting that the internet would lead to revolutions.

In fact, I tried to find some quote, but couldn't find a good one. I did however find this one [go.com] , which explains his modus operandi so much better than I could:

My goal in life is to get to the place that I can take the same idea and just repackage it over and over again, like Bruce Willis did with "Die Hard," or Bill O'Reilly does with the whole thing about being rich, white, male and entitled -- and be really pissed off about how he's treated by the world.

His hero is Bill O'Reilly. Great, just what we need in the world, more Bill O'Reillys.

4chan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762838)

One obvious example of how powerful the internet can be.

Re:4chan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762962)

Yeah, but how long did Chanology last? Four months before it just petered off?

Re:4chan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763552)

Last time I got up enough courage to click on the /b/, it was still ongoing. I just don't think it's as big a deal any more.

Posting AC to keep the spirit alive, haha.

But (4, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762846)

On the more subtle side, social media does influence the electorate, therefore affecting votes and possibly politicians. So even if it may not bring about drastic, almost revolutionary change, it will certainly influence politics.

He get's it wrong because it's a tool (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763586)

And the example of how it affects the electorate shows again that tweeting is a tool used by politicians to both read and influence the people.

The article makes twitter up as the cause or driving force of change. That's never the truth. Radio, TV, the internet, and all the tools on the internet are just that, tools. Statements like "The revolution will be Televised/Tweeted/Facebooked/beamed directly into our brains" is true, because whenever the revolution comes it will be broadcast on as many mediums as possible.

TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (3, Funny)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762850)

Article posts 'October 4 2010' as the publication date... Unless I pulled a Rip Van Winkle at my desk just now, we're looking at news FROM THE FUTURE!!! :)

Re:TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (3, Funny)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762966)

When will then be now?

Re:TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763292)

"When will then be now?"

Soon!

Re:TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763002)

How is this I don't even

Re:TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (4, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763004)

Great, I'll keep reading their articles.

When I see "Nuclear War", "Stock Market Crash" or "Second Coming of Jesus" I'll have at least a few days to prepare.

Re:TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (1)

Sean_Inconsequential (1883900) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763632)

Quick! There is still time to make social media a powerful force for change as what TFA says is inapplicable for another two days.

Re:TFA must be right, it's from the FUTURE! (1)

cinereaste (1241082) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763796)

Article posts 'October 4 2010' as the publication date... Unless I pulled a Rip Van Winkle at my desk just now, we're looking at news FROM THE FUTURE!!! :)

It's in the October 4 issue, which is released a week or even two before October 4. Most magazines do this sort of thing with publication dates.

I don't know..... (1, Informative)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762852)

Re:I don't know..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762934)

The 4Chan guys were remarkably effective.

Effective at social change? Things seem the same to me and the MPAA's website looks fine now.

Re:I don't know..... (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763504)

No. Effective at banding together and doing so that the folks who participated did so anonymously. So far at least, the folks who were involved got away with it.

THAT is something that will have to be reckoned with. Organization like the MPAA or any other that uses unethical (and possibly illegal) means to enforce their policies will have to deal with payback - anonymous payback - payback by people who will not have deal with any repercussions for their actions.

It's becoming a new form of justice - vigilante justice for sure, but justice outside a system that is becoming more and more influenced by big money and corporate interests. In short, a system that has been corrupted to the point of detriment to the people.

What about Anonymous v. Scientology (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762868)

I would have been very interested to read the author's take on Anonymous v. Scientology. Anonymous seem to have taken the weak-tie social links and emphasized the strongest points of it, viz crowd-sourcing and anonymized protests to help prevent the individual protestors from being tracked/sued by the Scientology lawyer corp.

Re:What about Anonymous v. Scientology (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763282)

In contrast to Germans whose non-social-media actions got CoS restrained by federal legislation.

I wouldn't pass judgement just yet (1)

Faatal (1907534) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762870)

Social media is a young technology, we have no way of knowing the effects it may or may not have on enacting a real change on society in the coming years.

Wow, this is shocking news! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762878)

I had no idea The New Yorker was still in print.

Chanology? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762880)

Going strong since 2008, and is precisely a "loose, social-media style network".

Green sashes anyone? (2, Interesting)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762938)

I know a lot of iranian protestors who seemed convinced otherwise.

Re:Green sashes anyone? (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763256)

I know a lot of iranian protestors who seemed convinced otherwise.

So you don't agree with what Gladwell said in the article about the Iranian protestors? Seemed a pretty cogent summary to me...

Why would I work hard for social change? (3, Interesting)

BerntB (584621) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762940)

"He concludes that social media promote social 'weak ties' which are not strong enough to motivate people to take big risks, such as imprisonment or attack, for social change."

Call me a cynic (-: cheap flattery works :-), but I can't imagine anything that would motivate me for that much of social change. Mostly because most other societal systems are more or less as good/bad (inside a factor of two) as the where I live.

And if I did get motivated to change society, I would support (or maybe even join!) a political party and try to get into the parliament. Since that is allowed where I live.

anon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33762944)

sic 'em /b !!

He has it all wrong. (5, Insightful)

cfulton (543949) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762948)

Just social media doesn't promote anything. It is a tool. I will bet the NAACP used the phone when promoting the boycott. It may take an organizational structure to promote social change. But, that organization can use social media as a tool to communicate with and motivate its base.

Re:He has it all wrong. (4, Informative)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763306)

That's a very good point. However, if you notice, the author of this article is not the one making the claim that social media will do the promoting. Rather, he is trying to debunk that very claim as made by others. Apparently, quite a few folks feel the the social media revolution has, or will, revolutionize the way people organize to make change. There have even been books written about this. The author is making the point that social media can only be used as a tool to make change where there is little risk for those involved in the movement. For any change that requires real risk, social media is an inadequate tool because the ties formed through social media are not binding enough to give protesters enough confidence. So the miscategorization of the role of social media is not so much on the side of the author, but rather on the side of those that he is attempting to rebuff.

They offer Communication not Administration (3, Insightful)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 3 years ago | (#33762994)

The primary benefit of these sites is not in organizing (as in administration) such movements, but in organizing (as is bringing together) large numbers of like-minded individuals. Of course a rudderless anarchistic model would not last year long campaigns; any "organization" that is left as a disorganized amorphous blob will collapse as soon as the initial catalystic spark dies off. On the other hand, if those same Montgomery bus boycotters had a Facebook presence available to them, the movement could have gone national or beyond. These modern tools are just that: Tools. A serious movement would still need serious leadership.

Re:They offer Communication not Administration (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763190)

I know, the article made it sound like you couldn't fit a hierarchy within social media too.

Also "not your personal army" and all that jazz. Decentralized is not always weak, though probably short lived.

Re:They offer Communication not Administration (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763334)

I saw this a year or two back listening to a podcast by the author of Wikinomics:Here Comes Everybody, he kept talking about how people used communications networks increasingly to organize.

It became clear the next rotation of social networking would be self-organizing.

It would allow your local PTA/HOA to do their monthly business without leaving your home, same goes for administering Boy/Girl scouts, charities, volunteer programs, political campaigns, fan-clubs, etc.

When the group decided anarchy wasn't enough, they could vote on Parlimentary, Meritocracy, Democracy (representative or non), Moderated Forum, or other styles of governance. Follwing that decision you elect officers and work under that system until someone calls a vote for new officers, or new governance style.

I thought it would be important that like Web or Email or Google Wave the system be decentralized and standards based, include APIs for incorporating: encryption, file sharing, collaboration, chat, voice, simple passwords to multifactor authentication, digital signatures/certificates, payment processing/escrow, and a process for adopting new standards/technologies as they arise.

Imagine this system exists, there is an earthquake somewhere, a local group of vetted individuals tries to setup a relief effort with volunteer labor, but cannot afford the equipment they need. People catalyzed by the event want to donate money but are wary of being scammed. The vetting, payment processing and escrow system would reduce that risk a lot.

Same goes for issue based independent political candidates, they work up their volunteers and donations on the same system.

Privacy settings are only a problem based on the policies of your local provider, there is no one centralized Facebook, but smaller connected Google/Yahoo/Comcastbooks and you move your profile between them like a cell phone number because the Digigtal Certificates, Digital signatures, Encryption keys, and all the other pieces are owned by you.

4chan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763052)

Obviously this guy has never met the fury that is 4chan...

(read that again, FURY, not furry.)

I just hope (4, Insightful)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763090)

That when the revolution does come, Mark Zuckerburg is the first against the wall.

Re:I just hope (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763510)

Unfortunately I believe that the lawyers recently had their long-held position at the head of the queue usurped by the bankers, so it might take a while before we can get around to Zuckerberg.

Besides, aren't the geek supposed to inherit the earth or something?

Great comparison (1)

qoncept (599709) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763092)

Say what you want about today's social problems, but today you don't have a society that thinks its ok to make people give up their seats because of the color of their skin. Changing was inevitable regardless of what technology was used.

Yes and no. (3, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763124)

While ad-hoc organization may not work, comparing it to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 50's, if they had Twitter, Facebook etc. the NAACP could've gotten their message out faster and in a more efficient way.

I mean, it did work well for the Obama Campaign.

Re:Yes and no. (1)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763340)

What are some examples of policy changes brought about by the Obama administration that are directly attributable to social media?

stopped thinking too soon... (1)

Michael Kristopeit 9 (1913326) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763154)

He concludes social media promotes 'weak ties'

but could not the existence of such social mediums create the potential to refuse utilization of such 'weak ties' by individuals, strengthening the ties they create through other social constructs?

Activism is dead (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763162)

Activism from the left is dead in the US. There's no significant, effective opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the concentration of wealth, the crushing of unions, the decline in wages, or the tax benefits enjoyed by Wall Street. (All of which would have been unacceptable to the Eisenhower administration, an indication of how far to the Right the US has moved.)

The activist organizations that accomplish anything are either on the Right, funded by big business, or church-based. Or they're purely self-interested, like gun owners and gays.

Much of '60s activism was powered by music. That's over. Today's musicians have near zero political effect.

Re:Activism is dead (4, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763312)

All of which would have been unacceptable to the Eisenhower administration, an indication of how far to the Right the US has moved.

Forget Eisenhower, this shit would've offended Nixon.

THAT is a much better indication about what's wrong.

Re:Activism is dead (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763684)

Actually, it was powered by the fact that a bunch of college kids didn't want to get drafted and go fight in shithole Vietnam. The hippies were just as selfish and self-interested as any other generation. The difference is that kids today don't have to worry about that. Wars are for volunteers now.

King and country (3, Interesting)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763170)

The same argument could have been made against the civil rights movement in the 60s. The author would have argued that as the NCAAP was using the telephone to organize rather than meeting always face to face drinking pints at the local as the Sons of Liberty did, that Dr. King was doomed to fail because his network relied on telephone calls and so was too loose.

Re:King and country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763420)

dear fucking moron,
          RTFA & DIAF!

Gladwell is a profesional contrarian (1)

yoyoq (1056216) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763174)

take it with a grain of salt. he gets paid to say up is down, black is white.

Re:Gladwell is a profesional contrarian (2, Informative)

ghrucla (1392521) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763516)

Maybe so, but what he's saying is consistent with the academic literature on social networks and social movements, some of which he cites. I know this literature very well and Gladwell's argument is consistent with the academic consensus that a lot of weak connections are good for spreading information and could promote low-cost activism, but you need strong ties in a dense clique to promote high-cost activism. For example:
  • Centola, Damon and Michael Macy. 2007. “Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties.” American Journal of Sociology 113:702–734.
  • Centola, Damon, Robb Willer, and Michael Macy. 2005. “The Emperor’s Dilemma: A Computational Model of Self-Enforcing Norms.” American Journal of Sociology 110:1009–1040.
  • Granovetter, Mark S. 1973. “The Strength of Weak Ties.” American Journal of Sociology 78:1360-1380.
  • McAdam, Doug. 1990. Freedom Summer. Oxford University Press.

Special Slashdot Memo #343321 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763192)

  Because you need BODIES on the ground to hold your position, MORONS!!!!

Yours In Moscow,
K. Trout

lack of organization has its advantages (3, Insightful)

Midnight's Shadow (1517137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763228)

If a group like the NAACP had tried the same stunts in a more dictatorial country, say Iran or Cuba, how long would they have lasted? How long would an actual organization survive with their leaders constantly arrested, tried and executed with in a week of founding the organization?

Twitter, Facebook and the like have the advantage of anonymity when organizing and implementing plans.

Re:lack of organization has its advantages (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763612)

Twitter, Facebook and the like have the advantage of anonymity when organizing and implementing plans.

Facebook and Twitter are anonymous?

Re:lack of organization has its advantages (0, Flamebait)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763622)

If a group like the NAACP had tried the same stunts in a more dictatorial country, say Iran or Cuba, how long would they have lasted?

That sort of protest wouldn't even succeed today in the US. Everybody would just be arrested. Protesters would be fenced into "free speech zones" far from anything.

Some of the "revolutions" of the 1960s were near things. If the NYPD had brought in reinforcements at Stonewall, the "gay revolution" and AIDS epidemic would have never have happened.

Twitter, 4chan, etc, useless ... (1)

Spectre (1685) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763288)

Right.
Ask the people ACS:Law about the power of weak social media.
Anonymous poked their buttons, were dismissed as "trivial", then they stepped it up and exposed weaknesses in ACS:Law that is still having repercussions for the organization.

Twitters exposing election fraud in more than a few countries hasn't made the news either.

I think people are either foolishly underestimating the power of people who can communicate or purposely trying to trivialize in the vain hope of preventing people from using their "mob power".

Re:Twitter, 4chan, etc, useless ... (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763624)

...or purposely trying to trivialize in the vain hope of preventing people from using their "mob power".

Given the massive privacy invasions that are offered by such sites, law enforcement would love it if all social activism were directed through them. This article hardly trivializes the power of people who can communicate. It attempts to untrivialize the actions of the blacks in America who risked their life and freedom to be treated as equals. Now if they had organized themselves on Facebook and the CIA had simply read all their communications, would it have been as effective?

No surprise; better summary needed? (1)

JEBJr (982480) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763400)

Networks don't drive social change; people do. This is akin to saying "guns don't kill--people do," a position that some find objectionable. But in both cases, it can make a difference what instruments are available. Social change, protest movements, and other forms of rebellion may be facilitated by one's network, whether it's the telephone network or Twitter; similarly (though this analogy is getting strained), a murderous rage can be facilitated by a handgun in the desk drawer. Though I haven't read it yet, Malcolm Gladwell's article demands to be read--all of his articles do, in my experience--because he's probably saying something different, or at least more subtle, than that social media don't promote or drive change: that seems too obvious for him.

I firmly disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763412)

I just can't write about it at the moment as i'm being attacked by the sequoias, of all things...

social media promote social 'weak ties' ... (1)

adn (102265) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763450)

but no 'strong ties' appear out of nowhere. Social media do contribute to begin the ties. But to think they're the only ties we need is plain dumb.

Author fails at researching his topic (1)

HenryKoren (735064) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763494)

Check out the author's two twitter accounts:

http://twitter.com/Malcgladwell [twitter.com]
http://twitter.com/gladwell [twitter.com]

Combined # of tweets: 32
Combined # of people he follows: 12, nearly all of whom are twitter accounts for old media establishments.

This is typical thread I see among all those who condemn social media: Unfamiliarity breeds contempt.

Re:Author fails at researching his topic (1)

timkar (964479) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763754)

Perhaps if his point were, "Twitter isn't Fun" or "People won't use Twitter 'cause they don't tweet enough or have enough followers," perhaps. I dont' need to have cancer to study cancer.

NAACP DID NOT orchestrate Montgomery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763506)

Go read a book and you'll find that the NAACP wasn't responsible for the Montgomery protest. The MIA was. The NAACP 100% disagreed with direct action at that time. It was only later when they funding suffered huge losses that they came around to understand the importance of direct protest.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Improvement_Association

WHA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763514)

The article writer might want to talk to, oh, maybe those Iranians, or maybe any and all of the flash mobs that have taken place. Out of touch anyone?

Action Vs. Words (3, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763562)

This was a very good article and I would recommend reading the whole thing to anyone interested in the topic. It was well thought out and I want to give props to the author first and foremost.

Now, that said, I think something that is missing from the article is a discussion of the 'action' factor that is used in protests and social movements today. Something I've noticed with a lot of online social movements is that they are very good at giving every member a means to voice their thoughts on a particular issue. This has granted a lot of people a large audience for their thoughts regarding any particular matter. As such, anyone can get up on their digital soap box (as I am doing now) and spout their claims to get a series of 'likes' or 'dislikes' from their large online audience. This has a very nice effect on the speaker, making them feel like they are taking part in something important and big. However, the reason many of these online causes do not effect as much change as someone might initially think is because that seems to be where all of the action stops. Social media has given folks a means to express their opinion without backing anything up with action (I do draw an arbitrary line here that distinguishes talk from action).

The author of this article makes a fine summary of the American Civil Rights movement back in the 60's. Something that he fails to address when summarizing these movements, however, is that they had long lasting consequences on society as a whole. The bus boycott actually damaged the economic stance of the bus company being boycotted. The Southern sit-ins prevented the businesses where they took place from earning much cash off of white customers. The action taken by those who participated in the Civil Rights movement went beyond mere words. They actually cost their opponents something valuable. This is something that online social media movements do not do. The folks pillaging Darfur and its inhabitants don't give a damn about the 1.2 million Facebook users that want to help Darfur. Those Facebook users aren't damaging their opponents in any way. They are passively sitting around, voicing their dissent through words or micro-donations, and patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Meanwhile, those that are committing atrocities in Darfur are being allowed to work, as normal, without any outside interference. Thus, nothing will change. There is no perturbation to the status quo.

The reason the Iranian case was somewhat different is because there really were protesters in Tehran marching and having rallies. That's great. However, those rallies did not cost the Iranian politicians anything of value. Standing around and complaining, even in large numbers, did not prevent the vote-smearing that was going on. Thus, nothing changed. the Iranian protesters came closer to afflicting change that the Darfur FB users because they actually organized and tried to do something. However, they did not damage anything of value to those in favor of the status quo.

So I would say that if anyone really wants a revolution over a particular issue, not only is hierarchical organization important (as discussed in the fine article), but also, those organizing the protest (be it through social media or any other medium) must, necessarily, find a way to deprive their opponents of something valuable over a long span of time. That said, for issues close to us 'dotters, I would say that simply commenting on related stories is not enough. If we really want the MAFIAA to fall for good, we need to deprive them of something they value. If we want politicians to stop acting like corrupt douchebags, we need to go beyond writing letters to them and complaining. We need to organize and cost them something of value. If we want net neutrality to be implemented, we need to find a way to deprive all throttling ISPs from getting something of value (customers, money, new technology, something).

At least, that's my two cents.

Tea Party (2)

hardburn (141468) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763572)

Whatever else you may think about the Tea Party, their initial protests were organized through the blogosphere (and mostly still are), and it would be foolish to deny that they've had some effect politics. Because of this, they lack a centralized leadership structure, and it will be curious to see if they can survive their own success.

Makes Sense of 4chan (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763610)

Effectively the article is saying that even if you use /b as your personal army, it doesn't matter, because you just promoted yourself a personal army of useless retards. =)

This is silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763704)

Which is more important, that you had 16 well-organized protests which impacted very few people directly, or the impact of television on the entire country?

http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=civilrights

Clearly, the impact of television on the Civil Rights movement was much greater. And, TV is a much weaker connection than Facebook.

True revolution requires will, not text plans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763724)

Its fun to think that instant messaging will solve social ills, but 140 characters per message means nothing if you are going to run away when the rifles get aimed. Revolutions only work when you have the will to stand up and fight, and possibly die in the cause. Flower power dissent is about as effective as a wet noodle, it takes will, steel and muscle.

Weak Social Links? (2, Insightful)

mdrplg (680070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33763738)

It seems to me that the quality of the social link of facebook and twitter are dependent on the quality of the social unit involved in the link. If the social unit is strong, effective and determined then the use of these tools will necessarily augment their effect. If the social unit is weak and transitory then the effect of the tools will be weak and transitory.

revolutions will soon be dead thanks to technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33763782)

Twitter may be less usefull than an actual protest, but as soon as there are cameras on every corner tied to a facial recognition database then the old-school protest will be just as useless.

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