Tag Archives: Youth Identity

Critical Response and Clarification

26 Nov

After my last post I got an email from a reader with a number of very legitimate questions about my last post, mainly concerning social media during the Arab Spring and asking how our latest innovation in communications technology are any different from those in the past.  Here was my response, I hope this clarifies some of my ambiguities in this far flung experiment I’ve got going on here:


Hi *****,

I agree with you about the Arab Spring.  It’s highly contested academic territory and perhaps not the best direction for me to head in.  Besides, there are other things going on in the world right now that may make even more useful case studies, like the Icelandic revolution or the massive protests seen most heavily on the peripheries of ‘modern’ Europe (Spain, Greece, etc.).
The thing I guess I didn’t quite get across was that it isn’t the fact of social media but the speed and power of it that make it unique and astonishing.  Think about how long it took for the movements you mentioned to gain traction, and think of how physically slow it was to plan, disseminate information, and so on.  The fact that I can write anything I want and send it to anyone on the planet with internet  instantly astounds me and screams for wildly new potential for the dissemination knowledge as well as alternative types of social organization.  Admittedly internet usage is fairly low in most areas but generally not among those (the upper classes) who would typically assume leadership roles in their societies, if you believe that the idea of praxis exists or that movements come largely from those in the upper echelons of society.
It’s not that I believe social media simply gives people revolutionary potential, only that for the first time in the history of humankind can we deliver information instantly and do so globally.  Riots in Portugal, for example, are filmed and up for everyone to see, if not streaming, then within hours of the event.  THAT is revolutionary.  That is the type of thing I believe can lead to changes in people’s everyday understanding of the world and a sense of solidarity for those trying to resist the status quo for one reason or another.  One could argue that the printing press was more revolutionary…but for hundreds of years it was used mostly to produce a single book with a single point of view to the very few who were actually literate.  We had to catch up with the technology of the printing press to make it a truly transformative means of communication.  The same, I think holds true for the internet, but we caught up with it after twenty years or so.  However I believe we’ve intersected with social media at just the right time in history for it to be of incredible use to an exponentially larger number of people (even if adjusted to the population of the medieval era).
Further, social media for the first time makes every person on the planet an author.  It gives each of us a global voice that costs have until now made practically impossible.  It enables so much more dialogue and makes the planet feel so much smaller, so much more like a community instead of disparate nation-states.  My blog has had hits from almost ever nation on the planet over the past six months.  Could you imagine publishing in 150 or so countries in the 70s? or even the 80s or 90s?
Thanks for the website, it has really come in handy.  Feel free to get back to me if you’d like, and again I apologize for not responding a month sooner.
Take care,

Also, here is an Infographic about the history of social media starting with email in 1971 that she gave me and is pretty awesome: http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/history-of-social-media_b30226




20 Oct

The focus of this project is no longer solely, or even largely KONY2012.  While it was and continues to be an impressive phenomenon it has become, in my mind at least, part of a larger trend of which it is only a single case study.  The past two years have seen entire segments of various nations rise up, some in protest, some through elections leading to dramatic shifts in government, and others by means of the strike.

Or, perhaps, events such as these are not so atypical as they appear, but only coming to light in far greater numbers due to the transparency and immediacy of the internet and the rise of alternative media.

I would like to argue that many social movements in general are due to the growing ease with which information can be disseminated (and do so on a global scale, connecting disparate groups and causes) and the digital media that is now widespread.

In the US for example, inequality was barely addressed as an issue of public concern outside of progressive and academic circles.  Today we see the New York Times Online “Front Page” publishing roundtable talks and discussions about the issue. A year ago Occupy was just a small group working against Wall St.  Now we find the nomenclature of their movement being referenced in popular culture (TV etc.) as well as the mainstream press.  With growing rapidity, it seems, the ‘dirty little secrets’ of many societies are being put in the spotlight, arousing public discontent.

Granted, this shift may never have occurred had the economy not tanked four years ago.  Were hundreds of millions or more not directly affected by the depression through job loss, government austerity measures, or huge losses in capital, it is entirely possible that many of the most pressing issues of this year would never have occurred.

But that is not what is of importance here.

What is of importance is that largely youth and worker driven movements around the world have been making headlines, assembling huge crowds, and gaining access to a broader audience in ways that, I argue, have not existed–or at least have not existed at a time when social pressures were high enough to lead to different forms of collective action–and that timeless, spaceless dissemination of information has now become a critical part of the politics of social change.  In other words, organizers have taken advantage of new digital technologies to circumvent traditional channels for knowledge (i.e. mainstream media), and that this has been a positive development for both democracy and supranational humanistic self-identification among younger people.

The other argument in my mind, and the one I really hope to find support for in my research is a little less straight forward but in the vein with much of the research already done on the Arab Spring.  Put simply, I would like to demonstrate a causal relationship between the rise of digital and social media, and the changes described above in which the latter may not have come to be without the former, and that movements did not simply pick up digital tools and turn them to their advantage but actually spawned from the organic growth of spreading ideas via digital media.  In terms of the youth this applies especially to social media.

So that is sort of where my head is at.  I no longer intend to focus my efforts on analyzing the circumstances surrounding Uganda and Kony that led to the Invisible Children video.  I do not think that it will aid me in making sense of Kony2012 AS PART OF A THE LARGER TREND that is really at the core of my questions about what I am seeing take place in the world and on my own computer.

No, the focus has shifted. 2012socialexperiment is no longer just about the Kony video, but about broader aspects of the year 2012 itself.

Feedback would be great, all.  Please comment if you have any thoughts.

Brief thoughts on ‘cover the night’ 4/20

26 Apr

I haven’t had a chance to look into how effective a mobilization of Cover the Night actually turned out to be, here in the US and abroad.

However, I have had the chance to read some news reporting on it and I discovered one very strong trend–in every large city (in the US at least) the event was downplayed as being less than a nuisance and completely ineffective. (I don’t know if that is true yet, but fine NYT I’ll take you on your word on it for now). When you start looking at news outside of the cities, though, the framing changes dramatically. In small cities all across the country the local news almost universally talked about how large the impact of the evening had been and in some places, even put a positive spin on the campaign (even in places you wouldn’t suspect, like Georgia!) Now is this a reflection of cities trying to keep an already gregarious population in the dark about mass actions? Or just small towns making big stories out of little things because, (hell I came from a small town and) there isn’t much to talk about? Or is it actually the case that the event was more highly saturated, publicized and successful in the country than the cities?

I’ve also heard a number of different stories about how the people in Uganda themselves have been reacting the to documentary and mobilization, though a lot of it has been negative and this too can be seen through their news.

Guardian, UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/21/kony-2012-campaign-uganda-warlord

SeattlePi.com: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Kony-2012-s-Cover-the-Night-continues-despite-3499509.php
(despite optimistic title it goes on to describe how only a ‘few dozen activists’ took part in the night)

AM 610 KCSR, Nebraska:http://www.chadrad.com/newsstory.cfm?story=24403

WFLI 18, Delphi, Indiana: http://www.wlfi.com/dpp/news/local/area-teens-cover-the-night-for-kony-2012

WMGT 41, Georgia: http://www.41nbc.com/news/local-news/11786-kony-2012-cover-the-night-campign-moves-into-middle-georgia

Daily Monitor, Uganda:http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1387926/-/aw2cd3z/-/index.html