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[liberationtech] Malcolm Gladwell on Traditional vs. Online Activism

Shannon Lee shannon at scatter.com
Mon Sep 27 13:46:18 PDT 2010


We use bullhorns to organize crowds and direct movement but I wouldn't call
such actions "bullhorn based."  You still have to do the work of creating
and maintaining connections and moving people around based on those
connections; the tools change but the work is the same.

--S

On Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 1:03 PM, Michael H Goldhaber
<michael at goldhaber.org>wrote:

> I have not seen piece. However tactics of movements that work constantly
> change, as they must, since repeating the same old thing becomes too easy so
> that too many different movements or would-be movements try it and drown
> each other out; the media and politicians cease to pay much attention unless
> it vastly outdoes earlier movements; and effective means to block well-worn
> tactics prevent them from succeeding. The Tea Party movement apparently has
> successfully used twitter to bring out voters to reshape the Republican
> establishment — a negative example from my point of view, but still........
> Best,
> Michael
>
> On Sep 27, 2010, at 9:49 AM, Pranesh Prakash wrote:
>
> > I largely agree with the piece (having quickly skimmed through it) that
> > the differences are often underestimated. However, very
> > impressionistic-ally, there are a few things that Gladwell does not
> > consider, or consider adequately:
> >
> > 1. The role of the *traditional* media in advocacy.
> >       The traditional media are very powerful in amplifying weak ties as
> > well. They play a big role in both traditional *and* social media-based
> > activism.  And Twitter and Facebook are easy places to find new stories
> > for traditional media journalists.
> >
> > 2. Even traditional political advocacy can actually be based on weak
> ties.
> >       Consider Amnesty International's letter-writing campaigns.  Very
> > strong, very political, requires little action, and is many times very
> > effective.  There are Amnesty posters from the '70s that have a
> > typewriter with the caption: "This is one of the most powerful weapons
> > in the fight for human rights".  And more recently: "Saliva saves lives"
> > and "Postman topples dictator".
> >       However, I mostly agree with him that social media-based advocacy
> is
> > largely based on weak ties, and that greatly limits it.  That having
> > been said, a large movement of weak ties can (and quite usually does)
> > have a small core of strong ties that keeps it going.  Thus social
> > media-based advocacy can help convert some of those with only weak ties
> > into those with stronger ties.  This is thus a case of one complementing
> > the other.  Thus, I agree with Mary that this distinction is one of
> > degree and of tendency, rather than absolute.
> >
> > 3. I'm still mulling over his distinction between high-risk and low-risk.
> >       Revolutionaries of the traditional sort (the re-emergent Red
> Brigade,
> > for instance) have put digital technologies, though not "social media",
> > to great use: to coordinate murders and to cover their trail with
> > encryption (OpenPGP).  Many of the emergent networks of the early
> > Internet were actually traditional advocacy groups (consumer rights
> > groups, environmentalist groups, etc.).  So is his point about digital
> > technologies or about social media-based activism?
> >
> > I will have to read the piece more carefully to see where exactly he
> > draws the lines between digital tools and social media, and the links he
> > makes between traditional advocacy groups and the media (if any).
> >
> >
> > On 09/27/2010 08:15 PM, Mary Joyce wrote:
> >> ... in the current* New Yorker*:
> >>
> http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all
> >>
> >> Some questions:
> >>
> >>   1. Gladwell draws an absolute distinction between the *strong ties* of
> >>   offline activism (example of the civil rights movement) and the *weak
> >>   ties* of online activism (examples of Darfur Facebook groups). Is this
> an
> >>   accurate distinction?
> >>   2. Gladwell reiterates the observation that offline activism is *
> >>   hierarchical* and strategic while online activism is *decentralized*
> and
> >>   ad hoc.  Does this distinction doom online activism to failure or just
> >>   indicate a new mechanics of activism?
> >>   3. Gladwell argues that centralized and hierarchical protest
> movements,
> >>   like the civil rights movement, which "help us persevere in the face
> of
> >>   danger" and "promote strategic and disciplined activity" are
> unequivocally
> >>   more *effective* than a decentralized and networked movements.  Might
> >>   this statement not be true under repressive regimes?
> >>
> >> Mary
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
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> >>
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> >
> > --
> > Pranesh Prakash
> > Programme Manager
> > Centre for Internet and Society
> > W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
> >
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> >
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>
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-- 
Shannon Lee
(503) 539-3700

"Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science."
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