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[liberationtech] Cyber-sceptics wanted!

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at
Wed Mar 2 12:31:31 PST 2011

On Thursday 03 March 2011 12:49 AM, Jillian C. York wrote:
> Thus solidifying Gladwell as one of the most irrelevant voices in this
> space.

I'm a bit confused. I thought you believed that calling things "Twitter 
revolutions" is inappropriate.  Gladwell agrees, for very similar 
reasons, as it happens.

He looks at the activism associated with social media from a telescopic 
perspective seeing that most of it is actually what is derided as 
"slactivism", while looking day-in day-out at activists you see social 
media services as potent tools in their hands.   His view seems seems to 
be that most of the activism using social media is really not done by 
(what he deems) real "activists" on the ground, but by people who click 
"Like" on a "Save Darfur" page (or by people up in arms about a Facebook 
homepage redesign).

While there are certainly a great many reasons to disagree with him (and 
I do[1]), our disagreement with him hardly makes his voice and his ideas 
about digital activism irrelevant.  I think he has contributed to the 


On Thursday 03 March 2011 12:39 AM, Alec Muffett wrote:
> In essence the exchange boils down to:
> MG: Because revolutions did occur in the pre-internet days, ergo the internet/web/socialmedia is irrelevant to revolutions. Nyaah!

What a gross oversimplification!  (Which is quite rich when you yourself 
write, "I'd go further and say that there's a general lack of 
understanding, let alone nuance".)  So you don't think people are 
entitled to hold that social media technologies can be helpful for 
protests without revolutionising them?  So we will now separate people 
into two water-tight compartments of believers of the revolutionary 
powers of social media and the non-believers?

Gladwell doesn't believe that social media tools are "irrelevant".  He 
admits that Shirky's pointed out good examples of how they've been put 
to good use.  He still holds that Shirky hasn't discharged his burden of 
proof in showing their centrality.  "Not being central" != "irrelevant". 
  That's something called nuance.  We both agree, thankfully, that more 
of it is needed in debates around digital technologies and societal impact.


Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: | T: +91 80 40926283

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