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[liberationtech] Cyber-sceptics wanted!

Jillian C. York jilliancyork at gmail.com
Wed Mar 2 13:35:23 PST 2011


On Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 4:34 PM, Zeynep Tufekci <socnetres at gmail.com> wrote:

> Here are two posts I've written about this topic:
> http://technosociology.org/?p=178
> http://technosociology.org/?p=305
>
> Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, Malcolm Gladwell has been useful in so
> far as creating a public debate on this issue but otherwise quite unhelpful.
>
>

Yes, that.



> His essays are well-written which disguise the lack of data, understanding
> or logic in his arguments. He is wrong about role of weak ties in social
> movements, he is wrong about the relationship between week and strong ties,
> he clearly has little to no understanding of social media and I don't know
> what else to say besides, I dunno, ... Egypt? Tunisia?
>
> That is not to say there is no room for debate on this topic. On the
> contrary, I believe the hows and whys of the relationship between tools of
> communication and collective action which also happen to be tools of
> surveillance and propaganda, and social change is rich in detail and
> important.
>
> As long as we don't get lost in point-counterpoint re:Gladwell's one essay
> and change on the topic.
>
> -z
> <http://technosociology.org/?p=178>
>
> On Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 4:28 PM, Pranesh Prakash <pranesh at cis-india.org>wrote:
>
>> On Thursday 03 March 2011 02:29 AM, Yosem Companys wrote:
>>
>>> I don't often comment on the list, other than in moderator capacity...
>>>  But
>>> I completely agree with Jillian on Gladwell inaccuracy of weak ties vs.
>>> strong ties argument.  Gladwell cites Granovetter, but Granovetter's work
>>> clearly shows weak ties ->  info diffusion, which is what Mario Diani's
>>> empirical work shows about movements.  In other words, tech or not, weak
>>> ties fuel movements.
>>>
>>
>> They might act as fuel for movements, but they don't ignite them.  A core
>> set of strong ties (whether offline or online, whether they knew each other
>> from earlier or got to know each other well as part of the movement) is
>> required.
>>
>>
>>  Otherwise, you can't build critical mass and reach
>>> tipping points, which Gladwell argues in his book summary of Granovetter
>>> and
>>> critical mass theory.  No one questions strong ties are needed to some
>>> extent in early stage of activism, but as McAdam argues, strong ties
>>> early
>>> on are required either for high risk activism or for securing resources.
>>>  And from my own research on Dean&  Clark in 2004, these were bloggers&
>>> forum organizers who had never met each other in person (they met AFTER
>>> starting the netroots movement online), and yet they seemed to run
>>> virtual
>>> organizations quite well on weak ties.
>>>
>>
>> I agree.  (And disagree to the extent that weak ties can get converted to
>> strong ties: so Dean & Clark might have started out as weak ties, but that
>> subsequently changed (even before meeting each other IRL).)  In fact, in a
>> message on the Gladwell thread on this mailing list last year I'd written:
>>
>>  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.
>>>
>>
>> In an offlist mail to Jillian I'd written:
>> It seems to me we are both in agreement in terms of his argument and its
>> weaknesses.  But while I conclude that for the most part I agree (focussing
>> on its strengths), you conclude that for the most part you disagree
>> (focussing on its weaknesses).
>>
>> - Pranesh
>>
>>
>> --
>> Pranesh Prakash
>> Programme Manager
>> Centre for Internet and Society
>> W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283
>>
>>
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>
>
>
> --
> Zeynep Tufekci, Ph.D.
> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
> University of Maryland, Baltimore County
>
> zeynep at umbc.edu or @techsoc
> http://userpages.umbc.edu/~zeynep/
> http://www.technosociology.org
>
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-- 
Berkman Center for Internet and Society |
https://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/jyork
jilliancyork.com | @jilliancyork | tel: +1-857-891-4244
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