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[liberationtech] Cyber-sceptics wanted!

Giuseppe A. Veltri ga.veltri at gmail.com
Fri Mar 4 02:48:47 PST 2011


As much as I am sympathetic to those arguing for more attention to
"extra-Net" variables, there is no need to rediscover the wheel. Literature
and theories on social change are out there at least from the 17th century.
There are plenty of complex models that includes all sort of variables to
explain social change.
However, people of this mailing list (I suppose) are focusing on specific
research questions and this is not to say that all other variables are
irrelevant. Nobody does or should elect ICT as the "primum mobile" of social
change in the countries in questions.
To determine the role(s) of these technologies in  social change is a
legitimate question. It is because, even considering typical variables
(unemployment, food scarcity, etc..),  individual dissatisfaction does not
necessarily translate in collective demonstrations. As documented elsewhere
[1], to assume a linear relationship between individual hardships and
uprising  is dangerous. This is because an uprising is not a linear
aggregation of individual dissatisfaction. Another important condition is
that have actors that help organize a collective response and in that
undeniably ICT plays a role . Thus, this might be the case for what happened
in the countries mentioned in this thread.

Thanks

[1] Hardship and Collective Violence in France, 1830 to 1960′ by David
Snyder and Charles Tilly, American Sociological Review Vol. 37, No. 5 (Oct.,
1972), pp. 520-532
-----------------------------------------
Giuseppe A. Veltri
personal email ga.veltri at gmail.com
work email Giuseppe.Veltri at ec.europa.eu
web http://www.giuseppeveltri.it/


On 4 March 2011 10:59, Jose Rojas <jose.rojasr at gmail.com> wrote:

> 'Nauseating'...
>
> At long last someone says something insightful...
>
> Yes, digital technologies help... to those who have them... to what
> extend? Well, it varies. It has always been like this.
>
> Now, what can we researchers do to alleviate the maladies of the world?
>
> Jose
>
>
> On Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 3:19 PM, Adam Fisk <adamfisk at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Thank you for this, Michael. While I personally spend most of my days
> > working on technology I hope to be "liberating" in some way, I've
> > found the boundless conversation about Facebook and Twitter in this
> > debate honestly nauseating in light of the complete lack of discussion
> > surrounding widespread unemployment, poverty, and hunger in these
> > countries. Not only does that discussion exaggerate and glamorize our
> > own tenuous role in these global shifts, it also glosses over the
> > sobering realities of day to day life outside the blogosphere and our
> > lattes. Cairo ignited because it was a miserable place to be a human
> > being for the vast majority of the population on many levels. Did
> > Facebook provide a match? No question. But did it provide the same
> > match in Yemen with 2% internet penetration? Clearly not. Good old
> > fashioned suppressed populations with rising expectations rings true
> > to me, but it just doesn't make as good a sound bite.
> >
> > -Adam
> >
> >
> > On Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 3:34 AM, Michael Gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >> Since others are quoting from their blogs perhaps I'll quote from
> mine...
> >>
> >> "There are current disputes within the blogisariat about the role and
> >> significance of social media and other technologies in animating,
> enabling,
> >> and empowering the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.  This discussion,
> which
> >> moves back and forth between techno-philes and techno-skeptics,
> >> techno-optimists and techno-pessimists is however, mainly of interest to
> >> those who are interested, that is the blogisariat and their followers.
> >>
> >> It may be more useful however, to look forward rather than back; to
> identify
> >> what, from the experience of these revolutions and interwoven as they
> were
> >> (to a greater or lesser degree) by social media and information
> technology,
> >> might be of value as these countries go forward.  What have they learned
> >> from their recent experiences that can be applied as they respond to the
> >> very real social and economic issues—youth and adult unemployment, poor
> >> quality and limited access to public services, rising food costs, lack
> of
> >> opportunities for democratic participation—which ultimately provided the
> >> motivation for the masses whose commitment to the movement ensured its
> >> success."
> >>
> >> I go on to attempt a first order response to my rhetorical question at
> >> http://wp.me/pJQl5-5P and somewhat earlier specifically on Tunisia
> >> http://wp.me/pJQl5-4o and in a somewhat parallel discussion to talk
> about
> >> the effects of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia on social media
> >> http://wp.me/pJQl5-5I . (My apologies as I know that this will be a
> >> duplication for some of you.)
> >>
> >> Best,
> >>
> >> M
> >>
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu
> >> [mailto:liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu] On Behalf Of
> Giuseppe A.
> >> Veltri
> >> Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2011 7:44 AM
> >> To: Yosem Companys
> >> Cc: Liberation Technologies
> >> Subject: R e: [liberationtech] Cyber-sceptics wanted!
> >>
> >> Very nice and informative discussion, thank you.
> >>
> >> As an observer not directly involved this field of research, I would say
> >> that there is some evidence to sustain that weak ties are important. In
> the
> >> so in cial psychology literature, it refers to the  so-called  process
> of
> >> ''silent conversion'' . The paradigm of minority influence (Moscovici,
> 1976;
> >> Maass and Clark, 1984; Mugny and Perez, 1991) demonstrates how
> established
> >> norms change under dissent and introduces the distinction between active
> and
> >> passive deviance. Consistent active minorities inform the majority and
> lead
> >> them to reconsider their take on the world. Organized minorities
> influence
> >> by inducing a latent conversion among the majority but miss out on the
> >> credit for achieving this: the ‘sleeper effect’ ensures that we remember
> the
> >> message but not its source. This all suggests two different processes of
> >> social influence: majorities achieve conformity in public, while dissent
> >> might continue in private; minorities make us rethink privately, while
> we
> >> still conform publicly, but maybe only for a while. Minorities induce a
> >> rethink about the world (informational processes), while majorities make
> us
> >> consider others (normative processes).
> >>
> >> Thank you
> >>
> >> Giuseppe
> >>
> >> Ref.
> >>
> >> Moscovici, S. (1976) Social Influence and Social Change. London:
> Academic
> >> Press.
> >>
> >> Mugny, G. and Perez, J. A. (1991) The Social Psychology of Minority
> >> Influence. Cambridge: CUP.
> >>
> >> -----------------------------------------
> >> Giuseppe A. Veltri
> >> personal email ga.veltri at gmail.com
> >> work email Giuseppe.Veltri at ec.europa.eu
> >> web http://www.giuseppeveltri.it/
> >>
> >>
> >> On 3 March 2011 00:14, Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu> wrote:
> >>>
> >>> Pranesh,
> >>> My answers below.
> >>>
> >>>> Weak ties 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.
> >>>
> >>> In the absence of empirical evidence, we can't say this categorically.
> >>>  Where's the data?  It's a good hypothesis though, and I agree with it,
> as
> >>> my quotes from McAdam/Diani's work suggested.
> >>>
> >>>>
> >>>> I agree that weak ties are important.  (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).)
> >>>
> >>> How weak ties become strong ties, and vice versa, is rarely studied
> >>> empirically in movements & revolutions because it's so difficult to
> collect
> >>> good data on the phenomenon.  Longitudinal net analysts such as Powell,
> >>> Strang, Tuma, Aral, Wasserman, Faust, Carley, etc. use event history
> >>> analysis & hazard models to try to get at this.
> >>> Some of the best work I've seen examines dynamic tie formation & change
> >>> qualitatively.  For example, I wrote a working paper a few years back
> >>> showing how weak ties became strong ties in 9/11.  The firm in question
> lost
> >>> 90% of its staff, and so it called on its former employees (then weak
> ties,
> >>> but previously stronger ties when they worked as employees) to come
> back and
> >>> work for it; hence, strong -> weak -> strong again.
> >>>
> >>>>
> >>>>  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.
> >>>
> >>> Most, if not all, successful political advocacy requires weak ties.
>  All
> >>> social network analyses I've seen support Granovetter's original
> contention
> >>> that information diffusion is not possible in the absence of weak ties.
> >>>  Granovetter showed this was true in the context of finding jobs.  But
> >>> scholars of movements & revolutions have found this to be the case
> there,
> >>> and so have organization scholars in all sorts of organizations.  It's
> a
> >>> pretty robust social and political finding.
> >>> This is the problem with Gladwell's argument.  He claims categorically
> >>> that offline (or as you say, IRL) movements use strong ties while
> online
> >>> movements use weak ties.  This is just patently false based on the
> >>> sociological and political data.
> >>> Any movement based solely on strong ties -- whether online or offline
> --
> >>> will not be a movement at all.  It will be a densely, interconnected,
> closed
> >>> group that speaks to no other networks, like a family.  As Burt
> suggested,
> >>> you need weak ties to serve as brokers to new knowledge.  Information
> >>> diffusion a la contagion and epidemics not possible without weak ties.
> >>>
> >>>>>
> >>>>>       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.
> >>>
> >>> Without empirical evidence, I don't see how we can categorically say
> >>> anything about the relationship between social media advocacy and tie
> >>> formation & change.  We can speculate on it, but we don't have any
> grounded
> >>> evidence to advance an argument.  But empirical research on
> >>> movements/revolutions does show organizing requires strong ties, but
> >>> marketing/advertising/PR -- the basis of movement growth -- requires
> weak
> >>> ties.
> >>>
> >>>>
> >>>> 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
> >>>> (focusing on its weaknesses).
> >>>
> >>> I agree with the comments on the Twitter list @Liberationtech, where I
> >>> believe Jillian also participated in a discussion about how we need
> more
> >>> exchange between non academic media observers and academics.  Academics
> have
> >>> grounded evidence to share with non academics to produce fascinating
> >>> practitioner books like Gladwell's The Tipping Point.  Non academics
> often
> >>> come up with new ideas, but have to be careful not to present them as
> >>> empirical evidence.  These are simply propositions or working
> hypotheses
> >>> that academics should explore further.
> >>> I think it's dangerous to make non grounded arguments about social
> media
> >>> in the context of movements/revolutions, especially since high-risk
> activism
> >>> employing such advice could cost lives.
> >>> Best, Yosem
> >>>
> >>>>
> >>>> - Pranesh
> >>>>
> >>>> --
> >>>> Pranesh Prakash
> >>>> Programme Manager
> >>>> Centre for Internet and Society
> >>>> W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283
> >>>>
> >>>
> >>> _______________________________________________
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> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Adam Fisk
> > http://www.littleshoot.org | http://adamfisk.wordpress.com |
> > http://twitter.com/adamfisk
> > _______________________________________________
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