Shirky And Gladwell On Social Media And Activism Essay Samples
Clay Shirky and Malcolm Gladwell in their articles on social media and activism take different positions on the role of social media on political activism today. While both admit that the social media has created a paradigm shift in the way activism was conducted some years back, they disagree on the degree to which social media activism has been successful in facilitating meaning political transformations in the society. Shirky attributes various political revolutions to social media tools such as text messages, google, tweeter and facebook, which he writes were instrumental in mobilizing the masses towards popular political causes that ultimately gave rise to the said revolutions. Gladwell, on the other hand, dismisses this supposed role of the social media in political revolution, saying that such notions are misplaced since social media lacks the capacity to motivate the masses to participate in actual revolutions.
In his article, The political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change, Shirky is all praises for the social media which he says must not be underestimated as a tool for radical political revolutions (Shirky 1). She gives various examples of instances where the social media have been used to effect political changes in different parts of the world.
In the fifth paragraph of the article, he illustrates that social media, which had earlier been used in Philippines to bring down the government of President Joseph Estrada, has been adopted by civil societies pushing for a regime change throughout the world. She identifies the case of Spain where Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was forced out of office by a popular revolution organized through text messaging. He also gives the example of Moldova. In 2009, massive protests organized by way of text messaging forced the exit of the communist party after an alleged fraudulent election. Later in the article, he mentions the cases of Belarus and Iran, countries that have been associated with social media motivated political upheavals in the past. He observes that the civil society has embraced the social media as a tool for mass protests making it more potent. ‘The potential of social media lies mainly in their support of civil society and the public sphere’, he writes.
But Malcolm Gladwell in her article Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be tweeted, refutes these assertions, maintaining that the role of the social media in pushing for popular revolutions and leadership change has been grossly overestimated by proponents of social media activism. Using the example of the Greensboro case of 1960, she demonstrates that the social media cannot be used to champion for political revolutions. This, he writes, is because such revolutions require a stronger resolution, a stronger motivation, as well as individual ties all of which are missing in the social media community. In what seems like a rejoinder to Shirky’s isolation of Moldova demonstrations as a case of social media revolution, he sensationally claims in the fourth paragraph that this was not the case. She says that Moldova’s ‘tweeter revolution’ may easily have been a ‘stagecraft cooked up by the government’ (Gladwell 1).
Reacting to claims of political revolutions through the social media, he says that historically, political revolutions have been characterized by ‘strong-tie’ phenomenon where participants have history of personal connections of those already in the movements demanding political change. The fact that such strong and close ties do not exist on facebook, tweeter or any other social media platform makes the idea of social media revolution impossible.
While both writers appear very convincing, the involvement of social media in in political activism today is evident everywhere. Revolutionaries in Egypt and other countries affected by the Arab spring used social media platforms to mobilize people for massive protests that forced regime changes. The use of social media in activism has become so entrenched in the society today that one is compelled to Agree with Shirky on the role of social media in political activism.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be tweeted. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-3 on 25th February 2015.
Shirky, Clay. The Political Power of social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change. Retrieved fromhttp://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67038/clay-shirky/the-political-power-of-social-media on 25th February 2015.
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