Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Complementary?

Ethan Zuckerman has got a piece on protest and social media that's required reading over at ...My Heart's in Accra.
The use of social media for protest - especially to promote a protest to international audiences - is far from unique.

Hmm... I'm interested. Do tell.
I’ve been asking some of the reporters I’ve spoken with where they were on other recent social media and protest stories. Citizen media has emerged as one of the key spaces for journalism in Fiji in the wake of a coup government that’s censoring mainstream media. It’s been a key source of information in Madagascar as that country’s suffered through a violent change of government. (One reporter who I mentioned this to remarked that Madagascar was “just a speck of an island somewhere”. That speck is twice the size of Great Britain and has the population of Australia…) In Guatemala, online media publicized the assasination of a lawyer by forces close to the president… and government authorities began arresting people for twittering the story to amplify it. These weren’t huge stories for most newspapers - the Iran story is huge not because of the social media aspect, but because protests in Iran are a huge story independent of citizen media.

In all these cases, it looks like the real role of social media is in amplifying the story to a broader audience. In a sense, that is the current role of social media in the synergy with established traditional media which we described yesterday.

The shift is that through critical mass, social media is now able to make the stories we used to tell around the kitchen table or at the corner bar now available immediately as a primary source to the world's media.

So, the stories themselves are going to have a different feel or focus.

In a way, as a musician, I can't help but see in the amateur video coming from the streets of Tehran the same sort of ethos that was present and has been instrumental in the lo-fi and documentary movements in audio recording. It's about getting the moment on tape, all else be damned.

In a way, it's a perfect complement to the remarkable on-the-street professional reporting of pros like Roger Cohen whose recent NY Times Op-Ed is one of the best pieces of writing I've read in ages.

How about: "The Revolution Will Be Complementary"?


I agree with Zuckerman that the Iran story is huge not because of social media as the focus but because it's a big story regardless.

However, the secondary impact is that the Iran story is in fact a big story for social media. In reality, the biggest yet.

Perhaps even, the game changer.

1 comment:

  1. In case you haven't seen it, Andrew Sullivan has an interesting piece on this with regard to Iran in The Times, called "Twitter ripped the veil off 'the other'…" I can't post the link, but you can easily find it via his website, The Daily Dish or the Times Online.


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