Reflections: The Best is Yet to Come

Blog post 1

Piyush Mordia

MC-MPA,

Harvard Kennedy School

 

Clay Shirky, in his book “Here Comes Everybody”   gives a brilliant analysis of the way internet and social media has changed the relationship between readers, authors and publishers; between the customers and the sellers, the government and the governed. It is true that our communication tools, for the first time in human history emphasize upon group dynamics, joint action and two way interactive communication .Through the analysis of the sequence of events which took place on the social media when a girl known as Ivanna  lost her mobile phone on the back seat of a taxi, the author is able to give us a deep insight into the power of social media.The use of blogs, discussion forums and photo sharing sites  enhances the group strength multifold. The author further demonstrates the power of group action through social media when they are able to publicize the difficulties which airline passengers have to face when   flights get delayed. This resulted in the enactment of Airline passengers’rights  bill  in the American directing the owners and management to make provisions for ensuring necessary facilities and compensation to passengers in case of such a delay.In other words, no one now can “get away with it”.

Since everybody carries a camera in  mobile phone, one can immediately take pictures of what occurs around him and can become a photojournalist; upload the pictures on the internet and become a publisher by sharing these pictures with the rest of the world.The unlimited range and inexpensive access to the world which any individual now enjoys, has suddenly changed the mechanism and manner in which groups and societies function in todays world. The documentation and real time photography of Tsunami ,Hurricane Katrina and London train station bombings was done by amateur  citizens who outperformed the regular journalists. The author also throws light on the creation of Wikipedia by self managed and self motivated contributors who got together to conceptualise ,initiate and give a tangible shape to the largest  ever evolving encyclopaedia in the world.Their involvement and ability to participate and make a difference was the only incentive. It functioned in an amazingly manner and much better than any externally managed organization.

Compare the contemporary world with that of yesteryears. The independence struggle in countries like USA and India was an outcome of the persistent efforts of the masses   directed against the illegal occupation of their homeland by colonial powers. All major efforts in such  movements, whether of local, regional   or   national level first aimed at successful mobilization of people. It was followed by channelizing of  energy to attain  logical outcome of  efforts. This used to be   an extremely difficult task formerly as the means of communication were slow, limited , localized ,primitive and expensive. Today, the emergence and gradual evolution of the   internet has made it easy to spread awareness, effectively communicate, analyze and discuss grievances, form pressure groups and propose attainable solutions .  Social media has been put to a   large number of imaginative and innovative uses. It is now possible to   invite  likeminded people, assemble them for a cause, explain them the issues, interact with them and build up a strong opinion base.

The organization of political protests in Egypt, Belarus and GDR are cases in example of the successful attainment of political objectives. The intricacies of design and strategy used on various platforms are discussed in detail by the author.The immediate successful mobilization of flash mobs makes it possible for people to get together for a cause. A decade back, it used to be hard to get people to assemble and easy for existing groups to fall apart.Now assembling groups has become simple and the strengthening of bonding which takes place by continuous two way communication keeps them together inspite of opposition.The access to the tweets of various world leaders and  personalities and the ability to respond and retweet makes it possible to make our presence felt at all levels.This enhances self esteem and is an exercise towards universal  empowerment.

Use of social media by ISIS and other terrorist organisations is an aspect which Clay Shirky did not touch in his book, probably because it was written earlier than  its adoption by them.Extremists were quick to shift to media technology at the same time as early adopters.The magazines and newsletters with their associated postal costs, such as the Al Hussam (The sword) newsletter which was published out of Boston, moved to email.It cost virtually nothing to email and distribute downloadable content.After September 11, the message boards became the preferred social networking tool for Jihadists.Although You tube has many social features, it basically delivers content.Terrorist groups have been using it to post and distribute propaganda. Twitter was embraced by the Taliban in 2011 itself.Somalian Jihadist group soon followed.Recruitment and propagation of ideology have been two of the most common uses of social media by the terrorist organisations.

No doubt the social dynamics of our society has undergone a fundamental transformation after the advent of social media.Facebook and twitter are like the traditional public squares and parks in the middle of a city where people used to gather every evening and socialize.The cyber space which has been created by internet does the same thing in a virtual environment.  Though anti- social elements and terrorists have also become active  on social media, positive gains have been much more. Moreover, it is also true that electronic and cyber surveillance brings to light the plans and objectives of such elements and makes it easy to gather intelligence. There is now a bit of internet and social media in everyones life. In a world where science is leaping ahead of fantasy, innovation and creativity bring more facets of the use of digital media to light daily.It seems the best is yet to come.

 

 

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