Monday, October 19, 2009

Social Media Makes Information Move Ridiculously Fast.

I didn't realize that news about the earthquake in China was not reported by the government, but by the people it was happening to--in real time. That's crazy! If the media implications of technology/social networking sites on the internet were the same in the past as they are today (as described in Clay Shirky's lecture "How Social Media Can Make History," I think that government repression of information would not be possible.

For example, during the 1950's the Dominican Republic was ruled by a dictator who was actually backed by the United States because he was anti-Communist (in this way, the Dominican Republic is not unique). Given that it was difficult to get out word of the state of terror he kept Dominican society under, the United States was not under pressure to answer for their support of a repressive ruler. Perhaps if social media such as Twitter or Blogger had been available at the time, more people would have been made aware of the situation and held American leaders (at least partly) responsible for their compliance.

Another instance is in Cambodia's genocide in the 1970's. The country was essentially closed off to tourists and journalists for years, and Pol Pot had free reign in the country to do what he wanted with the population. If there had been a way to get information from regular people out, then perhaps the executions and relocations would not have happened, at least not in such a grand scale. Perhaps the Khmer Rouge would have been denounced and made into an embarrassment, like the Sudanese government because of the genocide in Darfur. Or, perhaps not--sometimes people just don't listen or care enough about what's going on across the world because it doesn't directly relate to them.

Social media is a really powerful tool for the masses. Do you think that it really causes people to pay attention, or care more? Or does it just get information out more quickly without really making a difference in how people view or feel about the news?

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