[NetBehaviour] The Twitter Revolution Must Die.

info info at furtherfield.org
Tue Feb 1 12:18:54 CET 2011

The Twitter Revolution Must Die.

Granted, as Joss Hands points out, there appears to be more skepticism 
than support for the idea that tools like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook 
are primarily responsible for igniting the uprisings in question. But 
that hasn’t stopped the internet intelligentsia from engaging in lengthy 
arguments about the role that technology is playing in these historic 
developments. One camp, comprised of people like Clay Shirky, seem to 
make allowances for what Cory Doctorow calls the "internet’s special 
power to connect and liberate." On the other side, authors like Ethan 
Zuckerman, Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov have proposed that while 
digital media can play a role in organizing social movements, it cannot 
be counted on to build lasting alliances, or even protect net activists 
once authorities start using the same tools to crack down on dissent.

Both sides are, perhaps, engaging in a bit of technological 
determinism–one by embellishing the agency of technology, the other by 
diminishing it. The truth, as always, is somewhere in between, and 
philosophers of technology settled the dispute of whether technology 
shapes society (technological determinism) or society shapes technology 
(cultural materialism) a while ago: the fact is that technology and 
society mutually and continually determine each other.

So why does the image of a revolution enabled by social media continue 
to grab headlines and spark the interest of Western audiences, and what 
are the dangers of employing such imagery? My fear is that the hype 
about a Twitter/Facebook/YouTube revolution performs two functions: 
first, it depoliticizes our understanding of the conflicts, and second, 
it whitewashes the role of capitalism in suppressing democracy.


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