[NetBehaviour] The Twitter Revolution Must Die.
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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