Political protest and social media: buzz or whisper?

Well, it's not Twitter and Facebook but the cunning means through which over 10,000 young Moldovans managed to reach out to each other through the services.

By harnessing a unique tag for their protests it was easy for the mass to get together at the same place, same time, for the same purpose. My question: how many of Britain's young people would a) know about the existence of Twitter, b) know what a tag is and c) how they could use a tag to convene a protest or campaign? It kind of puts into startk context the English Government's plans to 'teach Twitter' and the perhaps better-formed plans of the Scottish Government to include text messaging and social networks language in the fabric o....

Read more on the NYTimes. Pic from Flickr's own blog post on the photos captured.

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Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on April 17, 2009 at 11:40
Moldovan Update

"Not only did we underestimate the power of Twitter and the internet, we also underestimated the explosive anger among young people at the government's policies and electoral fraud," said Morar.

A fascinating development to the Moldovan rebellion, and one which captures the tension between 'whisper' and 'buzz'. Natalia Morar, whose tweets acted as a catalyst for the initial protest, which attracted 20,000 followers and activists, has been forced into hiding.

“It was "ironic", she added, that the tools she used to launch a revolution could now potentially betray her whereabouts.

So curiously our debate was played out in real life.

Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on April 14, 2009 at 22:13
Fiji's coup leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, yesterday cracked down on the media, installing military censors in newsrooms and ordering the expulsion of foreign journalists from the Pacific island nation.

seems like most 'official media' twitter feeds are showing blockages too.
Comment by Ewan McIntosh on April 13, 2009 at 21:59
Will's comment reminds me that I did a 20 minute talk a couple of years ago about how two different groups - teachers and students - used their public and private space technologies in very different ways. The Baby Boomers used traditional low interaction means of getting to the streets to keep their schools open, while the Bebo Boomers used their social networks, text messages, and gambled on the fact that the council leaders wouldn't be digitally literate enough to see what was afoot. You can listen and view the slides here:

and read my Comment is Free piece here:
Comment by Ewan McIntosh on April 13, 2009 at 21:56
There's another example of the 'secret and hidden' end of the whispers-buzz axis in Somalia, where text messages are proving the most reliable means of Islamic insurgents getting their orders and striking up fear amongst others:
Comment by william perrin on April 13, 2009 at 18:52
the stand out uk examples are the HSBC student campaign in facebook, like way back in 2007


and of course the colossal downing street epetitions, (i was one of the 'prats' behind this) which has now passed 10 million signatures and is easily the biggest such service in the world - although it can at times be hard to see what difference the petitions have made, people have always used them as a form of token protest

Avaaz http://www.avaaz.org/blog/en/ which has a good London operation is growing to truely huge proportions though not many in the UK have heard of it

overall at the heart of this is the ability of new media to reduce the cost of activism to the citizen - it is very expensive in time and money for a citizen with a busy life to get active. our methods of engagement in activism date from the C19th - go to a drafty town hall at an inconvenient time where no child care is provided to be bored to death or write a letter, which is fine if you have a decent education and english as a first language.

simple microeconomics govern behaviour here - the lower the cost of engagement, the more likely a citizen is to become active.

i have kicked this around informally with clay shirky. the market seems to end up at one of two extremes - the low cost, possibly low efficacy equilibrium of e-petitions but with massive levels of involvement or the high cost, good efficiacy but very low involvement levels of say going to meetings or becoming a councillor.

what we don't have at the minute is a middle ground - medium to low cost but reasonable efficacy engaging large numbers of people across the country. there is a foggy space here out of which shapes loom and recede - the shapes look a bit like the mysociety tools such as fixmystreet.com etc but made more engaging and local information services like www.kingscrossenvironment.com, and transparent engagement of local elected representatives like http://formbyfirst.typepad.com/ as well as a way for people who are active to get together and help each other out

the kind of thing we hope to do with Talk About Local when we emerge from 4IPs contractathon.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on April 13, 2009 at 13:11

The protest fast in Oslo. The Norwegian government's Oil Fund diverts 0.5% of national income from oil to peace movements around the world. It has become a small santuary for a generation of Tamils.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on April 13, 2009 at 13:05
“Tension is high in Bangkok today. Thousands of people effectively blocked off parliament. They want the government gone by Wednesday.”

“Excitement builds as protester seize public buses to get to the old Don Mueang Airport, the temporary government headquarters. Shots fired.”

“So far, the demonstration is peaceful. The Joint Session of parliament and Senate has been cancelled. Electricity to parliament gas been cut.”

For all the latest about the uprisings in Thailand as they ahppen and nwo appear to be facing suppression this is a good place where twitter feeds are aggregated:

the url is : http://globalvoicesonline.org/2008/11/25/thailand-rallies-and-twitter-updates/
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on April 12, 2009 at 19:12
Two hunderd thousand Tamils were eventually mobilised to march.
Comment by Ewan McIntosh on April 11, 2009 at 12:21
The Guardian today carries two interesting pieces on the challenges and opportunities of the pervasive camera during political protest:

I'm grouping these kind of links together under a new tag on my online bookmarks, Face, after a project I'm hoping to commission in the North East in May:
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on April 11, 2009 at 11:11
BBC News reporting on major protests in Pattaya



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