Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revolution Tech

Devin Coldeway writes today on Tech Crunch about the social media revolution myth, and the piece is a solid look at the overstated power of the new tools. Jay Rosen and Liz Strauss gave it a bump, and that's how I found it today.

Codeway's nut quote:

Twitter and Facebook are indeed useful tools, but they are not tools of revolution — at least, no more than Paul Revere’s horse was. People are the tools of revolution, whether their dissent is spread by whisper, by letter, by Facebook, or by some means we haven’t yet imagined.

He is quick to point out that Outlier maven Malcom Gladwell drew the ire of the on-line world by challenging the new conventional wisdom of the power of Twitter, et al. Quoting Gladwell:

“People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”

To this end, both Gladwell and Coldewey are correct.

And horribly, horribly wrong.

Let me tell you the story of a group of revolutionaries. They knew that there were problems with the ruling class in their communities, but for the most part, they were isolated from each other. They did not know that they shared a common enemy, and that tactics used against them were being employed against their fellow travelers.

Once they came together for the first time, they were able to swap intelligence. And they vowed to used the state of the art communications tools to keep each other informed. To inspire one and other. To spread the word among the population. Over time, they were able to deepen the bonds -- as Gladwell and Coldeway point out as missing in many on-line communities.

You may have heard of them before: the Sons of Liberty.

Perhaps their comm tool of choice: the Committees of Correspondence via the colonial post.

And the result of their work: the United States of America.

Real-time reporting tools are just that -- tools. But what made the difference in Katrina? The live cable TV images, that became righteous indignation. What lacked in the Green Revolution in Iran? More people willing to back the techno-revolution.

You need networks -- but they must have people willing to fight (and often die) for the cause.

What happens in Egypt? The convergence of technology and revolution.

So yes, the revolution will not only be televised in the future, so will the failed revolutions.

Tweeted, Facebooked and broadcast.

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