Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day Fourteen: Social Activism & Social Media

Driving in the city last night, we were stopped in our tracks by a political protest of some 200 or so protestors. As the protestors waved their placards ferociously, the commuters sat watching wearily. The traffic lights changed several times as the protestors' police escort effectively grid-locked Center City.

That same day, we were accosted in the street by beaming students on two separate occassions; on Chestnut Street we were assailed by the charity Doctors Without Borders, on Walnut by an environmental group. Clearly, the nicer weather has flushed out all those clipboard-wielding volunteers and activists who like to burn off calories while championing a worthy cause.

While not wishing to demean the beliefs of any of these groups of campaigners, it becomes interesting to speculate how much more they might achieve using social media.

Compare this protest in Center City, to the Facebook (FB) community's campaign to overturn Facebook's loosey-goosey* attitude to the privacy of personal data. By coming together en masse and agitating for change, using Facebook itself to spread the word, the FB community overturned the status quo in a remarkably short period of time.

A recent article in USA Today, (25th May) explored the nature of this phenomenon:

Twitter is "brewing a social revolution," says Jeff Pulver, a tech entrepreneur and founder of #140conf, an annual conference on all things Twitter. "Now it's about me the people, not we. Individuals have a voice like never before, and it's a voice that's connected to the world...during Haiti's disaster, everyone was tuned to the same channel, and it was called Twitter," he says.

As airlifts sped to Port-au-Prince, Pulver read a tweet from NBC reporter Ann Curry about a Doctors Without Borders relief flight that was unable to get clearance to land. Pulver re-tweeted that to his followers and immediately got a response from the U.S. Air Force saying, "We're on it."

The plane soon was able to land.

That's Twitter as a rallying point for social good, something co-founder Stone hopes will blossom. "Twitter is people emoting, and we would love to extend that to empathy," he says.

Nice thought.

If you've read to the end of this blog, your reward is yet another fascinating factoid. Loosey Goosey apparently comes from the slang African-American term "Loose as a Goose", which according to the Urban American Dictionary has a rather naughty meaning: the term seems relevant to FB, given the company's recklessness with other people's personal data...

Posted by: Claire

No comments: