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Ems - Summer I ’11 - T101 Lecture 18: Social Media & Social Change Part 1
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Ems - Summer I ’11 - T101 Lecture 18: Social Media & Social Change Part 1


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  • = People & Power Al Jezera documentary. Start at 1:30.
  • While Iran’s government was not overturned in 2009, the ripple effect was felt across the Middle East and northern Africa. Because of a number of reasons, including the growing popularity, and number of skilled users of the Internet and media technologies, a huge number of young people have joined revolutionary movements and overturned governments like Egypt and Tunisia in the region. While new media, on its own, doesn’t determine a revolutions success or failure, it does play an active role especially in combination with other factors.
  • What is more powerful? The technology? Do they make us do things? Or is it people? Don’t people ask for crappy TV? The media content that exists is because we create it. We build the technology. Both arguments are wrong. Because technology is us. This is abstract but technologies are remixes. Technologies are made by other machines today. Very few humans are involved in the making of technology anymore. Technology evolves just like nature does. It becomes more and more complex and more and more difficult to track its origins. Computer software comes out in versions. Windows XP, Vista, 7. iPhone OX 4, etc. Technologies evolve like we do. This debate should be off limits during the course of T101. It doesn’t make sense in the media life perspective.
  • This is the wrong question. Instead we need to ask what role they play.
  • Gladwell saysthe events in Iran would have happened whether Twitter was used or not. For this reason, and the fact that Twitter is not good for maintaining what Mark Granovetter terms strong ties, )(which Gladwell misuses)Gladwell determines that Twitter’s role in the uprisings in Iran and Moldova were exaggerated and are not likely to have been substantial. “weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.”
  • RFID tags in hands with health care information. In some places you can pay for things by swiping your hand. Tyler Clementi committed suicide because his sexual orientation was made public online.By taking this stance, we can move beyond the question of whether media causes revolutions. We do not take a society-centric or technology-centric point of view. We argue that moving beyond this question allows us to posit new empirically based hypotheses and research questions that focus on understanding modern subjectivities, culture and social structures.
  • We can’t know our world or our place in it without media today. This is not new. We’ve always told stories in order for people to learn what their role was and what their heritage was in society. Today our stories are not oral they are digitally produced images, videos, sounds and text.
  • Upper left: spiderman on broadway. Lower left: spider man the movie. Right: spiderman comic book. Each of these formats creates a different kind of “user experience” and reveals the spiderman story in a different way. Technology and media have agency. Theorists and theories that we look to here include Actor Network Theory (Latour), Media Ecology Theory (McLuhan), Media System Dependency Theory (Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur) and post humanism theory (Foucault, Hayles, Butler, Latour, Sloterdijk). All of these theories propose that technologies and media are cultural artifacts embedded within social structures. They have agency and reinforce existing social structures and forces.
  • All of the revolutionary movements today have in common the fact that they are organized and experienced by many via mobile, screen-based communication tools. These are the media tools we use to tell stories and make sense of our lives today.
  • Because the protests are organized and experienced through mobile, screen-based communication tools, the physical protests become dislodged from geographic place. They happen in minds, through conversations which are largely independent of place. People being killed on the ground and people uploading videos in Berlin are both part of the protests and these activities reproduce one another.Furthermore, demonstrations have the structure of networks instead of traditional hierarchical organizations. A group of protesters often is extremely diverse consisting of a number of small groups each with differing agendas.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Welcome to Summer
      T101 Day 19!
    • 2. Today-
      Social Media and Social Change
      Remember extra credit due tomorrow!
      The rest of the week-
    • 3. What is social change?
      Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society.
    • 4. It can mean:
      • Revolution – US, France, England, Russia…
      • 5. Change in economic structure: shift from
      communism to capitalism. – East Germany
      • Or social movements like Women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, etc.
    • Egypt
    • 6. Also…
    • 7. Everyone wants to know: Do social media play a role in current social movements?
    • 8. So, what role do social media play? Remember the midterm exam question:
      “Based on what you have learned in T101 Media Life, are the protests that happened earlier this year in Tunisia and Egypt indeed "social media revolutions" as some journalists argued? Briefly explain your position on this issue, and indicate whether this is a society-centric or a media-centric point of view.”
      They are not - media do not 'cause' revolutions, they are intrinsically part of it. This is a society-centric point of view (or better yet, this is not a society or technology centric point of view).
    • 9. society centric vs. media-centric explanations of media life
    • 10. Some history:
      Iran 2009
      Moldova 2009
      G-20 Summit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2009
    • 11. 62.63
      Iranian Protests June 13-16, 2009
      62.63 % to 33.75%
    • 12.
    • 13. Moldovan Protests April 5-7, 2009
    • 14. G-20 Protests September 22-25, 2009
    • 15. Elliot Madison – Arrested for Tweeting the Location of Police
    • 16. Knowing what we know from T101 what’s wrong with the current debate about whether social media play a role in recent protests in the Middle East and/or northern Africa?
    • 17. Also, no ... A really LOUD no!
    • 18. Those in this debate are asking the wrong question. In each case media play a different role.
      “All revolutions write their own scripts, and their media are part of the process. In such contexts, communication and politics are not separate acts, for the altering of public affect, the mobilization of opinion, and the promotion of further participation are part of the revolutionary process”
    • 19. If we see this problem from within the media life perspective what happens?
    • 20. Media are not separate from life.
    • 21. We make sense of the world in media
    • 22. Media materiality matters.
    • 23. This is different from this
    • 24. Researchers tell us that by looking at how we use technologies we can see culture reflected back at us.
      Technologies, to these researchers, are like mirrors for society.
    • 25.
    • 26. Barry Wellman
    • 27. Conclusions:
      Space and place become part of the story that gets told about the events
      through media. They structure the story and the story structures our
      understanding of them.
      The constellation of participation in protest events looks like a network.
      There is no leader, each node seems to have equal status and power
      except those who occupy important positions in the network (switchers,
    • 28. Activity:
      IU just announced a tuition hike of 2.5% for this year and next. You are outraged. This hike will force many who can’t pay for college to start working right out of high school. You know this is bad for society. You convince your friends to fight this hike. Begin to develop a strategy for organizing a protest in Bloomington to take place during the first week of classes in the fall. What would you do?
      • How would you incorporate social media into your plan?
      • 29. Who would you try to reach?
      • 30. What places are of importance to your plan?
      • 31. How long would your protest and social movement last?