Friday, June 19, 2009
Clay Shirky Explains How Twitter & Facebook Have Changed Geopolitics
20 years after the Berlin Wall fell in Germany,barriers are falling in Iran and China, only this time, it's not a concrete wall collapsing, it's a firewall.
Social Media expert Clay Shirky offered this great piece of insight during his presentation at the TED conference, How cellphones, Twitter and Facebook can make history.During his 17-minute speech, Shirky made this bold claim:
We're starting to see a media landscape in which innovation is happening everywhere, and moving from one spot to another. That is a huge transformation. Not to put to fine a point on it, but the moment we're living through, is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.
At the time, Shirky's statement may have seemed a bit extreme, but as videos of Iran protests pour into Youtube each day, the rest of the world gets a glimpse into a society that's normally isolated from mainstream media.
We shouldn't be surprised by the public's ability to circumvent an oppresive regime, because we saw a similar phenomona during China's earthquake last summer. The first reports came from citizens on Twitter, rather than China's state news agency. Within hours, nine of the top 10 URLs on Twitter linked to citizen news reports,including videos and pictures.
You may recall the China Youtube Ban, so how did the Red Dragon fall prey to the power of social media? Because the censors were focused on blocking outside media,rather than removing internal media, which is very similar to the movement we're witnessing in Iran, as supporters of MirHussein Mousavi use Twitter to protest the Ahmadinejad regime. Shirky pointed out the following areas where China's government failed:
China's government assumed:
- Media is produced by professionals and mostly comes from the outside world.
- Media comes in relatively sparce chunks comes in relatively slowly.
Shirky explains how China's assumptions caused them to overlook the threat from within-user generated content.
The great firewall was facing in the wrong direction for this challenge, because not one of those things was four things was true in this environmen tproduced by amateuers, produced locally and produced at such an incredible abundance that there was no way to filter it as it appeared.
Shirky points to four periods in the last 500 years where media has changed enough to qualify for revolution.
- Movable type printing press:Made printing possible in mid 1400s.
- Telegraph and telephone, 200 years ago: Conversational media. Enabled two-way communication.
- Photos,sound and movies recorded media other than print, encoded in physical objects arrived 150 years ago.
- Radio and TV- sending sound and images through the air.
The difference between the past revolutions and this revolution?
The internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversationS at the same time. In other words, the phone gave us one-to-one communication pattern, TV,radio magazines and books gave us the one to many pattern, and the internet gave us the first many-to-many pattern, while acting as an access point to all other media.
Shirky points out the limitations of the four prior media revolutions.
- The (old) media that's good at creating conversations, is no good at creating groups, and the media that's good at creating groups, is no good at creating conversations.
- If you want to have a conversation, you have it with one other person.
- If you want to address a group, you get the same message and you give it everyone in the group, whether you're doing that with a broadcasting tower or a printing press, that was the media as we had it in the 20th century.
Other key insights I gained from watching Shirky's presentation:
- Tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.It isn't when the shiny new tools show up that their new uses start permeating society, it's when everybody is able to take them for granted.
- In the case of social media, the tech transfer goes in the opposite direction that we think the tech transfer should go, from the developed world, to the developing world,
- Because media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people can take for granted the idea that we're all in this together.
- Media is less and less about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals, and is more and more often a way of creating an envioronment for convening and supporting groups.
- Media is increasingly a site of coordination, because groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well
- Members of the former audience can also be producers and not consumers.
As Shirky says, the question we all face now is, "How can we make best use of this media, even though it means changing the way we've always done it?"
By Matt O'Hern at 04:16 PM | Comments (1)