Social Media and Politics

Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody“, is known for his thought on collaboration, networking and new ways of working in a networked world. Here he talks about the geometric increase in the conversations and the “global, social, ubiquitous and cheap” nature of social media.

The talk presages the global use of social media both within Iran and globally to share information and co-ordinate action around the Iran Election.

He points to Barack Obama’s campaign and the high impact social media had, indeed there is already a book on the subject “Yes we did” by Rahaf Harfoush (which I’ve just ordered).

Perhaps the most interesting comment is on the reverse transfer – in the Nigerian election in April 2007 voters used SMS as a “citizen watch” on what was happening at the polls. In November 2008 Americans used phone cameras to take images and video. Both actions had the same social objective, and both used the technology ubiquitous in the respective countries. But the idea started in a “developing” country and moved to a “developed” country. A reverse of what might be generally expected.

I’m reminded of a conversation reported in Don Tapscott’s book “Digital Economy” published in 1996. He’d asked his daughter to participate on a “consumer of the future” panel she answered

“… I don’t understand why you adults make such a big deal about technology. Kids just use computers to do stuff. We don’t think of them as technology. Like a fridge does stuff. It’s not technology. When I go to the fridge, I want food that is cold. I don’t think about the technology that makes food cold.”

I think the reason social media is so incredibly powerful is that we can forget the technology, and just be human.

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