February 28, 2011

Small Changes with Enormous Implications

Malcolm Gladwell’s words in 2010 in his “Small Change” article for the New Yorker are almost as if they were written after their time. He writes, “The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The tools of social media have reinvented social activism. With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns.” Reading this article, one might ask, is social media facilitating any form of credibility for activists? The answer is a fascinating one.

Social media is, of course, giving people who didn’t previously have voices a virtual place to express themselves and a virtual place to collaborate. However, what it is doing in public space is even more impressive. Egyptians have protested their way to a new temporary government and, as such, have inspired others who have been stifled to raise up to demand social, political, and economic changes in places such as Libya. Looking to Egypt, Libyans hope to have similar results from their revolution. What is clear is that information communication technologies are granting the world’s most powerless a greater ability to hold governments more responsible for their injustices by organizing virtually or via SMS text.

Additionally, Kristen Lord proposes greater use of “network diplomacy” between the public and private sectors to improve US public diplomacy. She proposes a balance between the two sectors to effectively utilize the tools Americans have to improve the perception of America in places that might not share economic, social, and political values as Americans do. Privatizing the system some seems a long way off, thought it certainly has its strengths for engaging with sensitive audiences.

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