Daily Archives: 8 November 2012

YouTube’s Rising Political Relevance

As we explored through our reading of Opening Closed Regimes; What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring? YouTube became a particularly important tool for spreading news and information of Egypt’s uprising the form of user-generated videos around the world. Research conducted through this work identifies the top viral videos as of June 2011. While it is difficult to quantify the exact impact of these videos on audiences, it can be seen that some images of suffering would have prompted protests and spurred protests and heightened moral outrage. After reading about the effect of these videos, I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the videos, as the article provides an appendix.

The video which received the most youtube attention is entitled:
The Most AMAZING video on the Internet #Egypt #jan25

Since  January 27, 2011 the video has received over 2,450,037 views (about 300,000 more since the publication of the article).
I was also very interested to see a note included below the video:

Important message to youtube and people who flag this video: If it gets flagged or removed , it will be uploaded 10 more times.

I found this somewhat threatening tone unique in the context of YouTube. The video intends to be taken seriously and capitalizes on the right of expression. The video contains powerful imagery, which is bolstered by the incorporation of sound. While the content is heavy, it is relatively easy to follow. It is laden with symbolism and the accessibility through YouTube helps reveal the way in which such a video is seen as a success. In order to draw a contrast across cultural contexts, I thought it would be interesting to look at the use of YouTube in our own county.

Internet campaigns are changing the face of politics.  According to Claire Caine Miller’s work. How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics, Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign utilized YouTube for free advertising. Videos were seen as more effective than TV ads because viewers had chosen to watch them or had received them from a friend (via email) instead of having a TV show interrupted. As we have all seen in the recent campaign ICTs have played an increasingly more important role.

Social media platforms we have explored in class such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are growing rapidly as a source of political news. According to Journalism.org, the number of Americans who say they regularly go to these destinations to learn about the campaign has doubled since January of this year. Even with that increase, however, these leading social media platforms are still turned to by a relatively limited number of Americans, about 17% in all, when those who mentioned at least one of those platforms are combined.

The link between politics, governance, and YouTube is reshaping our world and the power of tools such as YouTube cannot be underestimated in the context of the developing world.


Post Kony 2012, Invisible Children event, MOVE:DC. On November 17th, they will “descend on DC,” in a rally, in order to demand an end to LRA violence. This will be accompanied by a meeting of world leaders that have been invited by Invisible Children to discuss their plans to end LRA violence.

After the blowback from KONY 2012 it appears that Invisible Children is trying to do more than just “attention philanthropy” with this global summit, and the location of the rally it appears that the organization is trying to gain a little more political clout.

Despite the new direction of the organization, I’m still a little skeptical. I think it may take a lot for Invisible Children to get over the bad press that happened during Kony 2012, but the new direction may engage a different support base and that may do some real good.

How Hurricane Sandy Slapped the Sarcasm Out of Twitter

In Twitter’s infancy, it was debated whether or not reporters should break new news out on Twitter. Now that fact just seems silly, as small gems of news went out from many reporters right before Hurricane Sandy. @antderosa from Reuters, @Carvin from NPR and @brianstelter of the NYT were tweeting often and ordinary people relayed all sorts of important information regarding their specific neighborhoods. Users are able to literally watch large spectacles unfold. On Monday, New Yorkers were able to watch a seemingly endless loop of hurricane coverage, and when they realized the storm had some serious potential to harm, Twitter became very busy and very serious. A media expert who said he kept a close eye on the Top 10 Trends at the time revealed that almost all of the top ten trends were about Sandy. Some estimates conclude that there were 3.5 million (hashtags) #Sandy. The journalist here stated that Twitter allows you to feel like you are contributing to something bigger by being able to be up to date and retweet.

While Twitter is a global platform, it can be wonderfully local when needed. One commenter said that Twitter was phenomenally useful in finding out information about how much flooding the Zone A block next to him was having hour by hour. The TV was not even necessary! Of course, some trouble-makers stirred things up by advertising false horrors and creating havoc, and many erroneous pictures spread like wild fires. However, a commenter in this NYT article called Twitter a “pop-up town square.” Have you used Twitter in this way? Do you usually consider online groups and platforms to have characteristics of communities?

The “Gap Generation” and the Future of Social Media

My boss at Katerva, Terry Waghorn, has a blog on Forbes.com. His latest post is an interview with Jack Myers, a media ecologist who has taken a special interest in what he calls the “gap generation” – those who are currently older teens and young adults and have never lived in a world without internet. As 18-22 year old college students in the year 2012, we are all members of this gap generation, which is evident considering the looks on many of our faces when someone recalled using a wind-up radio instead of a smart phone to get news during a recent hurricane.

What makes us “special” as a generation? Myers says, “People growing up with the Internet are growing up with a fundamentally different DNA, a different inbred sense of who they are and how to connect with the world.” He describes the gap generation as social and collaborative. We have matured in an environment in which human equality, diversity, and human rights are assumed birthrights – they are our standard, our norm. Myers believes that the gap generation is the next “great generation,” because we have grown up using the internet to educate ourselves about the world around us. He says, “As pioneers they’re leaders. As leaders they’re builders, and their focus is on building a more stable future and a more tolerant society, doing social good, using online tools to bring people together, creating more balance and equality in their lives.” He believes that there is a great deal of hope in our generation.

When asked about the impact the gap generation will have on mainstream media going forward, Myers responded, “The Internet pioneer will embrace interactivity. They’ll be much more engaged online with all media, less engaged with traditional media. They’ll migrate toward programs that embrace equality and tolerance.” Today we discussed some of the changes and evolutions in technology used during disasters that we would like to see in years to come. If Myers is correct, if the gap generation really does bring with it hope for changing the world, maybe a lot of these needed innovations will come to fruition. Maybe our generation will be able to use ICT’s to address development problems that have persisted over time.

He says about the gap generation, “They’re not activists, but they are online spreading the word. They’re incredibly sophisticated in their ability to use online social media to achieve their ends.” This is something that we have seen very clearly even over the course of the semester. We have used social media to learn and spread information about different development topics. We have used social media to communicate with our families and friends and access real-time updates during two different hurricanes. We have used social media to express our opinions on America’s political climate and Presidential election. It will be interesting to see how the prevalence and use of ICTs change as the gap generation grows older and enters the spheres of business, politics, health, and so on. How do you think we will use social media tools in the future? Will we use them as end-all be-all solutions, or treat them as supplementary to the more traditional media systems already in place? How will social media continue to evolve to help us achieve our goals?

South Park and Social Media

Social media is an incredible tool to promote activism and raise awareness.  However, no matter what the cause, there are always people willing to exploit it for financial gain.  Last week, Comedy Central’s show South Park made fun of Lance Armstrong (and the recent discovery of his drug use) and the US’s obsession with the Livestrong bracelets.  In this clip, they talk about how people become so engrossed with whatever global cause they are ‘wearing on their wrists’ that they forget about why they were supporting the cause to begin with.  I think that this is applicable to the role of social media and the existence of virtual activism today.

In Anna Hamilton’s post this week, she wrote, “One potential problem with virtual activism is that it may take the place of conventional activism, which is far more involved and effective.”  I think that this is a very interesting point.  People all over the world use social media to raise global awareness and send and/or organize aid for the causes they support.  However, virtual activism can only do so much; the concern that it may replace conventional activism is a valid one.

The South Park episode pokes fun at people for treating global causes like fashion accessories – spending more time advertising your support than actually doing something about it.  Obviously, social media is used in super legitimate, globally beneficial ways by many people/organizations, and the surge in virtual activism is a wonderful, important aspect of ICT development.  However, many people end up spreading false information with detrimental effects (i.e. mass re-tweeting a fake picture of the Statue of Liberty underwater, as we discussed in class today) because they don’t take enough time to verify the validity of the information.  If people post statuses/tweets/blogs about current events, you’d think they would want them to be correct, right?   It’s good to raise awareness, but only if it’s for the right reasons.

Exiled Syrians provide online protection for revolutionaries

Nowhere can the potential applications and uses of social media be seen more clearly than in the Syrian revolution. As we discussed in class, the Syrian government has heavily restricted the international press’s access to the conflict. This has led to the rise of citizen journalists who rely on social media to inform the world about events in the country. Dishad Othman is a Syrian IT engineer and activist who has been forced into exile. From his home in Ireland, he provides secure connections for revolutionaries in Syria so that the government cannot see what they are doing. In this video, he talks about the importance of the Internet to the revolutionary cause. He says, “Free and open Internet is the most powerful tool in combating human rights abuses.” He also mentions the thousands of activists that have had to become educated in digital security as a safety precaution, since their lives depend on their ability to hide their activities from the government.

Hurricane #Sandy: The Value of Social Media in a Crisis

This article talked about various social media efforts taken during hurricane sandy to connect people, alert people of unsafe places, and alert reaction efforts.

Technologies Used:

  • Google’s Crisis Map: This map showed information and specific places affected by the storm, the path of the storm, shelters, operational gas stations etc.
  • Facebook: statistics done showed that “we are ok” was the most common status updates post Sandy
  • Twitter: ““Over 127,000 pictures tagged #Sandy were posted on Twitter”
  • Instagram: “520,000 images tagged #Sandy were shared on Instagram”

This article also talked about the downside of social media, which we discussed in class, which was a big problem during this storm.

I think social media is a vital resource in the aftermath of disasters. But, people must take tweets for example, with a grain of salt during disasters like this, because these social media forums are not news sources they are social media outlets. In addition it is important to remember, as mentioned in class, that a network built up before disasters is important or else there is no way to connect to people, and the social media cannot be used to it’s fill capacity. Despite this, Twitter and Facebook were great ways during Sandy to know if loved ones were okay and safe. Hopefully twitter and facbeook will play a large part in uniting relief efforts post Sandy.

Furthermore, I did research into what would have happened if there was social media involved when hurricane Katrina hit, and came across this article. This article stated that there actually WERE some forms of social media used (outside of Facebook and Twitter). For example, blogs and wiki’s were used. More specifically, The Katrina People Finder Project was created to help people unite with their families who were separated from the storm. This basically was one central data base that collected information on missing persons from various blogs and wiki’s. “The Katrina PeopleFinder Project enlisted virtual volunteers to enter data about missing and found people from the various online sources.” I think that this is very interesting because we think social media as this recent creation that has emerged in that past couple of years, but here we see the connection of people created by the onset of social media back in 2005 when Katrina hit.