Friday, 1 October 2010

Personal and Social Connections

Gladwell (2010) argues that activists who participate in social change - from the American civil rights to mujahideen in Afghanistan - join and remain through personal, and not ideological, ties. He further claims that social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, form weaker connections which may be effective in "diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world", but does not lead to high-risk activism.
Even revolutionary actions that look spontaneous, like the demonstrations in East Germany that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, are, at core, strong-tie phenomena. The opposition movement in East Germany consisted of several hundred groups, each with roughly a dozen members. Each group was in limited contact with the others: at the time, only thirteen per cent of East Germans even had a phone. All they knew was that on Monday nights, outside St. Nicholas Church in downtown Leipzig, people gathered to voice their anger at the state. And the primary determinant of who showed up was “critical friends”—the more friends you had who were critical of the regime the more likely you were to join the protest. (Gladwell, 2010)
He states that online campaigns are fundamentally different to previous social movements by claiming, "Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice" (Gladwell, 2010).
"If Martin Luther King, Jr., had tried to do a wiki-boycott in Montgomery, he would have been steamrollered by the white power structure... The things that King needed in Birmingham—discipline and strategy—were things that online social media cannot provide."
Gladwell, M. (2010) Small Change. [Online] [01/10/2010]