Submitted by Henry
on October 6, 2010 - 9:05am
A few weeks ago, Malcolm Gladwell, he of the Tipping Point, set off a fire storm in the blogosphere and twitterverse in response to a pointed critique of the political value of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Gladwell's comments drew a sharp comparison between the kinds of activism which fueled the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the kinds of activism which emerge through the new digital platforms. From where I sit, Gladwell is comparing apples to oranges or in this case, movements and platforms. The Civil Rights Movement certainly tapped into networks of all kinds -- from the congregations of churches to the sisterhood of sororities, and deployed a broad range of communications technologies available at the time. Twitter is however simply one of many communications platforms through which we forge politics in the 21st century. There's a tendency to look at it and try to read its features as totally embodying a new kind of public, but that is profoundly misleading. We do not live on a platform; we live across platforms.