(San Francisco Chronicle)
When reading Malcolm Gladwell’s article in The New Yorker, and Henry Jenkins’ response to the article, I had scenes from the movie Milk flashing in my mind. I kept imagining the rallies that Harvey Milk and his supporters organized, and started thinking about how these events would have been changed if each of those people were carrying iPhones or Blackberries with them. They were committed to the cause and the events, and social media could have been utilized to inspire the same sense of commitment in others.
I agree with Ramesh Srinivassan, who is mentioned in Gladwell’s post by saying that he would, “suggest that some elements of social media *can be utilized* to generate and cement ties and coordination between those committed to the revolutionary cause.” I agree that current social media tools are beneficial in creating change – whether it be in organizing a city-wide rally, or simply coordinating people for an after-school activist club. I disagree with Gladwell’s belief that the weak ties enabled by social media sites can’t inspire the level of commitment that civil rights movement required. If a person finds out about a social activist event on Facebook and says that they are “Attending” then actually attends, how are they not committed? Committing to a cause does not necessarily require a big demonstration or violence.
I also think it is interesting that Srinivassan also mentions how social media can enable people in various levels of commitment to a cause to still be able to act on it. For example, people can make anonymous donations through websites, or simply become more informed on certain issues by reading about them online and browsing Twitter and Facebook pages. I think that WikiLeaks is a testament to this – it allows people to become more informed about issues and form a strong opinion, without the “high-risk activism.”