Maurilio Amorim has an excellent blog post about how the Internet and its new social networking tools are radically changing communication - both between humans and how humans interact with organizations. Maurilio embedded a very thought-provoking video presentation by Clay Shirky, an expert on social impacts of Internet technologies and author of "Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations". Shirky's talk starts off explaining the current explosion of Internet social networking and how it fits into the historical context of the old style communication that we all have grown up with in the 20th century.
For those of you that are skeptical of the usefulness of blogging and Twittering and Facebook and texting, or if you think its all just a "fad", of no social value, or something to be avoided, this video is for you. I have embedded the video below.
I am going to share some thoughts about this video, and in this and a few upcoming articles I want to discuss some of the points Shirky makes about how organizations respond to this media transformation.
One of the more interesting points Shirky makes is that most media (TV, print news, phone, music, video) is migrating to the Internet, and the Internet tools now available makes all of these media forms less just sources of information, and increasingly sources of communication and coordination. With the Internet, we not only get information and entertainment, we get the ability to connect to groups of people around these media and their mesages - as if in the 20th century you bought a radio and got a transmitting station along with it, or bought a book and your own printing press was provided. Media is now less about sending single messages, as it is now an environment for "convening and supporting groups".
Shirky uses the May 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province of China as an example of this media transformation and the consequences for the consumers of information (who are now the "producers" of the information) and "organizations" (in this case a government) who wish to control messages. As the 7.9 earthquake was happening, citizens from China were reporting real-time, through Twitter and texts and uploading of video, what was happening. Social connections and the Internet allowed for the sharing and coordinating of information about what happened in just moments. In less than 24 hours donation sites were opened, and aid began flowing.
This is quite amazing, since in decades past, it took the Chinese government months to even admit that an earthquake of that magnitude had even happened, and the immense suffering. The government controlled the information. But no longer; in fact, according to Shirky, the Chinese central government learned of the earthquake from its own citizens' reporting before the official Sichuan media announced it!
But in the following months, as the Chinese citizens in Sichuan learned of the government corruption that allowed schools to be constructed to less than code, resulting in mass building collapse and the unnecessary deaths of thousands of their children - the citizens began reporting this through the Internet. Finally, the Chinese government decided it was time to shut 'em down - they decided they did not like THOSE messages and they decided it was time to censor their citizens' media reporting. The government tolerated the reporting of the event, but could not tolerate the expressions of anger and dissent from their citizens over a government corruption scandal. However, their media "filter" methods didn't work for such large volumes of outgoing information, and so quickly, they couldn't "filter" the messages - they had to decide to "shut down" entire incoming Internet services like Twitter. They had to turn it off completely, and began arresting protestors.
So take a look at this video, and in the next blog post I will share some of my views on this "media transformation" relative to this blog and other issues.