Gladwell, Social Media & Revolution

The Gladwell “Does Social Media Matter” debate rolls on.  This week Giovanni Rodriguez weighs in on why Gladwell continues to defend his assertion that social media does not bring about revolutions.  Rodriguez does an excellent analysis of Gladwell’s shortcomings in the area of social media analysis explaining why Gladwell has taken “the people matter” argument over “social media is changing the world” story.  Rodriguez notes Gladwell’s argument:

the absence of a tool does not prevent people from getting together to do things, a line of argument that Gladwell repeated in his spot on CNN.  He then goes on to show that two of the then-most talked about social media-assisted movements — the uprisings in Moldova and Iran — had little to do with social media at all. That’s a tougher argument — that social media, so far, has not played a big role in social movements.

I’ve written about this debate before concerning my skepticism of the popular argument that large numbers of terrorists are recruited via social media.  I also noted my skepticism about the long-run effectiveness of “Twitter Revolts” as a mechanisms for change. I’m still doing some thinking and writing but I wanted to do a quick post with these two stories and links.

And leave with a question, was the American Civil Rights Movement and the protests against the Vietnam War primarily the result of increased media coverage transmitted via television?

I imagine many thought this at the time, and I remember during college reading about the increased use of television coverage and its effect on support for the Vietnam War.  However, today, I rarely if ever hear anyone say that television, another form of media, brought about a revolution in America.  My gut tells me that in time, the story of social media bringing about current revolts in North Africa and the Middle East will fade as researchers begin examining and identifying other stronger correlates for today’s uprisings.  More to come……

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