(Malcolm) Gladwell vs. (Clay) Shirky

This past September i wrote on Gladwell and Shirky’s disagreement regarding social media and specifically social media activism. [as Sam Spade]  I posted this to quora.com and basically opined that Gladwell was wrong.  I summed up Gladwell’s piece thusly:

What I took away from the Gladwell essay is that he believes that “The platforms of social media are built around weak ties…weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism…the evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend…A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls. Viva la revolución.””

Recently I saw an article in Wired.com updating the topic.  It is called Gladwell vs. Shirky: A Year Later, Scoring the Debate Over Social-Media Revolutions.

What I wrote is below. I still agree with myself.

“I don’t understand why Gladwell named his piece “the revolution will not be tweeted”. His superficial evocation of the powerful Gil Scott-Heron piece “the revolution will not be televised” is at odds with his argument. [http://www.gilscottheron.com/lyr…

What I took away from the Gladwell essay is that he believes that “The platforms of social media are built around weak ties…weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism…the evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend…A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls. Viva la revolución.”

Essentially Gladwell doesn’t see Twitter as a firestarter. Twitter followers and Facebook friends are weak social bonds. Individuals aren’t going to stick their necks out for someone they’ve never met before. He uses an american civil rights example to back up his point that “high-risk activism…is a “strong-tie” phenomenon.”

I think that Gladwell is overlooking the ideological amplification capabilities of Twitter. While I don’t have the case study prowess of Gladwell I wonder if Wikileaks is an example of an activist organization who’s revolution actually was tweeted. The United States DOJ certainly felt there was twitter information worth seizing via a secret court order. [which twitter challenged and opened – http://www.wired.com/threatlevel…

There is no way I believe that @CheGuevara could be as convincing as meatspace-CheGuevara or that “I Have a Dream” could have been conveyed in 140 characters-or-less but I don’t think that Gladwell necessarily “gets” twitter. It isn’t apparent that he is an active twitter user in any case.

Twitter allows information to get out and potentially become amplified if it hits a tipping point. It is the place where salesmen, connectors and mavens meet. Heck, it might as well be the connector. From one to many. This is the strength of a network and if the information is compelling enough my gut tells me that people will band together. [is this just my wishful thinking?] Wouldn’t the image below convey the same emotion and information if it were attached as a twitpic?

The revolution definitely won’t be televised. Maybe the revolution won’t be organized by an actitwitst. But I have a feeling that the revolution will be hashtagged. In real time.

“the revolution will be no re-run brothers;
the revolution will be live””

[my quora.com profile was restricted and I can’t edit because they want to confirm my identity with a driver’s id.  No longer interested innit.]

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