|Theorist Malcolm Gladwell: blogs.sfweekly.com|
The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism.
With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns. When ten thousand protesters took to the streets of Moldova in the spring of 2009 to protest their country's Communist government, the action, the action was dubbed the Twitter Revolution, because of the means by which the demonstrators had been brought together. A few months after that, when student protests had rocked Tehran, the State Department took the unusual step of asking Twitter to suspend scheduled maintenance of its Web site, because the Administration didn't want such a critical organizing tool out of service at the height of the demonstrations. "Without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy," Mark Pfeifle a former national-security adviser, later wrote, calling for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Where activist were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools.
(Click here to read Malcolm Gladwell's entire essay on The New Yorker website.)