Its Starting to Come Together

After reading the third chapter “Participation Power” in Rheingold’s book, I couldn’t help but post on a thought sequence I experienced during the reading.  Rheingold gave several different ways the use of emerging media has influenced society, but one sentence in particular resonated with me.  “The difference between seeing Twitter as a waste of time or a powerful new community amplifier depends entirely on how you look at it-and how you grasp it.” (p 141)  A knife can be used to cut up food and allow a cook to recombine them in a way that creates a wonderful meal.  That same knife in the hands of a trained warrior can be deadly.  Emerging media is a knife and in the hands of a trained user, it can be deadly.

Consider the example on page 111 where he talks about the youth using their Facebook organizing to overthrow the dictatorship in two weeks.  How many hundreds of millions of dollars have governments, including our own, spent trying to change regimes in the past?  How much time has been spent and how many lives have been lost to those endeavors?  Using Emerging media, the citizens toppled a government in two weeks.  Think about it, more powerful (effective) than the U.S. government.

Speaking of the U.S. government, the tidbit on page 125 that explained how bloggers could have possibly changed the 2004 election.  Both political parties were represented as liberal bloggers forced the cancellation of a documentary in favor of the republicans and conservative bloggers debunked information about Bush that led to Dan Rather being fired.  Dan Rather had been on CBS longer than I had been alive at the time of his departure.

The readings on digital literacy, social networking, blogging, and technical writing are all very informative individually, but collectively, they are a recipe for something bigger and more profound.  They are an instructional journey that could enable anyone with an internet connection to help change the world.  It may seem overdramatic, I too thought of emerging media as people “liking” posts on Facebook and “following” Ashton Kutcher on what zany nightclub he was at.  That is how I looked at emerging media.  I don’t know if it was an issue of how I grasped it, but perhaps that I failed to grasp it at all.

Rheingold described how to start organizing your lists to follow the right people, contribute useful content, and how to get in the groove, but I feel so behind.  There is no shame in being a cook and continuing to check statuses on Facebook and lurk for information in my favorite online forums.  However, I want to take my knife from the kitchen and teach myself how to be an emerging media warrior.

Posted on October 20, 2014, in Literacy, Social Media, Society and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. natashajmceachin


    I really enjoyed reading your post and I loved your “knife” comparison! I can also see social media being an incredibly powerful political tool with the right driving concept. Great points!

  2. I think your comment on social networking, blogging, and technical writing acting “… collectively…[as] a recipe for something bigger and more profound” was very apt. My question would be: do you think average users are aware of this opportunity and power? While studying habits and potential power shifts through digital literacy illuminates aspects of culture, do you think the average user is aware of their contribution in the moment of posting, liking, tweeting etc?

    • Jessa, you asked the question that I had after reading Oliver’s post. And my thought is that no, the average person doesn’t care about the opportunity to change the world. Perhaps they are mostly worried about is keeping up with their friends in likes and posts of their puppies or babies.

      So the question I have now is how can we communicate everyone’s online potential?

  3. Jessa, Carolyn answered the exact same way I would have. I am the average person. I followed the Arab Spring. I follow politics. Until I read this chapter and was forced to see it in front of me, I never put the wheels and the box together to make the cart.

    Carolyn, I don’t know the answer to your question. Although I was an oblivious sheep before, I don’t think that most tech savvy people are. The problem lies with effort and priorities. Collectively, it seems society would rather complain about something and remain oblivious rather than have their eyes opened and feel obligated to act on it.

  4. Your post reminded me of the Edward Snowden scandal from last year. In fact, a Harvard law professor just interviewed him via satellite on Monday. There was a link to the live interview and I tried to access it, but I kept getting an error.

    Here is a link to the article in the Harvard Gazette:

    Do you agree that it provides little value to society when random people leak information online?

  5. I really dig the knife analogy, but there is another side to it that crossed my mind.

    A knife can be used as a tool, definitely, but if it falls into the hands of someone who literally has no clue how to use it… then you can run into some problems.

    For example, celebrities and politicians that say all kinds of screwed up stuff on Twitter and then act all surprised when the media blows up about it and they are getting a ton of negative attention are a prime example of people that lack proper knife skills.

    The same can be said for the people that post “I’m gonna shoot my teacher lol he’s so annoying” the day after a mass shooting on their Facebook profiles and wonder why this triggers a schoolwide lockdown Yes, technically you can say whatever you want on social media, but just like you shouldn’t go around shouting “I have Ebola” on an airplane, you shouldn’t post “gonna shoot this kid,” to your Twitter profile.

    Most of our problems are rooted in the people that cannot view social media as a tool, but instead view it as a toy.

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