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Posts Tagged ‘msm’

Two stories were prominently on display this past week: Jon and Kate; and the protests in Iran. They aren’t comparable, of course – except in their ubiquity.

To catch you up: Jon and Kate Gosselin had sextuplets, which, in addition to their two older children, gave them a family of eight to raise. They are currently doing a fifth season of a reality program, during which time they’ve apparently been adversely affected by fame and paparazzi, though they seem to enjoy the money. Monday night on their show, they announced they’d filed for divorce, which surprised no one who cared in the first place. Now you know as much as I do and no, I have not watched a single episode. jonkatex-largeI know what I know because other forms of media seem to think this is an important “celebrity” story. We can bicker about whether any celebrity story is important, but I can think of about fifty such stories that would be loads more entertaining and less painful to follow. I managed to have a little fun with this story because Open Salon, a blog to which I contribute, sponsored a contest to come up with what the announcement really ought to be. I wrote a  fake press release noting that Jon and Kate were giving their kids away to needy families.

The show will apparently continue. Fortunately, there are other forms of escapist fare,  from several terrific shows on USA Network or TNT, or any number of quality fiction books.

The other major story of the week: the protests in Iran. Is there any international story more deserving of the dominant place in the news? We here in the U.S. are likely sick of the endless bickering over health care (do something already!), or the sight of state governments from California to New York imploding, and we don’t want to play “Where in the world is Governor Mark Sanford?” any more. Besides, this election, the result, and this protest are important in a number of tangible and symbolic ways, not the least of which is that we can learn what’s happening, despite the typical post-election government crackdown on outside communication.  The fact that the news coming out of Iran is mainly via Twitter has not only thwarted government attempts at media suppression but also has the talking heads talking themselves blue in the face about what Twitter means for the future of journalism. As fantastic a tool as it obviously is, especially for people denied many freedoms (see my post below), Twitter isn’t perfect; a tiny number of observers are noting that these instantaneous messages, even those accompanied by visuals, are hard to verify or put in context.

 6That isn’t the point, of course; neither is the fact that the 3 million votes that appear not to have been counted might not by themselves be enough to change the outcome of the election. The point is, a large, educated, heavily female, mostly young group of citizens is standing up to a repressive government and inviting the world to see what that means. That’s a form of reality television you can be certain isn’t scripted.

It’s understandable everyone wants to report on, analyze, discuss, and dissect the events in Iran.  A variety of issues intersect with this event: how democracy and a particular interpretation of Islam will work; what the U.S  relationship with a nascent nuclear power can be; how women’s quest for equal rights may be affected; and, of course, how communication technology promotes a sort of freedom that can’t be contained.  But there’s another point to be made: While mainstream media tries to chase the Twitter phenomena, while alt media shakes its head at how out-of touch mainstream media really is, and while a shrinking corps of journalists risk their necks to get stories, I hope everyone will notice there’s a lot going on, not just with the Gosselins and not just in Iran.

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TwitI am not the most backward person I know when it comes to technology but neither am I in the vanguard. Some of that relates to my skill set (not innately tech-focused  and my age (the dark side of fifty). I also find the immediacy of certain kinds of high-tech communication leaves a lot to be desired in the in-depth department. Texting is fine when you are running late (or L8) and sending a tweet that says “help” when you’re sinking in quicksand might make sense, but as for reporting (not to mention analyzing, deciphering, dissecting or opining on) the news, I want quality, I want depth and I want complete sentences.

Let me now revise that.

protestIn the space of a few days, Twitter, that ubiquitous and previously irritating form of communication favored by second-strong celebrities, has become a force for real revolution: the kind that allows ordinary (or extraordinary) citizens a voice even in the midst of a government crackdown on communications. Of course I’m referring to Iran, where young protesters are broadcasting minute by real-time minute about their protests in a way that CNN has been absolutely unable to do.

There are a number of reports that talk about this new use for this new medium, including today’s New York Times and a recent post by Andrew Sullivan online at the Atlantic Magazine.

But what I’m most excited about is not just the on-the-spot, heartfelt reporting (one demonstrator sent a tweet that proclaimed “Ahmadinejad called us Dust, we showed him a sandstorm.”) but also the response of the other social networkers around the world. They are providing support both emotional (a large Facebook group as well as a number of followers around the world plugged in to “listen” to the opposition reports) and practical (supplying proxy server addresses for Twitter accounts when the government shuts down local Internet access).

Think about it: a democratic uprising takes place in one part of the world and people all over the globe can mobilize world opinion and perhaps more in a nanosecond. Are there young people in North Korea who, drawn to the social power of Facebook or Twitter, will also be drawn to protest1the power of freedom? What about Cuba? What about Saudi Arabia? Moreover, what does the involvement of twitterers say about the potential to interest an entire generation in the politics of communication and the possibility of change?

Twitter will still be used for inane reports about the breakfast habits of wanna-be A-listers and as a cruelly simple way of engineering a breakup, I suppose. But the idea that it can be used to sustain a social democracy movement has me as excited as I’ve been in years. I’m ready to open an account if I can sustain the required manual dexterity; I want to keep up. peace

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