Thu 17 Feb 2011
Thanks to Michael Nixon for pointing me at this article on the BBC on social networking and activism. I recommend reading (or at least skimming) it before continuing.
This is a very interesting article with a surprisingly high-quality discussion happening in the comment section. I think there are two areas where he really oversimplifies and/or misunderstands the nature of social media. The first is in point 3 on his list when he characterizes social media as inhospitable to propaganda. The second is in point 6 when he claims that technology has wrought an end to vertical hierarchies. I’ve seen many people make similar simplifications and generalizations about technology and communication, but given that Mason’s project in this article is specifically about explicating the dynamics of how people use social media to fuel political movements in the 21st century I felt it relevant to dig deeper into his assumptions.
Critiquing this tiny point in a BBC news article is really just an excuse to explore a number of ideas that I think are interesting and important when it comes to what we are currently calling “social media”. There are two misconceptions about social media that I’d like to discuss here. The first is what I am calling “the myth of the horizontal”. The second I am calling “the myth of victorious truth”.