Nov 01


A Facebook Community Page Led by Anna Hazare (India Against Corruption (IAC)) is a citizen's movement to curb corruption by creating a strong Jan Lokpal institution.

Social change is defined as any form of transformation in nature, in social institutions, social behavior, relations in the society and other public structures.  Media plays a central role in this process by broadening spaces for participation. In the social media world, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are singled out as most prominent social media applications built specifically to give a platform to every individual voice, in their own choice of language and context. What’s common between all social media applications is that more than what the tool represents technically, the usage is what defines the true social character of the tool. Recently, these tools have been used for acts of advocacy which have changed different societies socially, economically and politically. Social media provides distinct advantages including the possibility for each individual to voice their opinions, it has been used for fast resource mobilization and community collaboration, as well as linking local initiatives to global audiences and vice versa.

However, looking closely at the role of social media in social change, we would conclude that it plays an important intermediary role in facilitating social change processes. But, if we go beyond the hype of new media technology and closely assess its potential role in social change we find that it is still insufficient in itself to bring about social change. With the support of social media, activists still need strategies on the ground and traditional outreach mechanisms to make change happen. For instance, although the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has a powerful message behind it, and has received a lot of publicity and managed to organize people online; it still lacks a specific strategy on how to move the demands forward.

The field of social media for social change is dominated with success cases. There is still lack of documentation that shows how social media was used and failed to facilitate social change processes. Thus to better understand the impact of social media and its impacts on social change it is critical that both success and failure cases are documented and closely analysed.

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Oct 29

Some of Map Kibera Team at work. Photo credit: psfk.com

The examples of social media use in development work are endless; from promoting organisations’ external communications, to fundraising, to campaigning for raising public awareness and engaging the masses. In recent times, we find that the most applied uses in development have been related to increasing civic engagement by facilitating the process of participation in social change initiatives. There is a general consensus on the contribution of social media to social change and democracy processes although this discussion is still in itself evolving.

In the development field we have seen the tremendous use of social media for organisational purposes during the Egyptian Revolution. Projects such as Map Kibera shows how new and social media is used by citizens to create free and open digital maps in the largest slum communities and how such initiatives provide spaces for interaction and access to information and basic services. Ushahidi demonstrates how social media and ICTs are used in real time data collection and in web based election monitoring although some cases such as the recent elections in Liberian have received much criticism and unveiled important challenges in this field.

In the upcoming posts we will continue the discussion by sharing some of the projects, programs and initiatives on the use of social media in development and social change processes, as well as media discussions and coverage on the topic.

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Oct 26

A citizen uses his mobile phone to capture events during a demonstration on June 22nd in Tehran Iran. As foreign correspondents, traditional media and local reporters were restricted on their ability to report news during the Iranian presidential election demonstrations; social media and the use of ICTs such as mobile phones played a key role in bridging the information gap. (Photo credit: Reuters via Your View)

 

The Revolution of Social Media has transformed the way citizen media is functioning by increasing the speed and accessibility of information across borders, escalating the amount of information produced independently, and providing audiences with opportunities to interact and share their opinions. In places where foreign corresponds have been expelled, Syria being a perfect example, and local reporters and traditional media have faced abuse and imprisonment, social media and citizens have played a huge role in bridging the information gap. However, this new form of communication is not short of criticisms. Social media is still criticised for its ability to offer journalistic (investigated) content, peer review, or professional credibility.  It is feared that social media may also have no way to identify and filter biasness.

While social media remains in its infancy there are some indications to how it will evolve in the future. This can be seen in the broadcasts of major news organizations, which have tapped in to social media sites and use its contents in its reporting.  Take the capture and killing of Moammar Gaddafi in Libya as example.  A soldier had recorded and uploaded a video of the event an soon after major media houses, including Al Jazeera and CNN, were playing the footage.  The reporters were clear to state that the information was unconfirmed.  As more and more videos were uploaded the major news channels were busy piecing all the stories together to create a clearer picture of the events on the ground.  This indicates that major media organizations are finding their niche in new world of social media, quilting together all the bits of information. In all, social media has exploded on the scene and already has an impressive resume of revolutions and social change that it has inspired and/or facilitated.  Basically, anyone with a smart phone and a Twitter account produce content that makes news globally and do so almost instantly.

What is needed to strengthen to role and credibility of citizen journalism and social media in the communication field?

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Oct 26

Current events and on-the-ground realities imply that new media, also referred to as ‘social media’, has developed into an influential channel of communication that is altering the way society develops, receives, sends and reacts to information. Proponents of social media credit it for increasing freedom of speech; creating spaces for interaction, organization and mobilization. Political upheavals, such as the Arab Spring, that saw popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, have been attributed to the new advances in social media.  Authoritarian regimes that had so easily controlled the media for decades surely see it more as media guerrilla warfare for which they are helpless to control the flow of information.  Every “flash mob” is an erosion of its power. While they try to punish and minimize the damage, imprisoning the Google CEO who became a hero in Egypt as an example, the tsunami of information is too much to hold back. That said, there is still a lot of scepticism regarding the power of social media and its contribution to democracy, social change and development processes. While there seems to be numerous examples and praise for the role of social media, concrete research assessing its effectiveness is still in its infancy.

Oct 19

Welcome to our blog. This blog is put together by Jwani, Tanushree, Sergiy and Valeria to present key findings from a literature review assignment on social media. The review assessed how this new form of communication has transformed traditional forms of citizen media, democratic movements, social change and development processes.

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