Excellent time at Apple 8 last night. Dr Luke Bretherton gave a very very good presentation on the place of social media in political action, framing it in terms of the co-evolutionary history of technology and political engagement/communication. The audio and slides should be up this evening.
One of the most interesting points was about the confusion between communication and action. Interaction with social media can make us feel as if we are involved in something, and are doing something. This is a mistake. Luke was very clear: to communicate is not to act; power is still about meeting face to face.
Social media can thus be hugely effectively tools for mobilisation, but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that online participation is achieving anything concrete. Moreover, social media does not only give us the illusion of action, it can drain energy from real activism as people already feel that they have acted.
The case of Ian Tomlinson was raised in relation to this: 1000’s of people joined the ‘justice for Ian Tomlinson’ Facebook pages…. but when called upon to protest when the CPS delivered a verdict on the possible trial of the police, only 5 people showed up. Which didn’t look too great to the 50 reporters who came to cover it.
I’d be very interested in a further discussion of this, to tease out the distinction between communication and action more carefully. But this has certainly given me a great deal to think about.