at be+cause, we think a lot about culture as a powerful vehicle and arena for change. It is also something we like to create--from producing the Tibetan Freedom Concerts to starting a clothing line to assisting other culture makers in their efforts to create positive social change. Being part of a lab (our parent company is C3 Lab), we like to innovate and experiment. This blog is where you can see it happen.
How to mine data from Twitter
How to stop a revolution.
Nice quote from Xiao Qiang (who was an organizer at Tienanmen, spoke at one of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, and is now a prof at UC Berkeley...amongst other things): “For Twitter or the Internet, when they see too many factors they cannot completely control, they shut down and block. But for foreign journalists, they feel that as long as they can keep those people under control, it may serve better the government’s purpose.”
Makes me wonder what it would be like if the Googles of the world didn't allow for special blocking of "sensitive content" and demanded the democratization and equal access to information. Would change happen quicker?
Iran, twitter + civic engagement
Here is an article in the NY Times that describes how it is all working.
PS>> Kudos to the Twitter staff for delaying a scheduled maintenance outage to allow the system to continue to serve as an organizing and information hub around the Iranian Elections.
The value of creating something.
Nonprofits and advocacy organizations are still struggling with how to open their work to their constituents and supporters, and will continue to as long as professional staff are paid for creating and implementing campaigns, rather than engaging communities.
We have three degrees of influence. How will we use it?
This article talks about the implications that this might bring to sell more products or jump start creativity and innovation within a corporate setting. To me it brings up advocacy and personal implications. Think about how many people you know. And then how many people they know. And when you total the number of people that you can influence through these three degrees, the average person is likely to have influence over tens of thousands of people. So what do we want tens of thousands of people to do? It really makes the words of Gandhi ring true: We must be the change we want to see in the world. The notion of three degrees of personal influence really made me think about mundane things like my facebook status updates totally differently.
Examples of Social Media for Causes
1. Facebook: I could say a lot about how nonprofits can and cannot use Facebook as part of their strategies. In some ways, the parts of Facebook that have been developed for organizing on Facebook are the worst parts of it. Groups and Causes both lack just about every tool that makes organizing in the 21st century so powerful. However, it is the other aspects of Facebook that allow us to connect to friends so powerfully that causes and nonprofits are starting to really utilize, particularly donate your status or profile picture campaigns and to a lesser degree events.
2. SMS: Obama’s SMS campaign was used in the way that it can work. SMS is a highly personalized mode of communication. It is only those with whom you want to be most intimate with that you want to text with. People wanted to be closer to Barak Obama, and SMS messages enabled that to a degree never before seen.
3. Creative Fundraising: A group of Ron Paul supporters that had nothing to do with the campaign, organized an online fund-raiser on Guy Fawkes Day, bringing in more than $4 million and 21,000 new contributors in a single day — the largest 24-hour haul of any Republican candidate to date. The key word here is creative. Not fundraising.
4. Video: I may be a little biased here, but Students for a Free Tibet has done some great video work—from instant satellite uploads of nonviolent civil disobedience and banner hangs inside Tibet and China to updates to their communities to on the spot interviews with government officials. They even created their own internet television station during the Olympics where you could get news updates, see profiles on the activists who were getting arrested, see movies on Tibet, etc.
5. Viral Video: The Great Schlep was a classic example of brilliantly executed video with all of the makings to go viral. 1.25 million views on You Tube alone.
6. A bad example: I love the folks at moveon.org, but I think that it is an outdated model for how to use social media to advance causes. Their system is not really participatory in the way that the Obama campaign proved is possible—moveon.org members vote on a set number of initiatives or videos. Obama’s myBO.com gave people the ability to create their own campaign and implement it, not just push a prescribed one developed by professional staffers. What moveon.org’s system IS really good at is rapid response to an important and timely issue or opportunity. The moveon.org system also doesn’t allow its members to know each other and self organize. It is almost too dependant online, and hasn’t translated to offline, which to me is an important indicator of a successful social media tool.
An article that outlines some great social media used for causes
The NY Times also did an extensive article this weekend on how Egyptian youth used Facebook to organize. It highlights that social network sites like Facebook are hard for repressive regimes to identify as activist threats and shut down. "[A]round the world, dissidents thrive on sites, like Facebook, that are used primarily for more mundane purposes (like exchanging pictures of cute cats). Authoritarian regimes can’t block political Facebook groups without blocking all the “American Idol” fans and cat lovers as well. “The government can’t simply shut down Facebook, because doing so would alert a large group of people who they can’t afford to radicalize,” Zuckerman explained."
Other State Department officials told me they believe that social-networking software like Facebook’s has the potential to become a powerful pro-democracy tool. They pointed to recent developments in Saudi Arabia, where in November a Facebook group helped organize a national hunger strike against the kingdom’s imprisonment of political opponents, and in Colombia, where activists last February used Facebook to organize one of the largest protests ever held in that country, a nationwide series of demonstrations against the FARC insurgency. Not long ago, the State Department created its own group on Facebook called “Alliance of Youth Movements,” a coalition of groups from a dozen countries who use Facebook for political organizing. Last month, they brought an international collection of young online political activists, including one from the April 6 group, as well as Facebook executives and representatives from Google and MTV, to New York for a three-day conference.
Lastly, I'll just throw in a couple of interesting quotes:
Communities are sticky in ways that mass media never was, it requires a very different approach to what we create, how we create it and how we market it.
Yochai Benkler, Wealth of Networks
In the new and evolving online world, the greatest momentum goes not to the candidate with the most detailed plan for conquering the Web but to the candidate who surrenders his own image to the clicking masses
Such developments probably came as no surprise to many in the business world, who understood years ago that the Web represented not simply another mass medium to be gamed but also a fundamental shift in the once static relationship between producer and consumer. It is by nature a participatory medium, in which customers demand a more personal stake in the products they consume.
Matt Bai, NY Times writer + author of “The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics"
Here Comes Everyone!
When we change the way we communicate, we change society.
Conversation creates more a sense of community than sharing does.
Information sharing produces shared awareness among participants, and collaborative production relies on shared creation, but collective action creates shared responsibility, by tying the user's identity to the identity of the group.
“The invention of a tool doesn’t create change; it has to be around long enough that most of society is using it. Its when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming.”
Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society; they are a challenge to it. New technology makes nre things possible: out another way, when new technology appears, previously impossible things start occurring. If enough of those impossible things are important and happen in a bundle, quickly, the change becomes a revolution.
We are plainly witnessing a restructuring of the media businesses, but their suffering isn't unique, its prophetic.
...The category of 'consumer' is now a temporary behavior rather than a permanent identity."
The Obama Moment
(P.S.: Next Agenda as an organization is quite interesting too: a self-described hybrid between a new think tank, new technology and new media...One to keep an eye on.)
The Culture War is not over.
The tone of the email (see below) makes me realize that in addition to a post-election retreat to regional and state levels of governing, conservatives are thinking about how to “dethrone” the left’s influence over culture. Elsewhere in their publications they talk about Liberals as controlling culture and their institution is the only think tank out there to do cultural battle.
Perhaps the culture wars are not over…Perhaps they are just beginning.
Date: November 19, 2008 8:15:53 AM PST
Subject: The Culture Project Announces Job Search Links Page
Since the election, we at The Culture Project are more convinced than ever that the conservative movement is going to have a very difficult time gaining political power if it continues to think that cultural influence professions somehow eternally belong to the left.
We have to do more than complain about mainstream media bias; we need to infiltrate the media with multitudes of Foundational thinking individuals.
The same goes for other professions that have powerful and lasting cultural impact on the hearts and minds of the American people. To that end we’ve created a page of job search links so that there can be no doubt about the mission of The Culture Project. This is a tiny step toward our objective of one day dethroning the left as the arbiters of the American worldview through our cultural institutions. As we grow there will be many more programs and strategies deployed to tackle this Herculean task, but the journey of a thousand miles . . .
Any suggestions on your part would be most welcome.
Founder and Executive Director The Culture Project http://thecultureproject.org/
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