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Small Change

Small Change
At four-thirty in the afternoon on Monday, February 1, 1960, four college students sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. They were freshmen at North Carolina A. & T., a black college a mile or so away. “I’d like a cup of coffee, please,” one of the four, Ezell Blair, said to the waitress. “We don’t serve Negroes here,” she replied. The Woolworth’s lunch counter was a long L-shaped bar that could seat sixty-six people, with a standup snack bar at one end. The seats were for whites. By next morning, the protest had grown to twenty-seven men and four women, most from the same dormitory as the original four. By the following Monday, sit-ins had spread to Winston-Salem, twenty-five miles away, and Durham, fifty miles away. The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. These are strong, and puzzling, claims. Some of this grandiosity is to be expected. What makes people capable of this kind of activism?

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

Answer to "Small Change" For a man who has devoted a significant part of his life to documenting "how little things can make a big difference", Malcolm Gladwell is surprisingly dismissive of the power of social networking to effect change. In the latest issue of the New Yorker, he writes that the role played by Facebook and Twitter in recent protests and revolutions has been greatly exaggerated. Gladwell's argument is that social networks encourage a lazy activism that will only extend as far as "liking" a cause but not actually doing anything about it. This is because social networks are built around weak ties, where real activism needs strong bonds. Citing the American example, he points out that "events in the early 1960s became a civil-rights war that engulfed the South for the rest of the decade – and it happened without email, texting, Facebook, or Twitter." Gladwell is right to be sceptical of social media's rah-rah brigade.

Kester Brewin » ‘The Revolution will not be Tweeted’ Excellent piece by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, casting a sceptical eye over the optimistic view that social networks can and do lead to increased social action. His argument is not that they cannot have a good impact, but that the sort of impact they might have is very different from the hard work of political activism that brought about the end to segregation. Old style activism depended on ‘strong ties’ – people who probably knew one another, and were very committed to a single cause, with their lives and values tied up in it. Whereas…

Twitter Founders: Gladwell Got It Wrong “Laughable,” “absurd,” “ludicrous” and “pointless” were words Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone used Monday night to describe a recent Malcolm Gladwell story in the New Yorker about the futility of social media to create real social change. Of course, you wouldn’t expect those two to agree with Gladwell’s thesis, but they offered valid critiques while speaking at an event for the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Stone said he could see validity in Gladwell’s point that effecting meaningful and sustained social change requires strong relationships and hierarchical structure. But he added, The real-time exchange of information — a service like Twitter — it would be absurd to think it’s not complementary to activism. When it really comes down to it, it’s not going to be technology that’s going to be the agent of change.

The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted (Unless It Is) : All Tech Considered hide captionSocial media platforms may not create revolutions, but they sure can amplify them. Jason Nicholls/via Flickr For those who were sure that Twitter, Facebook and the realtime web could either manufacture or replace personal qualities such as being courageous, determined, selfless, disciplined, steadfast and having a charismatic ability to inspire and lead others in moments of great historical importance, I’ve got some bad news. It turns out that’s not case. In his recent New Yorker piece, Small Change, Malcolm Gladwell argues that the social web does not fundamentally change the nature of revolutions. As an example, he describes the Civil Rights sit-ins that began in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960.

Biz Stone's Answer The New Yorker recently published a thoughtfully written article by Malcolm Gladwell titled, "Small Change: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted." Citing research done by Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam, Mr. Gladwell compares what he sees happening today among people connected by modern social media to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Real social change, Gladwell argues, is a phenomenon driven by something described as "strong ties" in the field of mathematical sociology. People who lived through this time repeatedly referred to feeling a "fever" to participate. Phone In Sick Day A wide variety of causes including the French elections, the situation in the Occupied Territories, and the post-September 11 climate have rendered this year's holiday a bit more complicated than usual. As in earlier years, World Phone In Sick Day generally occurs this year on May 1 where May 1 is not already a holiday--i.e. the U.S., Canada, the U.K. Also as in the past, World Phone In Sick Day occurs on May 2 most everywhere else, where May 1 is already a holiday. In the U.S., however, WPIS Day continues past its principal May 1 day all the way to the weekend (passing through May 2 and 3). In the countries of Germany, Japan, and Singapore, and in the territory of Hong Kong, WPIS Day occurs on its principal May 2 day but is also repeated one week later, for the full work week falling on May 6-10.

Malcolm Gladwell Is #Wrong Essay Maria Popova Malcolm Gladwell's take on social media is like a nun's likely review of the Kama Sutra — self-righteous and misguided by virtue of voluntary self-exclusion from the subject. But while the nun's stance reflects adherence to a moral code, Gladwell's merely discloses a stubborn opinion based on little more than a bystander’s observations. The Political Power of Social Media On January 17, 2001, during the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, loyalists in the Philippine Congress voted to set aside key evidence against him. Less than two hours after the decision was announced, thousands of Filipinos, angry that their corrupt president might be let off the hook, converged on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, a major crossroads in Manila. The protest was arranged, in part, by forwarded text messages reading, "Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk."

My thoughts Part 1 Malcom Gladwell’s article “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted,” was forwarded to me by at least half-a-dozen colleagues after it was published just three days ago. I have purposefully not read other people’s responses to this piece so that I could write down my own observations before being swayed by those of others. So what do I think? Finally, someone else is calling attention to the importance of civil resistance (strategic nonviolent action) in the context of new digital technologies! Your (Brilliant) Responses to Gladwell on Social Media and Activism - Alexis Madrigal - Technology The comments in response to my thoughts on Malcolm Gladwell's latest New Yorker piece about social media and activism are so extraordinary that they deserve their own post. Here are highlights, but in situ. It's great.

Twitter, Facebook, and social activism At four-thirty in the afternoon on Monday, February 1, 1960, four college students sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. They were freshmen at North Carolina A. & T., a black college a mile or so away. “I’d like a cup of coffee, please,” one of the four, Ezell Blair, said to the waitress. “We don’t serve Negroes here,” she replied. The Woolworth’s lunch counter was a long L-shaped bar that could seat sixty-six people, with a standup snack bar at one end. The seats were for whites. My thoughts Part 2 The first part of my response to Gladwell’s article in The New Yorker explained why principles, strategies and tactics of civil resistance are important for the future of digital activism. In this second part, I address Gladwell’s arguments on high vs. low risk activism, weak vs. strong ties and hierarchies vs networks. According to Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam, the civil rights movement represented “high-risk activism” which requires “strong-ties”. By strong-ties, McAdam refers to the bonds of friendship, family, relationships, etc.

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