Archive for the 'Social Networks' Category

The New Sit-ins are a Hashtag

Egypt (anonymous photo from Reddit)

Egypt (anonymous photo from Reddit)

The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have rekindled the discussion about the role of social networks, and triggered a speech by Secretary Clinton about Internet freedom. The speech emphasizes that it is the people who change regimes, but access to the Internet must be protected. Heedless governments continue to look for ways to restrict access and online anonymity, or even use the Internet as a weapon. Corporations look the other way when it comes to censorship.

Containment is a thorny issue. Where is the line that separates a protest, from a riot or a flash-mob, when they emerge in loosely coupled social networks and messaging systems, and spread rapidly? Who are those online activists, are they influenced by political groups unseen? What is legitimacy when identity is just a nickname in a Twitter account or an email?  The recent history of digital activism is patchy. Continue reading ‘The New Sit-ins are a Hashtag’
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Taking the Square: Digital Activism in Spain

Nobody expects the #spanishrevolution. With this Python-inspired phrase and a V-mask a protester made the point that the Spanish political system is in turmoil. The construction bubble that sustained economic growth burst with the financial crisis of 2008. The result is a high level of public debt that may force Spain to request a humbling bailout from the EU and the IMF.

spanisrevolution

photo by @acampadasol via web

 Unemployment is a more protracted problem. It has long been argued that the social security system in Europe creates structural unemployment, which is not harmful. But the statistics in Spain reach today numbers beyond “structural”: a general unemployment rate of ca. 20% and a rate of 45% in the group of young people 25 or younger. Such dismal figures coupled with an ageing population and an expensive social system has created a political crisis.

 There are three contentious issues: a state regarded as subservient to the global financial forces and institutions and that does not represent national interests, an indirect democratic system that is not representative enough; and last but not least, the fact that a younger population must bear the burden of an older population that maintains its monopoly on political and economic power.  Hence a #spanishrevolution emerging from the “guts of the beast”: the young, bright, educated and unemployed.

Continue reading ‘Taking the Square: Digital Activism in Spain’

Democracy, Crowds and New Media

In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), flocks have acquired some strange way of communicating and coordinating actions. The birds form swarms with a purpose: to challenge the peace of a small town.  Mrs. Bundy points out that they should not “have sufficient intelligence to launch a massed attack.” (The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock The Birds

AH´s The Birds Trailer...

Along the ensuing violence, the film has a political under-text: the birds are fighting against the ignorant tyrant “mankind” by transcending their non-existence as a group.  In the final scene the birds have taken over the place and rule absolutely and mindlessly.  The Birds was a film that matched the American political climate of the sixties, with references to the civil rights movement.

Continue reading ‘Democracy, Crowds and New Media’

Internet Freedom and Human Rights

In her recent speech in Washington DC, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton spoke of the Internet as the “new nervous system for our planet,” and about protecting its “basic freedoms.” She stopped short of advocating a human right to Internet freedom. Her idea was that “we need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles” (Clinton), the principles that engendered the UDHR.  She continued to expand the analogy to HR with the statement that “the freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace.” It is clear that the Internet plays a vital role in the pursuit of human rights and development. And yet, should Internet freedom be considered a human entitlement on its own, and what is its role in development?

Continue reading ‘Internet Freedom and Human Rights’

Acerca de Jerarquías (On Hierarchies)

Nota: Este articulo se publico originalmente en el Blog Viralogia
Los economistas modernos han restado importancia a un error.  Según ellos nuestro paradigma social y económico es la racionalidad y el interés propio. Pero el interés propio no describe por completo la motivación humana y social, así como tampoco la tan estimada racionalidad económica. Son solo un modelo que funciona en papel y que es elegante por simple.  Como proponer entonces la función del altruismo, de la colaboración y del interés del grupo?  El hacerlo se ha convertido en una clave para sistemas altamente efectivos. Las redes sociales en línea ayudan a comprender como operan estos sistemas de inteligencia colectiva y de colaboración.

Computing: Ubiquitous, Pervasive and Social (Human)

The publication of the book “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It”  by Jonathan Zittrain opened up an important discussion about the form that the Internet might be adopting as a social and political phenomenon.  At about the same of publication the article “Ubiquitous Human Computing”  appeared in the Journal Philosophical Transactions A of the Royal Society.  Here Zittrain explores some special issues in greater detail. 

 

Zittrain appeals both to technologists and social scientists.  It is packed with extremely relevant information, insights and examples.  Zittrain makes the case that we are experiencing the advent of “ubiquitous human computing”.  The explanation is that computing devices and active sensors are so common and interconnected that the person itself becomes a part of the network, albeit not always by choice.

 

Continue reading ‘Computing: Ubiquitous, Pervasive and Social (Human)’

Relics and Social Networks

Tooth of Mary Magdalen

Tooth of Mary Magdalene

This is a photo of a reliquary holding a tooth of Mary Magdalene, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  As I stood in front of this piece and took this photo I could not ignore the flood of information it conveyed to me by its symbolism.  A mixture of cultural, historical, religious and ethical information.

Relics were an early method of constructing a social network that spread over many geographical areas and cultures.  Their authenticity was not relevant (there are more “nails of the cross” than the number that were actually used, if at all).  Important is the effective system for the dissemination of information.  “Sticky” information carried and spread around the world.  Relics represent units of cultural history and ethical meaning, beyond being objects of veneration.

Yet more than that, relics created a form of social cohesion around its significance.  A cohesion that went beyond geographical boundaries.  One has to think only of the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela or the veneration that relics like the Holy Shroud inspire in persons scattered around the world. 

It may be interesting to show that a network of relics can be structured that contains the most relevant information about the shared culture and faith of a group.   And how this network of symbols is the basis for a superimposed social network connected by the  information developed by the same group over time.


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