Came across this interesting passage from Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks:
“Technology alone does not, however, determine social structure. The introduction of print in China and Korea did not induce the kind of profound religious and political reformation that followed the printed Bible and disputations in Europe. But technology is not irrelevant, either. Luther’s were not the first disputations nailed to a church door. Print, however, made it practically feasible for more than 300,000 copies of Luther’s publications to be circulated between 1517 and 1520 in a way that earlier disputations could not have been. Vernacular reading of the Bible became a feasible form of religious self-direction only when printing these Bibles and making them available to individual households became economically feasible, and not when all copyists were either monks or otherwise dependent on the church. Technology creates feasibility spaces for social practice. Some things become easier and cheaper, others harder and more expensive to do or to prevent under different technological conditions. The interaction between these technological-economic feasibility spaces, and the social responses to these changes–both in terms of institutional changes, like law and regulation, and in terms of changing social practices–define the qualities of a period. The way life is actually lived by people within a given set of interlocking technological, economic, institutional, and social practices is what makes a society attractive or unattractive, what renders its practices laudable or lamentable.”
@techsoc‘s numbered breakdown of the characteristics of the protests’ organization made a lot of sense, especially numbers 4 and 5:
4- The specific kind of social-media assisted movements are most likely to erupt in situations where there is already widespread dissent and a fairly-clear problem, i.e. a dictatorship, stolen elections or an authoritarian, corrupt regime like those of Egypt and Tunisia. In other words, social media is best at solving a societal-level prisoner’s dilemma in which there is lack of knowledge about the depth and breadth of the dissent due to censorship and repression and a collective-action barrier due to suppression of political organization. (I wrote more about this here)
5- Thus, social media probably has so far been best at triggering a “empire has no clothes” moment. The role such tools play in situations where there is polarization and strong vested-interests on multiple sides remains unclear. In polarized situations, this dynamic might increase polarization through the facilitation of the “dailyme” in which people filter out dissent from their exposure stream and retreat into epistemic enclosures of the like-minded.