Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nicaragua and social media

Tim Rogers at Time has an article on virtual protests in Nicaragua against Daniel Ortega's re-election, which gets to the heart of recent debate about social media and political activism (see, for example, the controversy over Malcolm Gladwell's dismissal of any connection).  Some 16,000 Nicaraguans protested on Facebook.  The protests in the Middle East have famously used social media for coordination, so the parallel is obvious.

The big difference, at least for now, is that social media must translate into real world action.  Here is a problematic part of the story:

Indeed, the fear of reprisal in Nicaragua might have even affected turnout to the cyber protest. More than 2,200 Facebook users invited to attend the march clicked "maybe" — if, one assumes, it didn't conflict with other virtual commitments on their virtual calendars — and 76,800 didn't respond at all.

Afraid?  Maybe so, but we should also ask whether the vast majority are indifferent, apathetic, or otherwise not feeling sufficiently motivated to protest even just online.  The article seems more like wishful thinking than serious appraisal.

But let's see whether protests can jump entire regions with totally different political, economic, and cultural contexts.


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